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Preventing bee mortality - how to protect bees in the city and garden

Nearly half of all wild bee species threatened

Bees do a great job for the local natural world. Without them, there would be neither biodiversity nor species diversity. In Germany alone, there are around 580 species of wild bees. Just under half of them are threatened. "This is a threat that affects us all," says bee expert Dr. Otto Boecking, "because we benefit from insect pollination, especially by bees, both in the wild and in agriculture. If this declines, we also suffer an economic disadvantage through lower yields." Not to mention the loss of biodiversity and the domino effects that result. "If we lose one species, other species fall victim as a consequence," the scientist warns.

Problem child bumblebee

Climate change has a direct impact on all wild bee species - including sand bees, resin bees, woolly bees or mason bees. Some species benefit from warming, others suffer. One genus representative is being hit particularly hard: the bumblebee. "This bee species is adapted to colder regions. Regional warming is causing them to gradually disappear. Compared to other wild bee species, it is not so easy for them to compensate for the losses by colonizing new areas," says Dr. Boecking, summarizing the current study observations.

Whether balcony or garden - bee protection starts at home

What can bee enthusiasts do in the countryside and in the big city? "A lot," explains Dr. Boecking, jumping to the side of an unloved plant genus: "First and foremost, we should allow more wild growth. Many of the plants we call weeds can be very valuable for insect and bee conservation." Further, native flowering plants are appropriate. "A boxwood, a thuja hedge or even the nice-looking magnolias do little for insects," the expert says. Rosemary or lavender, for example, are suitable for the balcony. Nesting aids are further possibilities to support. Piles of earth in the garden help wild bees build their nests.

If you don't have a balcony, you can hang a piece of dead beech or ash on the wall of a simple house. "If you drill a few holes in it from the bark side, you mimic the feeding tunnels of beetle larvae". Specimens like the horned mason bee like to build their nests here. "These are harmless animals that don't sting. You can stand nose to nose with them and make valuable wildlife observations," Dr. Boecking reassures. "We depend on nature, so we have an obligation to do something for conservation." A good opportunity for this may be the upcoming visit to the garden specialty store - for the sake of the bumblebee.

These measures contribute directly to bee conservation:

  • Growing wild plants and herbs, e.g., lavender, rosemary.
  • Cultivation of native flowering plants, e.g. common viper's bugloss, fence vetch, tansy
  • Creation of nesting aids, e.g. piles of earth in the garden
  • Drilling holes in pieces of wood to mimic feeding tunnels of beetle larvae

Personal details: Dr. Otto Boecking is a scientist at the LAVES Institute of Apiculture in Celle, Germany, and works on various topics related to honey bees and wild bees. At Green Week 2023, he spoke on the topic of bee conservation. He is also a jury member for the #beebetter initiative, which campaigns for more wild bee conservation.

The bumblebee

The bumblebee is suffering greatly from climate change - here a specimen of the Variegated Bumblebee (Bombus sylvarum). Copyright: Dr. Otto Boecking