July

Bee the change – part two

In the second part of BSc Biology student Sophie Ricardo’s exploration of misinformation around bee conservation, she interviewed ecologist Professor Jeff Ollerton. Here’s their conversation.

The term “bee-washing” was introduced in 2015, to represent the misinformation and non-scientific claims diverting attention away from genuine conservation efforts.

Ecologist Professor Jeff Ollerton compares the cultivation of honey bees to help "save the bees" with “keeping chickens to save wild birds”. 

He also emphasises that there’s no source for a widely-cited claim that suggests honey bees are responsible for one-third of world food production.

Sophie Ricardo, BSc Biology student, asked Jeff to tell her more about what can be done to support a myriad of wild bee populations, rather than just domesticated honey bees.

Diversity is the key: Q and A with ecologist Professor Jeff Ollerton

In 2010, there was a government announcement in support of "backyard bee keeping".

Did the government's announcement only add to the problem of the conflation of honey bees, wild bees and the spread of viruses?

Yes, it probably did, and led people to believe that beekeeping was the answer to all of the problems with pollinator conservation.

Do you think the public should require a licence to keep bees, and that registration should not be voluntary, as it is currently?

Yes, not least because honey bees are dangerous – every year there are reports of beekeepers or people associated with them dying.

What is your favourite bee?

In the UK it’s probably the hairy-footed flower bee, but I'm very fond of Xylocopa carpenter bees.

Commercial bee hotels have weak species richness and can even appeal more to invasive species.

Is it time to either do away with bee hotels altogether? Is it a simple solution for those wishing to provide an area for solitary bees merely to leave bare ground? Do we need… AirBee‘n’Bees?

Terrible puns! I don’t think that we should do away with them altogether – and in fact, how would we enforce it? They certainly help some species and it’s a good way of getting people, especially kids, engaged with and appreciating solitary bees.

Should land developers and urban planners be required to put in a wildflower or pollinator oasis every time they build, as part of planning regulations?

They certainly need to plant more native trees and shrubs. It will be interesting to see whether Biodiversity Net Gain regulations help pollinators.

Do you think there should be more than one month dedicated to improving lawns for pollinators and that the initiative should be extended to encompass managed parkland and heritage sites such as the National Trust?

We need to take it seriously 12 months of the year, but again, it helps to engage people. Short grass can be beneficial for some pollinators though, especially ground-nesting bees. Diversity is the key.

Disclaimer: The Bath Spa blog is a platform for individual voices and views from the University's community. Any views or opinions represented in individual posts are personal, belonging solely to the author of that post, and do not represent the views of other Bath Spa staff, or Bath Spa University as an institution.

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