Last month, I began working with Disney's The Hive toys to launch a campaign in partnership with my bee charity Adopt-A-Hive. We are trying to raise awareness of the plight of bees in the UK with families and, most importantly, children.
Bee numbers have been on the decline since the Sixties, so it is crucial to raise as much awareness as possible around their economical and environmental importance to encourage people to show their support for the British bee. Joining forces with a well-known children's TV programme such as The Hive was the ideal way to do this, as the popularity of the characters from the show can play a key role in educating children and their parents, on the plight of bees, whilst hopefully encouraging the next generation of beekeepers.
We discovered some really alarming findings as part of the campaign launch; perhaps most shocking of all was that one in five UK children under the age of 10 have never seen a wild bee. Our research also revealed that 20% of UK parents were unaware of any drop in British wild bee numbers, and almost half of parents (46%) were unaware that the decline in bee numbers will have an adverse effect on the economy.
Bees do more than just make honey - they play an important role in boosting the economy due to their contribution to the food industry, agriculture and associated trade. They fly around pollinating fruit and vegetables, which end up on our plates. In 2007 The National Audit Office collated research working out the value of honey bees to the UK economy and the value of the bees' pollination services was estimated at £200m a year. The retail value of what they pollinate was valued closer to £1bn.
No-one knows exactly what impact the current decline in honey bee populations is having on these figures and on the supplies of these foods, but it is clear there could be dire consequences.
Honeybee populations are declining around the world and so far there seems to be only one other way of pollinating mass numbers of plants. It involves employing people to go round with feather dusters, brushing the insides of plants with pollen. They are already doing it in parts of China to pollinate pear trees in areas where the insects are extinct.
Reading University is currently attempting to work out how feasible it would be to employ people to hand- pollinate plants in the UK. They are focusing on how much an apple would cost if you paid someone earning the minimum wage - early estimates suggest it would more than double the price. When you consider a single hive of fifty thousand honeybees pollinate half a million plants in one day this is clearly not a practical solution.
With the recent EU ban on pesticides linked to the decline of bees, we are clearly moving a step in the right direction; however, more needs to be done to prevent this issue escalating further.
www.TheHiveAdopt.co.uk campaign is aimed at families to help educate and offer tips on how children and parents can do their bit to save the British bee. Show your support for the British bee and visit www.TheHiveAdopt.co.uk for more information on what you can do to help and for your chance to win your very own beehive.