A BEEKEEPER is imploring people to look after the ‘vital’ bee population by planting pollen and nectar-rich flowers.
Andy Morton keeps bees in Denstone and, to mark National Honey Bee Day, is reminding Uttoxeter residents how important the insects are to human survival.
With many keepers across the country reporting losses in their hives of 30 to 50 per cent after last year's cold snap, Mr Morton told the Advertiser that, if everyone does a little, it could make a ‘huge difference’.
The former Thomas Alleyne’s High School pupil said: “The bee population is certainly dwindling and that is very worrying.
“Einstein is reported to have said the human race would survive for no more than four years without bees pollinating our plants.
“Essentially, plants provide food for bees and the more we have in our gardens the better.
“If bees were able to forage on more plants, that would increase their numbers and improve the local environment.
“Without bees pollinating, we wouldn’t have anywhere near the levels of fruit and vegetables we need and take for granted.
“Modern agricultural methods have also impacted on bees as they make it far more difficult for bees to thrive.
“Bees and humans need each other to survive and we have a responsibility to look after the bee population, not just honey bees but the hundreds of other bee species too.
“If everyone in and around Uttoxeter planted one plant in their garden, that would make a colossal difference for very little effort."
Mr Morton also warned about the dangers of planting just 'any old plant'.
He said: "A lot of the plants which are commercially available today have been modified and genetically altered so that they pose no benefit to pollinating insects at all.
"These include a number of bedding plants and flowers typically included in hanging baskets.
"What we really need to do is plant things which provide food for bees and other insects, not just the ones which have been designed and modified in a laboratory to look pretty."
"Farmers could have a massive impact.
"If they were to amend their approach slightly by leaving a strip of wildflowers within their fields for bees to forage on it would not only help the bee population, but very often help pollinate the very crops they're trying to grow."
Among the hundreds of common crops that rely on pollination to survive are tomatoes, beans and apples.
Mr Morton started keeping bees two years ago after seeing a television documentary that inspired him.
He sought out a keeper in Doveridge, who showed him the ropes, and he now has five hives.
The 28-year-old, who is starting work as a primary school teacher in September, said: “It’s a really fascinating area and they’re truly amazing creatures.
“I initially thought beekeeping would be relatively simple, but quickly found out that’s not the case.
“You have to understand the psychology of bees and how their complex social habits work.
“There are obvious benefits to myself with the honey but it’s very satisfying and rewarding to know I’m helping my local environment too.”
A list of nectar and pollen-rich plants is available on the British BeeKeepers Association website at www.bbka.org.uk/learn/gardening_for_bee.