Bill Oddie, BBC wildlife presenter, has unveiled the Natural History Museum Wildlife Garden's first natural beehive.
The 'bee tree' is a 2.4 metre (eight foot) high tree trunk that gives visitors a bees'-eye view of the honeybee hive in action.
Sponsored by Honey Monster, the Wildlife Garden and its beehive is part of an initiative to raise awareness about the plight of the honeybee, which has suffered declining population numbers in the UK and worldwide.
'The British honeybee population has taken a bit of a bashing over the winter and their numbers need a boost,' says Bill Oddie. 'From planting flowers in window boxes to ensuring the preservation of our natural green spaces, we can all do our bit to help.'
Honeybee numbers have plummeted by as much as 80% in some areas of the UK. Colony Collapse Disorder, where bee colonies disappear or die for as yet unknown reasons, has caused a devastating reduction in bee numbers in the USA. There are worries that this may also be happening in the UK.
The honeybee, Apis melifera , is the only bee in Europe, and most of the world, that produces honey as we know it. They play a fundamental role in creating honey and help to maintain a healthy floral environment. Honeybees move pollen from plant to plant as they feed on nectar and they pollinate many important crops worldwide.
Pollination by bees (honeybees, bumblebees and other species eg. solitary bees) accounts for 85% of the value of all insect pollinated crop plants in Europe. Some of the crops include cucumbers, peppers, tomatoes, strawberries, apples, avocado, cashew nut, peanut, grapes, olive, coffee and many more.
In June and July, Bill Oddie will be travelling to schools across the UK to educate the next generation of beekeepers and wildlife conservationists about how we can all help. The Honey Monster's 'Save Our Honey, Mummy!' initiative is sending a 'Wonderful World of Bees' teaching resource to 5000 schools.
'By teaching children about bees and the important role that bees fulfil within our environment we can inspire the next generation to preserve and protect natural habitats essential not only for our wellbeing as a nation but also the production of honey and to the survival of the humble British bee!' says Bill.
The Wildlife Garden is the Museum's largest living exhibition . Its range of British lowland habitats beautifully demonstrates the potential for wildlife conservation in the urban environment. The first bees were introduced into the garden in 2005. It was a small swarm of bees in an artificial beehive.
There are 267 species of bee in the UK, including many that are threatened. Of the 25 bumblebee species in Britain, some have seen a decline in numbers over the years. This seems to be due to habitat loss and the loss of certain flower species, such as red clover that seems to be especially important for some bumblebees.
Changing farming practices, such as planting flowering legumes such as red clover along the edges of farms and allowing sections of residential gardens to return to natural meadows with plently of wildflowers, will help attract bees and reverse the decline in numbers.
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