Maldon Beekeepers Blog

Brigit Strawbridge – Bees & Trees

Bees as Pollinators

The unique relationship between pollinators and flowering plants has been evolving for over 100 million years and there are currently estimated to be around 200,000 different species of animal worldwide acting as pollinators. These include beetles, bats, flies, wasps, birds, butterflies, moths and some mammals; but it is without doubt the humble bee that does the lion’s share of the work.
From a ‘human-centric’ point of view, bees are responsible for pollinating around a third of the food we eat (this includes meat from animals that graze on bee-pollinated clover and alfalfa) – as well as many of the crops we grow for drinks, medicines and textiles. However, bees are important for more reasons than the fact that they pollinate food for human consumption……….

Bees also pollinate over 80% of the world’s wild flowers and, interestingly, whilst great attention is always given to the bee’s role as our main crop pollinator, we would do well to note that they play an equally important role as ‘keystone species’ in the planet’s eco-systems. I’ll come back to this in a moment.

Female H rubicundus


There has been a great deal of coverage in the media over the last decade about the decline of the Honeybee, whose value to the ‘economy’ has been estimated at many £££billions.

But, apart from the fact that honeybees should be valued for more than just their economic worth, it is important to note that:

  1. a) it is not just honeybees that are in decline
  1. b) honeybees our not our only In fact, of the 100 or so crops that feed and clothe the world, it is estimated that 15% are serviced by domestic honeybees – whilst over 80% are serviced by native wild bees and other wild pollinators.

N.B. No one species of bee is more important than another. They all have different roles to play and are active at different times of the year/day. Without honeybees there would be very little pollinating going on early in the year and we would have no lemons, without bumblebees out tomato and blueberry crops would struggle and without solitary bees our apple trees would suffer. 

Here’s a very interesting list of ‘who pollinates what’ – List of plants pollinated by bees

Setting aside, for a moment, their importance as pollinators of food, medicine and textile crops for humans, I‘d like to come back now to the fact that bees are ‘keystone’ species – playing absolutely crucial roles in sustaining many of the world’s eco-systems.

If you remove a keystone species from any given eco-system, you risk at the very least a great reduction in the biodiversity of that community – and at worst it’s complete collapse.

Eco-systems are incredibly complex; each made up of numerous, diverse, dynamic, interconnected communities.

We cannot keep removing the building blocks that hold these systems together and expect them to survive.

By compromising the earth’s eco-systems we compromise all life on Earth, including, ultimately, our own. Our lack of joined-up thinking and our blinkered human-centric behaviour are, ironically, leading us to neglect and destroy the very systems that nurture and sustain us. I cannot over emphasis the importance of the role bees and other pollinators play in supporting and maintaining the fragile balance that allows ‘life as we know it’ to exist on planet Earth.

There are over 25,000 species of bee in the world and around 250 of these species live in the British Isles. British species include the European Honeybee, 24 species of Bumblebee and over 230 different species of Solitary Bee. All are suffering from the effects of intensive agriculture, pesticides poisoning and urban sprawl, which, together, have led to the fragmentation, degradation, and loss of their once rich and diverse habitat. Add to these factors the effects of climate change (which has caused significant problems for bees this year) and a rise in disease and pests – and it’s no wonder our poor beleaguered bee population is on the brink.

(As well as the alarming decline in honeybee populations, 3 of our bumblebee species have disappeared over the last 50 years, many more bumblebees and solitary bees are severely threatened and there are currently 7 bumblebees and 10 solitary bees on the UK Biodiversity Action Plan (BAP) priority list.)

Bombus pascuorum on alkanet

To halt this decline we need to take action NOW. Talking, debating, spending millions of £££s on further research to tell us what is already glaringly obvious, writing reports and holding summits on the other side of the world are all very well, but without immediate ACTION these are a complete waste of time.

So what has all this got to do with trees and woodlands…..?

From the trees point of view, most are wind pollinated so they could survive without bees. There are exceptions however; including fruit bearing trees such as apple, pear, cherry and almond which all rely (some exclusively) on bees for pollination.

The importance of trees for bees is, however, is an entirely different matter. The fact that most trees are wind pollinated doesn’t preclude them from being incredibly rich food sources for bees and other pollinators – in fact certain species of trees provide an absolutely vital source of pollen and nectar for early spring foraging bees.

Honeybees store sufficient honey to feed the colony through the winter, but need to replenish their stocks by early spring. There is very little around in the way of flowering plants during the first few months of the year, so the early flowering willows, especially goat willow, provide them with a lifeline. Willow is also a vital food source for early rising bumblebee queens when they emerge from hibernation. Just walk along any riverbank on a sunny February/March day and you will easily locate the willows with your eyes closed by the sound of bees buzzing in the branches above your head.

Deforestation has been occurring in the British Isles since the arrival of Neolithic man and has reached the stage where, today, less than 12% of the UK is still wooded. Crucially, less than half this area is planted with native trees(the rest being planted with non-native conifers) – and only 2% of the land area in Britain is still covered in ancient woodlands. Given how little of our ancient woodland remains, it beggars belief that in the last 10 years 648 ancient woods have come under threat from unnecessary or insensitive development.

Add these figures to the fact that we have also lost 98% of our wildflower meadows and grasslands since the 1940s… and it is no wonder our pollinators are in trouble.

Habitat decline has impacted enormously upon our once diverse wildlife and we simply cannot afford further losses….of habitat or species. So many species of bees and other insects, not to mention small mammals, amphibians and birds, are now teetering on the brink – and what remains of our ancient and native woodlands provides an absolutely vital source of habitat and forage for many of these remaining species and populations.

Whilst the media and the ‘powers that be’ continue to bang on endlessly about the economy, time is gradually ticking away. For every single moment that their focus remains on the perceived importance of rebuilding the economy rather than addressing the very real importance of the imminent breakdown of our eco-systems, we are coming closer and closer to a sixth major extinction scenario. It really is quite bizzare that these seemingly intelligent people are so blind to this fact.

We need to address both issues of ‘habitat loss’ and ‘pesticides’ (which I haven’t gone into in this article but have written about here) urgently and simultaneously.

What can we do to help?

 Whoever you are and whatever your circumstances and skill sets will determine the part you have to play in helping to halt the decline of biodiversity. You may like to plant more trees, hedgerows and/or flowers; write to your MP about these issues; join a local wildlife group; support the The Woodland Trust; stop using pesticides; ask your local garden centre to stop selling all pesticides containing neonicotinoids or send a link to this article to a friend!

Anything you do is better than doing nothing. Doing nothing is not a good option.

N.B. Do please check out this site, packed with stunningly beautiful photographs, to find out more about the amazing world of  Woodland & Hedgerow Bees


Willow (NP) Pear (P) Apple (NP) Cherry (NP), Crab Apple (NP) Medlar (NP) Quince (NP) Sweet Chestnut (NP), Acacia (NP), Field Maple (NP) Mountain Ash (NP), Alder (P) Blackthorn (NP), Horse chestnut (NP), Hawthorn (NP), Crab apple, Lime (N), Whitebeam (NP), Sycamore (NP) Hazel (P) Holly (NP) Bramble (NP)

* N = nectar; P= pollen

Excellent website for wildlife gardening 


Consultation – DEFRA – Invasive species

Wildlife Team Horizon House Deanery Road Bristol
BS1 5AHEmailDear Consultee

DEFRA website

Consultation on tackling Invasive Non-native Species: a new enforcement regimeI am writing to invite views on a regime to enforce the EU Invasive Alien Species Regulation in England and Wales. The EU Invasive Alien Species Regulation came into force in 2015. It currently applies restrictions on 49 invasive non-native species of most concern in Europe including a ban on keeping and sale. This consultation sets out proposals for enforcing those restrictions through the use of civil and criminal penalties. It will be of relevance for businesses that import or trade in non-native species and individuals that keep them, as well as those working in zoos and aquaria and NGOs with an interest in protecting the environment from these species.

The following documents may be found on Defra’s website
Consultation – 9 January 2018

 Consultation document.
We welcome your views and comments on the proposals. If you wish to obtain a

paper copy of this consultation, please contact email



To submit your consultation response please complete the consultation questionnaire provided through Citizen Space (Citizen Space is an on-line consultation tool) or alternatively please email or post your response at the address above.

  1. Responses should be received by 3 April 2018.
  2. This is a twelve week consultation.

Consultation Criteria

This consultation is in line with the Consultation Principles. This can be found at Cabinet Office resources

Confidentiality and data protectionA summary of responses to this consultation will be published on the Government website at: DEFRA. The summary will include a list of organisations that responded but not personal names, addresses or other contact details.

Information provided in response to this consultation, including personal information, may be made available to the public on request, in accordance with the requirements of the Freedom of Information Act 2000 (FOIA) and the Environmental Information Regulations 2004 (EIRs). Defra may also publish the responses to the FOIA/EIR requests on DEFRA.

If you want information, including personal information such as your name, that you provide to be treated as confidential, please explain clearly in writing when you provide your response to the consultation why you need to keep these details confidential. If we receive a request for the information under the FOIA or the EIRs we will take full account of your explanation, but we cannot guarantee that confidentiality can be maintained in all circumstances. However, Defra will not permit any unwarranted breach of confidentiality nor will we act in contravention of our obligations under the Data Protection Act 1998 (DPA). An automatic confidentiality disclaimer generated by your IT system will not, of itself, be regarded as a confidentiality request.

Defra will share the information you provide in response to the consultation, including any personal data, with a third party of contracted external analysts for the purposes of response analysis and provision of a report.

Defra is the data controller in respect of any personal data that you provide, and Defra’s Personal Information Charter, which gives details of your rights in respect of the handling of your personal data, can be found at: PERSONAL INFORMATION CHARTER

This consultation is being conducted in line with the “Consultation Principles” as set out in the Better Regulation Executive guidance which can be found at: CONSULTATION GUIDANCE

If you have any comments or complaints about the consultation process, please address them to:

  • Consultation Co-ordinator 8A
    8th Floor, Nobel House 17 Smith Square, London, SW1P 3JR.


Thank you for your help in this matter. If you have any queries, please contact us as above.

Yours faithfully
Invasive Alien Species team
Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs



EBKA Conference 2018



Bees and Well Being’

The theme of our conference is the ways in which bees enrich our lives and make a difference to our world. Bees promote biodiversity by providing essential pollination for a wide range of crops ……… honey is becoming a powerful new weapon in the battle against hospital-acquired infections ……… being around bees can raise a person’s self-esteem and the educational benefits are now being recognised. Let’s learn more from our three speakers.


Bunny Campione, Daws Hall Trust

Many of you will know Bunny from the Antiques Roadshow, but you may not be aware that she is a fellow beekeeper. At Daws Hall young people from all back- grounds are able to gain hands-on experience with the bees. The educational bee room is equipped with an observation hive, microscopes, extracting equipment and all sorts of bee paraphernalia. Bunny will speak about her many beekeeping exploits at Daws Hall and how the bees can help to raise the self-esteem of young people. SponsoredbyTheEastofEnglandCo-op&GreatTilkeyHoney

Dr Rowena Jenkins, Swansea University Medical School, Department of Microbiology and Infectious Diseases. Rowena is a lecturer in microbiology, her research is focused on the current challenge of antimicrobial resistance, investigating novel antimicrobial agents and their potential role in combating chronic antibiotic resistant infections. A major part of this has been researching the potential of honey as an antimicrobial agent to inhibit and eradicate bacteria. She will inform us about how honey inhibits bacteria, its ability to improve antibiotic activity, the future use of honey in infection control as well as the possible future directions for this special therapy. Sponsored by Global Elevators , Alchemize Ltd & Humphrey Munson Handmade Kitchens

Chris Newenham, Managing Director, Wilkin & Sons Ltd . ‘Fruit & Honey, the storyofWilkin&Sons’ andhowbeesarecentraltotheirbusinessaspollinators and how honey sales have become increasingly important to the business in recent years. The first jams were produced in Tiptree in 1885 and with a farmed area in excess of 850 acres around Tiptree, the company grows a significant proportion of its own fruit. Sponsored by Wilkin & Sons Ltd

Date and venue

 Saturday 3rd November, 2018, 10-4pm

 Chelmsford City Racecourse Great Leighs, CM3 1PZ

 Tickets £25

 Registration and view trade

stands from 9am

 Three excellent speakers

 Coffee and Danish pastries on arrival.

 Buffet lunch

 Afternoon tea and cakes

 Raffle and trade stands

….. to accompany cheques:


Division: …………………………………….

Number of tickets: …………………………

Email address for e-ticket: ……………………………………………….



By cheque payable to EBKA Braintree Division. Send to Neil Reeve, Hilly Ley, High Easter, Chelmsford, Essex, CM1 4QZ

BACS Transfer. Sort code 20-97-40 Account number 80089230. Reference EBKA Conference. Send an email to to advise transfer has been made and you will receive an e-ticket by return.

Cash to Braintree Committee Members when visiting Divisional Meetings (a ticket will be given immediately).





The East of England Co-op Great Tilkey Honey

Wilkin & Sons Ltd

Global Elevator Components Alchemize Ltd

Clive de Bruyn

Humphrey Munson – Beautiful Handmade Kitchens


Northern Bee Books

The Bee Shed (National Bee Supplies)

Roy Cropley – wax exchange and foundation.

Raffle prizes:

Friends of Cressing Temple Gardens – basket of plants The Bee Shed (National Bee Supplies) – queen excluder Halstead Wine & Social Club– case of wine

And Sew On Fabrics – in-store voucher

Kat Jurczenko—Stained Glass Artist

Kat Jurczenko – stained glass suncatcher


Chelmsford City Racecourse is situated in Great Leighs, 5 miles north of Chelmsford.

The car park is located at the side entrance of the racecourse in Moulsham Hall Lane, CM3 1PZ. Racecourse Stewards will be on hand to direct everyone.

Northern Bee Books – beekeeping book Roy Cropley Wax – wax foundation

Clive de Bruyn

Cleaning your suit


How often do you wash your suit?

Every time you’ve been to the Apiary?

Maybe every other.

Maybe once a month when you have time or can be bothered? Or even once a year – because it so dirty and smoky you have no option and you think you should.

Bees have their backs up against the wall. There is a plethora of health issues not to mention wasps and hornets that want to attack them so why do we insist on wearing a dirty suit when we do our inspections. The risk of disease transfer is increased and we should always remember that honey is food product that goes directly into the food chain. Do we want to infect it with fox urine or poo from the previous night’s foxy visit? Do you wear dirty clothes to work? Why do we do it when visit our hives.

Don’t be a stereo typical beekeeper. Wash your suit after EVERY Apiary visit. Wash gloves (preferably wear latex that can be disposed of after use) between visits.

Tools – they too need a good clean. In fact they should be washed between hives to prevent spore and bacteria transfer. A 3 Ltr tub of water with with 500g of washing soda is all you need. A sponge is an additional luxury!

There really is no excuse.

Body odour is also unliked by bees (and also fellow Beekeepers). Equally don’t spray yourself in cologne or body spray as this can also cause the bees to react badly and sting you repeatedly.

When was the last time you cleaned your boots? Never is probably the answer. Why? Can you be sure there isn’t anything nasty on them? Wash then when you do your suit after EVERY Apiary visit. Not when you remember. Get into good habits. You can then be sure that you have done all that you can to protect your bees health, your own health and that of those who will consume your honey sometime in the future.

Next time: Changing brood Comb

Don’t disturb insect nests and hibernation spots

Avoid disturbing or destroying nesting or hibernating insects, in places like grass margins, bare soil, hedgerows, trees, dead wood or walls.

As well as making sure there are adequate food resources throughout the year for insect pollinators, it is also important to make sure they can nest in safety so that they and the next generation can survive overwinter, to start again in the following spring.

Most wild bees are not aggressive if they or their nests are left undisturbed. Some bumble bees nest underground in small mammal holes, under sheds and in heaps of compost or leaves which tend to be dry and dark. Others make nests above ground in thick grass or in trees.

The many different species of solitary bees have particular nesting requirements. A few species will make their nests in your lawn and many others favour bare patches of compacted soil, especially if sloping and with a southern aspect, where they can dig vertical nest tunnels.

In addition, some solitary bees nest above ground and you can provide them with hollow reeds, canes or twigs, or wooden blocks with holes of different sizes drilled into them (2mm to 10mm), or buy commercially available bee hotels, and hang them somewhere warm, sunny and sheltered about 1-2 m above the ground. Advice on making nests for bees is available from organisations like Buglife and the Bumblebee Conservation Trust.  

Note: Government experts and a wide range of interested parties have helped to inform the development of these actions and the supporting advice. It is intended as good practice advice and should not be regarded as official guidance. The Bees’ Needs is hosted by The Wildlife Trusts on behalf of Defra in support of the emerging National Pollinator Strategy. The Wildlife Trusts do not own or endorse any content other than as a contributing stakeholder to the National Pollinator Strategy along with many other organisations and individuals.

Contact us at:

Bees’ Needs Week 9-15 July 18

Bees’ Needs Week 2018

9-15 July 2018

Bees’ Needs Week is an annual event coordinated by Defra, working alongside and involving a number of charities, businesses, conservation groups and academic institutions to help raise awareness of bees and other pollinators. It is part of the National Pollinator Strategy in England’s wider work for bees and other pollinators.

Bees and other pollinators are vital to growing lots of our favourite foods and for plants to flourish in our fields and gardens. Bees’ Needs Week is a great opportunity for you to find out more about how important pollinators are and how you can support them.

Whether you are a farmer, a gardener, or a manager of urban or amenity spaces, there is something you can do to help support our valuable insect pollinators.

There are five simple actions you can take to help pollinators and make sure their populations are sustained:

  1. Grow more flowers, shrubs and trees
  2. Let your garden grow wild
  3. Cut your grass less often
  4. Don’t disturb insect nest and hibernation spots
  5. Think carefully about whether to use pesticides

Take a look at these case studies which are fantastic examples of the 5 simple actions being put into action or read our information sheets to learn more about what you can do.

Get involved on social media using #beesneeds. For media enquiries, please contact the Defra press office on 020 8225 7318.