The Plan Bee Project
A Co-operative Venture
In recent years bee populations have declined globally. In the UK, a fifth of honeybee hives did not survive last winter, that is a lot of bees dying and no one knows for certain why. Pesticides, disease, importing of non native bees species and even mobile phones have been blamed but it is likely that a combination of factors are at play. A third of the food we eat is reliant on pollination by bees including apples, pears, raspberries, carrots and onions. In total some 90 crops are reliant on bees and there work as pollinators contributes £200m a year to the UK economy. Whilst we wouldn’t starve if the bees died out, we would be left with a very uninteresting diet.
In 2009, The Co-operative Group launched Plan Bee, a £250,000 campaign to help reverse the decline in the UK bee population. As the UKs largest farmer and a major food retailer, bees are essential to our business. Plan Bee focuses on four key areas of action: prohibiting the use, on our fresh produce, of a group of pesticides linked to bee declines elsewhere in Europe; inviting beekeepers to keep hives on our farmland; funding research into the causes of the bee decline; and inspiring people to take actions in their own gardens to help bees. To date we have:
· given away over 300,000 packets of wildflower seeds, which once grown provide essential nutrition for bees;
· piloted an urban beekeeper training project to teach allotment holders to keep bees, as a result there will be 3 million more bees in Manchester by this summer;
· over 600 hives on our farm land;
· funded research projects to develop a wildflower seed mix best sited to honeybees to be grown on our farms and to map populations of the native British black bee, which may be best suited to our colder climate;
· taken our Plan Bee trailer on tour, giving 1.5 million people the opportunity to learn ore about bees; and
· supported the UK release of ‘the Vanishing of the Bees’, a film on the causes of declining bee populations
Earlier this month we announced further funding to expand the Plan Bee campaign, taking the total amount committed to bee related projects to £475,000. In 2010 we will be giving away hundreds of thousands of more packets of wildflower seeds, commissioning more research and expanding our urban beekeeper training project to London and Inverness. If you would like to learn more about Plan Bee, please visit www.co-operative.coop/planbee or follow @planbee1 on Twitter.
Naomi Davies, Environment Adviser at the Co-operative Group