Friday 20 May is World Bee Day, a chance for people across the globe to increase awareness of the essential role that bees and other pollinators play in keeping people and the planet healthy.
At Warwickshire County Council’s Ryton Pools Country Park, a long-term focus on supporting bee populations has led to the site becoming a real hive of activity.
A total of 48 bee species were recorded at Ryton Pools in 2021 alone, nine of which were new to the site this year, meaning that the total number of species recorded at the park is now 77.
2021 was the first full year of bumblebee transects at Ryton Pools Country Park. In a transect, a recorder walks along the same fixed path regularly, counting bees along the way and making a note of their species. The route is walked at least monthly from March to October and covers key areas of the site to ensure that there are sections of hedgerow and meadow in flower all year round, and also that there is high flower diversity during the peak season. The bumblebee transects (or 'BeeWalks') are part of a national scheme run by Bumblebee Conservation.
This targeted recording added three additional Bumblebee species to the list of those recorded in the park, meaning that Ryton Pools is now just one species away from being classed as a site of national importance for bumblebees. The new bumblebee species added last year were all species of 'cuckoo bumblebees', which take over the nests of other bumblebee species and replace the queens.
Bees and other pollinators pollinate nearly three quarters of the plants that produce 90% of the world’s food. Over the past 50 years, the number of crops dependent on pollinators, such as fruit, vegetables and seeds, has tripled.
Bees also play a key role in preserving the balance of biodiversity in nature. By pollenating, bees protect and maintain ecosystems as well as animal and plant species.
Sadly, bees, pollinators, and many other insects are facing steep population declines. World Bee Day promotes actions that protect and enhance pollinators and their habitats, improve their abundance and diversity, and support the sustainable development of beekeeping.
The biodiversity work carried out by Warwickshire Country Parks rangers has cultivated strong enough native bee populations to allow the sustainable keeping of honey bees at Ryton Pools Country Park. A swarm, introduced last year, has successfully survived the winter months and is now developing well as spring unfurls. A new hive has recently been built at the park’s apiary and is ready to receive a new colony, with Ryton Pools now on Warwickshire Bee Keepers Association’s (WBKA) “swarms wanted” list.
The new hive brings with it the potential for a whole suite of new events and activities for visitors including beeswax crafts, self-made honey, and hive demonstrations delivered in partnership with the WBKA.
Cllr Heather Timms, Portfolio Holder for Environment, Climate and Culture, said: “With bee populations becoming increasingly endangered, the need for a collective effort to protect these essential species couldn’t be more pressing. A 2015 report found that nearly 10% of bees are facing extinction, with around another 5% classed as ‘endangered’.
“If bee populations continue to disappear across Europe at current rates, we could face not only disastrous environmental impacts, but also severe knock-on impacts on our economy, health and wellbeing.
“The sterling work of Warwickshire County Council’s park rangers means that bee species will thrive at Warwickshire’s Country Parks for years to come, but we can all play a part in supporting bee populations by encouraging the growth of native bee-friendly plant species at home.”
Craig Earl, Senior Ranger of Warwickshire County Council’s Country Parks service, said: “At Ryton Pools, species diversity has been a focus of our conservation management for many years. We now have a succession of nectar sources throughout the growing season, supporting an increasing range of bees and other insects. We are delighted to have added managed honey bees to that list, but are always conscious of doing so in harmony with other native wild pollinators.
“Keeping bees is a fascinating endeavour, albeit one with a very steep learning curve! Ultimately we’ll be sharing our experiences with visitors through social media, on site interpretation and a range of events and school programmes. We can’t wait for the day when the first jar of Ryton honey goes on sale in the Visitor Centre!”
For more information about Warwickshire’s Country Parks, visit www.countryparks.warwickshire.gov.uk