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UK could face annual bill of £1.8 billion without bees - New campaign

It would cost the UK £1.8 billion every year to hand-pollinate crops without bees – 20% more than previously thought – according to research by Friends of the Earth, part of a new campaign to save the bee.

The new figure – which would inevitably be passed on to consumers in rising food costs – comes from research conducted by leading bee experts at the University of Reading on behalf of the environment charity as it launches The Bee Cause to call for action on bees before it’s too late.

In recent years Britain has lost over half the honey bees kept in managed hives and wild honey bees are nearly extinct. Solitary bees are declining in more than half the areas they've been studied and some species of bumblebee have been lost altogether.

Bees and other pollinating insects are responsible for most of our favourite fruit and vegetables. One reason for their decline is a shortage of natural habitats, so Friends of the Earth has outlined simple steps people can take in their gardens to help provide it:

Late summer is an ideal time to plant bee-friendly plants and flowers in your garden, particularly those which will flower into the autumn and over the winter, providing much needed food sources for bees during the winter months.

• Sow bee-friendly seeds and plant bee-friendly flowers in your garden such as mixed wildflowers packets, single-flowering roses, open and flat-headed flowers like verbena and yarrow and tubular-shaped flowers such as foxgloves.

• Create a place to nest for solitary bees by piling together hollow stems and creating a ‘bee hotel’.

• Try to provide a small amount of rainwater in a shallow birdbath or tray which honeybees need to keep their hive at the right temperature.

Friends of the Earth is calling on David Cameron to commit to a bee action plan to save bees and save the country billions of pounds in the future. To support this action and find out what else you can do to help bees, join The Bee Cause at www.foe.co.uk/bees

The campaign is supported by celebrity gardener Sarah Raven. Sarah said: “Now is the perfect time to get out in the garden and it's not hard to make a few changes to make life a bit more comfortable for bees.

“Without bees, we'd all be in serious trouble and our diet would be, without so much veg and fruit, incredibly dull. I’ve backed The Bee Cause and would encourage others to do the same.”

Paul De Zylva, Nature Campaigner at Friends of the Earth said: “Imagine a world without strawberries, apples or even coffee – bees are about much more than honey and our food supplies will be in trouble if they bite the dust.

“Unless we halt the decline in British bees our farmers will have to rely on hand-pollination, sending food prices rocketing.

“But there are a few simple things we can all do to help – planting wildflowers in your garden or herbs in a window-box is a great way to provide food for bees and help them thrive.”

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