Campaign shows bees are everyone’s beeswax

Summary

With open garden days, cycle rides and fun family activities, Week van de bij encourages Flemings to do their bit to protect the threatened bee population

For bees and people

Bees are a crucial element in biodiversity. Pollination by these insects means we can enjoy fruit and vegetables such as cherries, apples, courgettes and peppers, which would disappear without the bee. And in the wild, many plants depend on pollination for their survival.

But bee mortality rates in Belgium are high, and it’s a threat to crops that can’t be ignored. Scientists attribute this death rate to a number of factors: a shortage of food sources or nesting places, parasites and pesticides.

Week van de bij (Bee Week), an initiative of the Flemish government’s nature and environment department, aims to encourage households, schools and local councils to do their bit to protect the bee population.

Jeepers creepers

Events include open garden days, cycle rides between “bee hotels”, a family fun day and activities at the botanical garden in Meise. The government has also launched Hivelife, a free educational game for tablets based on bees.

How can you help safeguard bees? By providing sufficient sources of pollen and nectar in your garden, limiting the use of chemicals and creating “bee restaurants”, according to Bart Vandepoele, the government’s bee specialist. Plant creepers like honeysuckle against blank walls, plant fruit trees if you have the space, and fill your garden with shrubs like hawthorn and gooseberry. 

Even if you live in the city, you can help. Plants on the balcony or a patch of garden on the roof can make a difference

- Bee specialist Bart Vandepoele

“Even if you live in the city, you can help,” says Vandepoele. “Potted plants on the balcony or a patch of garden on the roof of your apartment can make a difference. You can also make more conscious choices when shopping.”

Organic produce is important, he continues, because it results in fewer toxic substances in the atmosphere. “We want to inspire people to care for their environment and adapt their behaviour for a more sustainable world for people and bees.”

The figurehead of the event is Bruges chocolatier Dominique Persoone (pictured), whose passion for bees extends to having his own hives atop his workshop.

29 May to 5 June, across Flanders

Photo courtesy Week van de bij