What is Bee Healthy?
The Bee Healthy project was developed as a partnership between the Centre for Sustainable Healthcare, the Trust for Oxfordshire's Environment and Wild Oxfordshire. The project helped GP surgeries to create borders with nectar-rich herbaceous perennials. These are attractive to bumblebees and other pollinators and also benefit patients, staff and visitors. The project was supported by the Postcode Local Trust, a grant giving charity funded entirely by players of People’s Postcode Lottery.
Why do bumblebees need our help?
Bumblebees are an essential part of our ecosystem and without them we cannot grow the crops we need to support our food chains. Worldwide, more than 75% of the leading crop species we consume depend directly or indirectly on pollinators (1). This means that we need pollinators for growing crops such as almonds, beans, berries, nuts, coffee and much more (2).
Major increases in the demand for cheap and unblemished crops, the increased use of pesticides, loss of habitat and climate change are all contributing to the decline in bumblebee populations (3). In the UK alone, during the 20th century two bumblebee species have gone extinct with another eight species experiencing large scale declines (4).
How has the Bee Healthy project helped?
In autumn 2019, Bee Healthy successfully created bee-friendly green spaces at Summertown Health Centre and St. Bartholomew's Medical Centre in Oxford and Windrush Medical Practice in Witney, Oxfordshire. Each green space was created with around 15 different plant species. Early analysis of these green spaces has shown positive results in terms of attracting pollinators. Observations detected the presence of the seven most common species of bumblebees at these sites as well as other pollinators such as honeybees, butterflies, moths, solitary bees and beetles. The Bee Healthy gardens are an inspiring example of how small urban green spaces can contribute to expanding the availability of food for pollinators.
The Bee Healthy gardens have also been important for the wellbeing of humans. Specifically, these spaces have been very popular among NHS staff working during the Coronavirus pandemic:
“The bee garden is a source of great enjoyment every morning when we come into the surgery. Lots of people have commented on the flowers appearing. Especially in these strange times, it provides a nice distraction and a reminder of the natural world, oblivious to it all.” -GP, Summertown Health Centre
We've also created the Bee Healthy Project Guide to share our experiences:
The Bee Healthy Project Guide outlines our experiences with establishing Bee Healthy at these three locations and provides practical information for community organisations such as NHS health centres, community centres, schools, places of worship and others that wish to create their own Bee Healthy plant borders.
(1) Klatt et al. 2014
(2) “Bees and Pollinators: A Commonwealth Concern” 2015
(3) Marinelli, 2017 and “Why Bumblebees Need Our Help,” n.d.
(4) “Why Bumblebees Need Our Help,” n.d.
Full references can be found in the Bee Healthy Project Guide.