Bees are one of nature's good guys. They may possess a nasty sting they're willing to administer when agitated, but the good they do far outweighs the small chance of getting stung. Without bees, life on earth would be very different and a lot more difficult.

At present they're finding life difficult. In Europe, there's been a 37% decrease in bee numbers over the past few years, with larger falls taking place in the US and China. In the latter, many commercial orchards now employ people to laboriously pollinate fruit trees by hand because the overuse of chemical pesticides has destroyed local populations.

Why are bees so important?

A third of all the food we consume relies on pollination. Nearly all of these are pollinated by bees. Insects, bats, flies, wasps and lizards also aid pollination but unlike bees, they only visit a flower to feed themselves. Bees on the other hand, work for hours each day gathering pollen. They are nature's most efficient plant pollinators.

They've been busy doing it for millennia. In fact, plants evolved alongside bees, with structures that allow for successful pollination. Without them, food production would become much more costly and labour intensive. The range of foods available would decrease radically. It's not only us who rely on bees to pollinate our food, much of the animal kingdom does too. Without bees we might find technological solutions to maintain our food supply, many animals might not be so lucky. Bees are worth billions to the global economy.

Why are they under threat

A combination of agricultural pesticides, global warming, deadly viruses and the loss of habitat are making life increasingly difficult for bees. Intensive honey production has also led to the spread of diseases and the collapse of entire colonies almost overnight.

What can we do to help?

All of us can do things to help native bee populations and stop them from becoming an endangered species.

* Plant pollinator-friendly flowers and flowering herbs in your garden like rudbeckia, scabious and sage.
* Turn part of your garden into a wildflower meadow
* Don't use pesticides in your garden
* Install a bee hotel
* Buy local honey                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        Image by <a href="" target="blank">Myriams-Fotos</a> via <a href="" target="blank">Pixabay</a>