Jamie and Jimmy take a look at the plight of the British bee in this week’s episode of Friday Night Feast (8pm, Fridays on Channel 4). Our native bees play a vital part in maintaining our food system – it’s a big job! Here, Daniel Nowland, Head of the Technical Food Team at Jamie Oliver, explains how to support the British bee.
Although ‘saving the bees’ might not sound like the first priority when it comes to today’s food system, it is hugely important. Our bees are in trouble, and the reality of not acting quickly to help them could spell an ecological and food security disaster.
What’s all the fuss about bees?
When you see bees and other insects flying from one flower to another, they’re hard at work. Like moths, butterflies and some beetles, bees are classed as pollinators. This means they play a vital role in the life of all our plants, including those we rely on for food. Crops need these insects to pollinate and fertilise them, moving pollen around between a crop’s own flowers, or cross-pollinating from other plants. Without this pollination process, many crops will produce poor yields, or simply fail completely.
Why has the number of bees declined?
Bees and other insects are happiest among a diverse and large number of flowering plants. This means wild meadows make the ideal home. Using meadows as a base, they will get to work pollinating all flowering plants nearby, whether wild or farmed.
As our food system expands to produce ever-bigger quantities of food, more land is converted into farming crops. This has lead to a drop in plant diversity as meadows are lost to farming, and producers focus on growing large amounts of a single crop for better, more economical business.
Another major threat to bees is the use of chemicals in farming. In an effort to improve yields, many producers spray pesticides onto their land to deter or kill insects that may cause damage to their crops. While there is some logic in this practice, unfortunately the good guys (bees and butterflies), are often victims of the obliteration, too.
What’s the worst that can happen?
By killing our pollinators and destroying their natural habitat, we’re threatening our precious supply of food for the future. In areas where bees have been wiped out, we now pay people to pollinate flowers manually at huge expense. This is crazy, and easily avoidable if we take better care of our hard-working population of bees.
How can I help?
As Jamie and Jimmy point out in Friday Night Feast, one way to help is to support the bees’ delicious product – British honey! The more demand for honey, the bigger the financial incentive to look after bees and encourage an increase in their numbers.
Some farming systems are working hard to support bee populations by controlling or removing chemicals from their farming, and by leaving wild meadows to flourish around farmland. This means bees have a home where they can continue their valuable work.
Look out for products certified as organic by the Soil Association or OF&G, or those carrying the LEAF Marque, which stands for Linking Environment and Farming.
These systems are taking extra steps to ensure they’re doing their bit for our bees, and helping protect our future food system.
Start supporting British honey today, and check out our tasty honey recipes here.
Watch this week’s Jamie and Jimmy’s Friday Night Feast to see Jamie and Jimmy’s food fight on protecting our bees. Catch the show every Friday at 8pm on Channel 4.