Anno asks what the world would look like without bees

What if we woke up tomorrow and there were no bees? Anno finds out.

Here at Anno Distillers we know how important bees are to the world we live in.

That's why, for every bottle of Anno Orange & Honey Gin that we sell, buy yours here, we donate to our charity partner, The Bee Friendly Trust. This helps them to support their mission to create habitats which help honeybees and all pollinators to thrive.

So, this World Bee Day, Thursday 20th May 2021, we're bringing some attention to the humble bee to help raise awareness of their perilous plight.

Bees are so small, how can they possibly have much impact?

It cannot be understated how important bees are to our lives, the world we live in and even our economy. Our fuzzy little friends are key pollinators; busily pollinating 70 of the approximately 100 crop species that feed a whopping 90% of the human species. That means they are responsible for around £21.5 billion per year in worldwide crop production (£600 million in the UK p.a. alone - find out more). Just one colony can pollinate 4000m2 of fruit trees and produce 14kg of honey per year, learn more.

They also act as a food source for animals higher up the food chain. Birds, toads, and bears are just some of the animals that rely on bees for sustenance, either as a direct snack or for their sweet honey – just ask Paddington.

Okay, so bees are important. But why does that matter now?

If we woke up tomorrow and all of the bees had gone, it wouldn't just be a sudden lack of honey in the shops that we'd notice. Any crops that rely on pollination by these striped critters, including apples, blueberries, pumpkins, tomatoes, and watermelon, to name but a few, would also become scarce or completely non-existent in stores, with prices of what little was left available skyrocketing. That also means no wedge of lime for your Anno G&T - make one now?

With such an overnight disappearance of bees, it is said that the human race would be at serious risk of widespread famine and starvation within just four years. Now, of course it likely wouldn't be as simple, sudden, nor as dramatic as that, and it is a figure on a timeline that is hotly debated, but there is nevertheless a basic truth to it. And, sadly, it is a direction that we are heading in, with the overall bee population in the UK estimated to have declined by a tragic 40% since the 1970s. Indeed, over 35 of the UK‘s bee species are currently under threat of extinction.

Within a few months of having bees removed from the food chain, the human race would start to experience another unwelcome side effect every time they left the house (perhaps look away now if you have an aversion to creepy crawlies!). With bees taken out of the equation, there would be fewer food sources for their natural predators, such as birds and bats. This would mean that those species would also decline, allowing populations of pests such as flies, locusts, and ants to overpopulate the environment. Left to do as they please, they would not only be an unwelcome companion outdoors, but would create large swarms, overfeed, and cause even further damage to critical crops that would already be struggling from a lack of pollination by bees and other pollinators.

What is causing these issues for our bee buddies?

Loss of habitat is perhaps one of the biggest causes of decline. Bees don't need a huge area in order to survive and thrive, but even so, the sheer amount of grassland and hedgerow that has been removed from nature is astounding. According to studies, since 1930, 97% of all flower-rich grassland has been eradicated in the UK - read the facts. As humans shifted from subsistence farming to intensive farming on a commercial scale, the need for more and more space compounded the issue, along with land being cleared for residential and commercial buildings to support these industries. Agriculture now accounts for 70% of the UK's land area, find out more.

Hand-in-hand with loss of habitat goes the use of pesticides in modern-day farming. The situation is so dire in some places, that it is reported that in areas of China, heavy pesticide use and destruction of habitat have effectively rendered local bee populations extinct, meaning farmers are having to pollinate everything by hand.

While governments are getting better and more aware of the damage that is done by pesticides, with recent bans on harmful insecticides called 'neonicotinoids' brought into force by the EU (learn more), there is still a long way to go. This is especially true when it comes to enforcement and closing loopholes in these laws.

Fluctuations in the 'normal' climate cycle due to global warming are further contributing to negative changes, as far as bees and other pollinators are concerned. Studies theorise that some plants are now flowering earlier or later than usual, due to climate changes, which mean that bees are often missing the period when they flower due to being in hibernation underground at these times. This problem, as the term 'global' warming would suggest, occurs even in areas of the planet where the environment is untouched and is near perfect for bees.

What can I do to help?

As mentioned, every bottle of Anno Orange & Honey Gin provides a donation to the Bee Friendly Trust, so you can enjoy your weekend tipple knowing that each sip is helping a good cause.

If you'd like to be a bit more hands on, why not try making your garden into a 'bee friendly' environment? Planting more wildflowers, such as foxglove, bluebells, and honeysuckle, will add a welcome dash of colour to your back yard and also entice our winged friends to visit. Additionally, consider installing a simple 'bee box' for them to live in. You can buy a good one for under £15, or have fun making one of your own – they make a great, fun family project that will give the little ones a healthy interest in nature. They are a great way to not only protect bees, but also bring benefits to the flowers in your garden too, ensuring they get pollinated and flower consistently year after year.