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The change we can make - tips from bee expert Dave goulson

"Since I was 11 in 1976, we have lost half our butterflies. My younger son is now 11 and growing up in this depleted world and it really terrifies me that his children will grow up in a world with no butterflies at all."

Professor Dave Goulson

The bumblebee and insect population is on a huge decline due to destruction of habitats from human's urbanisation and climate change. With 97% of the UK's wildflower meadows being destroyed, it is a much harder task for insects such as bees to pollinate, meaning their population has been rapidly declining. What we don't understand, is the world basically wouldn't work without them...

We were lucky to speak with Dave Goulson, a professor of Biology at the University of Sussex, specialising in ecology and conservation of insects, particularly bumblebees. Dave has published many books surrounding the topic of bees including 'The Garden Jungle' and 'Silent Earth' and claims his mission is too somewhat 'save the bees!'.

It is incredibly important we work to protect our little 6-legged friends and even though a huge majority of our population deems they are 'irrelevant', they are anything but. In fact without them, we would have a very hard time living on this earth. We were lucky to hear Dave's expertise on this matter in which he expressed "bee's themselves are incredibly important creatures. They are the dominant pollinators if you like and a large majority of plant species depend upon bees and other insects to pollinate them and in fact those plants, including our crops, would disappear if we didn't have pollinators."

Bringing nature into our cities

"I think there's a real danger people are becoming detached from nature. Kids are growing up never seeing butterflies, bees and birds and so on and if they are unfamiliar with these things, they wont care if they disappear they won't realise that we are all part of nature so I think its a great way of re engaging people bringing more nature into our cities."

Even though insect biodiversity is at an all time low, there is a really exciting opportunity to bring tonnes of nature into our cities both on a larger and smaller scale. Not only would this help with insect and plant biodiversity, it also serves in the reconnection of humans to nature in our more than ever disconnected world.

So How Can We DO THIS?

Unlike a lot of climate change issues we often see in the news which can make us feel helpless, when it comes to insects declining, there is actually a lot we can do!

Lets zoom in on some key points...

Mow Less!

"Mowing should be kept to a minimum because it uses petrol, costs a lot of money to pay for the time and basically it prevents a grassland from flowering and coming into life."

Mowing is one of the best but easiest ways to help bring more wildlife into the world so if you have a grassland or a lawn and don't mow it very often, loads of flowers will pop up which will attract all sorts of bees, butterflies, grasshoppers and other insects. If you mow it, you get rid of every flower and you literally macerate all of the insects that have turned up. So, to answer your question 'is mowing bad?' well from a biodiversity perspective, it's disastrous!

Plant More!

"Just imagine if our gardens were all wildlife friendly full of wildflowers, bumblebees and butterflies. Wouldn't that be fantastic!"

When visiting Dave, his garden was a complete wildlife haven with a variety of trees, shrubs, wildflowers, hand-made bee hives and patches of grass just left to grow wild for mammals and insects to thrive in.

Image above: one part of Professor Dave Goulson's garden

Of course not everyone has the space to create a garden on this scale but, there's something like 22 million private gardens in the UK covering an area of 400,000 hectares which is actually a bigger area than all of our nature reserves out together!

So picture this, even if you have a tiny garden outside your back door, create a window box with wildflowers in, attach a DIY bee hotel to your wall, scatter some wildflower seeds in a plant pot or even just plant ONE tree! All of this is better than nothing!

Smart Shopping Choices!

"We can also have an influence through our shopping choices, if we bought organic food for example, then there wouldn't be any pesticides in the world, it's as simple as that."

Every time we buy something it has knock on effects good or bad so next time you are out in your local supermarket, try to be BOLD and make a few simple changes. Buy seasonal produce, don't eat too much meat, buy organic food or food that's sustainably produced, even if its not your WHOLE shop! It's simple stuff that can influence change so if we all did it, it would make a difference.

Want to think bigger?

There are loads of exciting projects helping bees and insects and therefore our biodiversity within the UK that you can get involved in whether that's by donating, sharing their work or by actually volunteering yourself!

In 2006 Dave Goulson started the Bumblebee Conservation Trust which, even though he isn't involved with it anymore, it is a fantastic charity creating beautiful wildflower habitats all over the country that wouldn't have come about if it wasn't for the trust.

Buglife is the invertebrate charity in the UK and have their B-lines project where they are trying to target growing habit for pollinators, and other insects generally, in connected lines across the British landscape. Dave shared his knowledge on this project when explaining to us "the idea is you get added value if you connect habitats together rather than having isolated pockets of habitat." This is something we would like to work on at OCWI; creating highways for nature.

If you would like to get involved in one of these charities or even those beyond, head to their websites and sign yourself up OR take a look at our own website here at OCWI and contact us for future opportunities!


It's quite difficult to know how to present these big environmental issues however we think we'll let Dave talk on this one:

"There's a perception that if you lay it on too thick or if you're too blunt, people will get depressed and feel there's nothing they can do and just give up. However my feelings are that we actually have to tell people how bad it is. We can't just pretend its not that bad because it really is. BUT, of course you need to give them something they can do. There's no point in just depressing the hell out of people but if you can shock them and say look, we face a catastrophe but, it might not bee too late if we all pull together and try to pull something out the bag. This to me seems like the best strategy."

So to summarise, share the facts, but also share some light at the end of the tunnel to give people hope and educational take-aways in which they can help!

We were so grateful to meet Dave and to hear his vast knowledge and opinions on our current environmental state. We really can all make a change to our lifestyle to help both the biodiversity and climate crisis, all we need is a little direction on where and how to start and from there IT'S EASY!

We are all a part of nature, if we just stop, look and learn.

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