Giving nature a helping hand

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Summer may seem a long way off but it will not be too long before spring is in the air, birds will be singing, and displaying, and wildflowers showing themselves again after dying off for the winter.

It is the time of year when it’s all about the birds and bees, but as Stuart Taylor of the RSPB points out, now that the society is about ‘All Nature’, we need to look at the bees this time.

Most people will now be aware that bees across the globe are declining dramatically, largely due to the increased use of pesticides to improve things for that very successful species, the human being.

What a lot of people don’t realise is that without bees and pollinating insects, just how little food we would be able to eat.

Virtually all fruits, salad and vegetables come to our dinner plates courtesy of the bee.

Some people are trying to address the drastic decline by advertising bees to help pollinate garden flowers etc. Sometimes however these are not native bees, and could out compete the local, native ones and possibly bring harmful mites with them.

Not only could it damage the locals, but the introduced bees themselves might not be able to cope in its new environment.

The introduction may work in certain areas on the mainland but on the Western Isles the bees seem to be doing okay, and can be helped in other ways.

There are several special kinds of bee which people come to the Uists to see, the prime target so to speak is the Great Yellow Bumblebee.

He says: “With practice the Great Yellow Bumblebee is readily identifiable, being fairly large, mustard coloured with a single black band across the thorax between the wings. It can often be found on plants such as Clovers and Knapweed.

The Moss Carder Bee is another noticeable species and is slightly smaller than the preceding species, is again mainly yellow but has a rich chestnut thorax.

Both of the species mentioned can be seen flying about low down on the Machair searching for nectar and pollen sources amongst the rich array of flowering plant species.

A good way to increase your chances of seeing these will be by joining the RSPB guided walks around Balranald Nature Reserve in the summer.

Stuart suggests that an easier and much more effective way for those who want to do something to help our bees is to plant bee-friendly flowers in your garden or croft.

Amongst the top flowers used by the Great Yellow Bumblebee are Red Clover, White Clover, Tufted Vetch, Marsh Thistle and Common Knapweed.

Why not plant something and give nature a helping hand?