These Swiss are launching a real estate platform for bees

Most flowers need bees to reproduce. Bees, for their part, need nectar from flowers to feed themselves.Image: bienenschweiz

Interview

Nearly 300 species of wild bees are threatened with extinction in Switzerland. Why and how can we limit this massacre? Response with Martin Schwegler, president of AbeilleSuisse.

Chantal Stäubli

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We all know them, those images of endless queues when viewing an apartment. Now imagine the same situation with hungry insects. This is what is happening to bees now.

They not only lack food, but also nesting opportunities. Nearly half of Switzerland’s 600 wild bee species are therefore threatened with extinction.

To draw attention to this problem, AbeilleSuisse, the umbrella organization of beekeepers’ sections, is launching a housing platform for bees. Martin Schwegler, central president of AbeilleSuisse, explains to us how to support bees in their search for housing and food.

Samstag, 15.04.23, Grindelwald, chrisroosfotografie.ch (2023)

Martin Schwegler, president of AbeilleSuisse.

Mr. Schwegler, why do bees lack food and habitat?
This is mainly due to urbanization, intensive agriculture and cleared landscapes, that is, cultivated landscapes that have been destroyed or returned to an unnatural state for the purpose of more use. land intensive.

“The supply of flowers has also decreased significantly”

But the presence of pollen is more and more intense and it also lasts longer?
The diversity of flowers in spring is deceptive – when in June meadows are mowed, fruit trees and rapeseed fields are withered, wild and honey bees find little food. We then speak of a green desert.

Honey flora

Honey plants are plants that produce good quantities of nectar and pollen of good quality and are accessible to bees.

Where are the places where food and habitat are most lacking?
In monotonous landscapes where agriculture is intensive and in places where the soil is heavily sealed. Gardens with English turf and few native plants are also unattractive to bees.

Where are bees doing best in Switzerland?
Wild and honey bees feel good in places where there is as much food variety as possible in the form of native flowers. As many wild bees do not fly long distances, they additionally need nearby nesting opportunities, where they can raise their brood, in dead wood, open places on the ground or dead plant stems – this which is also lacking in the current landscape.

For what?
This is mainly because we tend to clean everything. In gardens, dead plant stems are cut off in the fall, brown areas on the ground should be immediately planted or covered with turf. Even dead wood is often considered unsightly and disposed of. In summary: You need landscapes rich in structure, which offer a mosaic of different elements such as flowers, hedges, open areas of ground and dead wood.

More flowers for the bees.

More flowers for the bees.Image: bienenschweiz

What can we do to help bees?
We can all improve the flower supply, even a small pot of native flowers on the balcony can be a valuable Source of pollen and nectar for these keen pollinators. Often, less is more: a slightly messy garden provides valuable habitat. With dead wood, dead plant stems, open ground stems and flowering ‘weeds’.

Which flowers are best suited for this purpose?
Native plants are bee-friendly plants. One of the benefits of native wild plants is that we can specifically support certain specialist wild bee species.

“In Switzerland, for example, six species of wild bees specialize in bellflower flowers”

This means that these wild bees, like bluebell scissor bees (Chelostoma rapunculi), only collect pollen from this plant for their offspring. With around thirty species of native bellflowers, there is something for everyone.

Are there others?
The peach-leaved bellflower, the nettle-leaved bellflower (ideal for shady places) or the round-leaved bellflower are, for example, very easy to care for. The latter is a true continuous flowering plant and thrives in both sun and partial shade. And they have another advantage.

Which?
They can provide more than food: flowers offer wild bees a protected resting place, which is sometimes even used by several individuals at the same time.

“With bluebells, your balcony will please bees day and night”

Purple bellflowers.

Purple bellflowers.Image: Shutterstock

Is it worth buying a hive?
So-called bee hotels only favor species that nest in the hollow stems of plants. However, 75% of wild bees nest in the ground and they are particularly threatened. In addition to the famous “hotel” for insects, the “restaurant” is also essential. A bee hotel or nesting opportunity is only valuable if there is sufficient food nearby in the form of flowering plants.

New platform for bees

It’s not just humans who are suffering from a housing shortage, bees are also suffering from a severe habitat shortage. To draw attention to this problem, AbeilleSuisse launched the first housing platform for bees under immobienen.ch. The site, only in German, is designed as a real estate platform. On a map you can see the extent of the food supply and the number of nesting places. It is possible to buy or rent an “Immobiene”.

What happens if bee deaths continue? Our bees are essential to the proper functioning of the ecosystem. They pollinate wild plants, but also a large part of our cultivated plants. Without pollination by bees and other insects, crop yields would decline sharply.

Do bees have a powerful voice in politics?
AbeilleSuisse is politically active and strives to ensure that politicians also support our efforts. A motion from States Councilor Peter Hegglin, himself a beekeeper, will be dealt with during the summer session. The objective of the motion is to ensure the pollination of plants, which notably involves monitoring bees as well as strengthening research on pollination.

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