Why Bees Matter and Why They Need Our Help

Bumblebees in the UK are under threat because of landscape changes throughout the countryside as well as fewer wildflowers due to widespread agricultural methods. We have already lost two native species and several other species are currently close to extinction. 

Why bees matter

Bumblebees are great pollinators and play a key role in producing much of the food that we eat. By pollinating many commercial crops such as tomatoes, peas, apples and strawberries, insects are estimated to contribute over £400 million per annum to the UK economy and €14.2 billion per annum to the EU economy. Without our insect friends the extremely high cost of pollinating all these plants by other means could significantly increase the cost of fruit and vegetables. Bumblebees also help pollinate many of our wildflowers, which allows them to reproduce. Without insect help, many of these plants would not produce seeds, resulting in a decline of wildflowers. Given the role these plants have in a complex food chain, it is easy to imagine how other wildlife throughout the UK would also suffer if bees were to disappear. 

More on the importance of bees and other pollinators to human lives

A list of many of the food plants bees pollinate and to what degree they rely on insect pollination. 
A summary of a report describing the main findings of research by the University of Reading on ‘Decline of England’s Bees: Policy Review and Recommendations‘ 
A Youtube video from Eco Sapien explaining why bees are so important to humans.  
Why are bees in decline?

The British countryside used to be filled with colorful wildflowers as far as the eye could see. We are now much more used to rolling green fields with crops and livestock. The past abundance of wildflowers supported a greater diversity of wildlife. But huge increases in human population, technological advances needed as a result of the demand for increased food production meant a huge loss in wildflowers. It has been estimated that 97% of our flower rich grassland has been lost since the 1930s. Since bees rely entirely on flowers for food, it should not be surprising that bee and other insect populations have been declining in the last several decades, with rapid declines even more recently. Two species of UK bumblebee have already become extinct (Bombus cullumanus - 1941 and Bombus subterraneus - 1988). Two other species, the Great yellow bumblebee and the Shrill carder bee, are currently present in only small numbers.

More on the reasons UK and World bee populations are in decline

A plethora of information from Green Peace about the reasons behind bee population decline around the world. 
A great read on the foctors contributing to pollinator decline across the UK and elsewhere, from the Royal Horticultural Society.
A Youtube video from TEDTalks featuring Martha Spivak talking about the decline of bees.