OF all the insects to capture hearts and minds in Wiltshire, the modest honey bee must be one of the most loved. However, a new report being released later this year by the Wiltshire Wildlife Trust shows that the humble pollinator, together with other insects, is under threat and must be protected. According to the research we could be facing a decline of millions of insects all over the world, with invertebrates, to use their scientific name, disappearing eight times faster than mammals or vertebrates. To put that into context, around 80% of the UK’s plants are pollinated by insects like the humble bee, which is a vital part of the food chain. Without them, a core element of nature’s DNA is missing.

Local bee-keepers in Wiltshire have been noticing trends occurring more frequently and the talk in bee-keeping circles from Melksham to Malmesbury and from Swindon to Salisbury has been of new and unwanted patterns of behaviour. Queen bees, for instance, the most important member of any colony, are becoming more likely to leave the comfort of their hive and swarm than previously experienced and many more colonies seem to be dying out in winter. These trends are down to a mixture of reasons, from climate change and the increased use of pesticides to parasites. Key to helping protect insects is getting to understand them, and Wiltshire bee-keepers from all over the county are joining together to promote greater knowledge and appreciation of bees at the Wiltshire Bee and Honey Show, which is taking place in Devizes this year on Saturday 5th October in the Corn Exchange.

There are many things that Wiltshire gardeners can do to help all insects, from planting pollinator-friendly flowers to creating insect “hotels” by leaving messy corners of the garden and composting kitchen scraps as well as garden waste.

Those who visit the Honey Show will learn that bees can fly as fast as 15mph and will forage up to three miles from their hive. It takes nectar from 2 million flowers to make a pound of honey, and each bee will produce about an eighth of a teaspoon of honey in her lifetime. Taste aside, honey has been recognised as a natural remedy since time immemorial. We know now that it has antiseptic properties, thanks to trace amounts of naturally occurring hydrogen peroxide produced by the enzymes added to the nectar by the bee.

If you’ve ever thought about keeping bees, or just want to learn more about them, taste some mead and Wadworth Honey Beer, or slurp on honey, come and find out more at the Wiltshire Bee and Honey Day on Saturday 5th October at the Corn Exchange, Devizes. Visit: www.wiltshirebeekeepers.org.uk