Radio 2 was buzzing with excitement as Zoe Ball announced Radio 2's Big Bee Challenge - a brand new initiative to shine a light on the plight of our bee population.
It launches today with a competition for children to design a garden that will attract bees and other pollinating insects, with the winning design being built at an NHS Trust site which is used by children and young people with mental health needs. Additionally, Big Bee Challenge Weekend is on Saturday 31st July and Sunday 1st August when we are encouraging everyone to do one thing, large or small, to help the bees - with lots of tips available on-air and the website. And learn more about our buzzing buddies in a new bee-loving podcast, Bees In A Pod, available on BBC Sounds in July. The Royal Horticultural Society are partnering with Radio 2 for the campaign, with their garden experts building the winning design, and through engagement with schools and their info-packed website.
Zoe Ball said: "I'm positively buzzing about the Big Bee Challenge, it's such an exciting new initiative for Radio 2. Our younger listeners can draw, paint or sketch a picture to show their design for a fabulous garden that will attract bees and insects, and we will build the winning entry. How fantastic is that! And anyone can get involved in Big Bee Challenge Weekend by doing something, however small, to help encourage more bees in our outside spaces. Knowing just how important the plight of bees is, I feel so passionate about this campaign - it's already got me thinking about what I can do for them in my garden!"
Helen Thomas, Head of Radio 2, said: "With Radio 2's Big Bee Challenge we'd love to get the nation behind the project to make changes, big or small, to do what we can to help our bees to thrive. We hope to inspire young minds to think about the world around them by imagining a beautiful space that wildlife will thrive in, whilst looking and smelling gorgeous. Please encourage any children you know to send us their most creative designs. And for everyone else there's the Big Bee Challenge Weekend which should be brilliant fun - whatever your age! Let's all help to make a difference."
Around the UK, bees and other wild insects are in decline - with some in danger of extinction - partly due to reductions in the flower-rich habitats they love. Radio 2's Big Bee Challenge is a three-year project to raise awareness and encourage listeners to help create a better environment to support bees and other pollinating insects. Green spaces are so important to their survival, and whether a garden, small backyard, balcony or window ledge, nowhere is too small to grow the plants and flowers that will entice bees and plant-loving insects to them. Bees and other pollinating insects help provide much of the food we eat, and are essential for a healthy environment, which is why it's crucial to support them.
Big Bee Challenge competition
The competition is now open for listeners aged 6- 12 years old (on or before the competition closing date of 5th July) to design a bee-friendly garden and, along the way, learn more about nature and sustainability. The competition opens for entries today, closing at 6pm on Monday 5th July. The aim is for young people to discover things we can all do to help bees and other pollinators thrive - from planting a bee-friendly flower pot, to leaving a section of lawn unmown, to creating a bee B&B for them to live in. The winning garden will be built by the RHS at an NHS Trust site which is used by children and young people with mental health needs, with the winner revealed on air on Thursday 19th August ahead of their garden unveiling at a special outside broadcast of the Zoe Ball Breakfast Show on Friday 20th August. The winner will also receive a professional illustration of their design.
For help, inspiration and to upload your design, visit bbc.co.uk/radio2 which has full details, terms and conditions and links to other websites to find out more about the kinds of flowers and plants the pollinators love most, including the RHS website which is packed with information and ideas to help. There will be plenty of helpful advice given by celebrity supporters, high-profile gardeners and conservationists, plus support from BBC One's Countryfile, The One Show, Morning Live and more.
Big Bee Challenge is being run in partnership with the RHS whose Campaign for School Gardening team will be engaging with schools during the summer term to further help children discover why bees are important, and what they can include in their garden designs to support them.
Big Bee Challenge Weekend - Saturday 31 July and Sunday 1st August
On Big Bee Challenge Weekend, Radio 2 will be encouraging everyone to get involved and do just one thing in their garden, window box or outdoor space that will entice pollinating insects - and our presenters will be letting listeners know what they will be doing too as part of the Challenge! From planting bee-friendly herbs, flowers or shrubs to providing water for the bees or leaving the lawn unmown, there will be something for everyone to try. Plus listeners can have a fun day out and learn more about the bees at supporting events happening around the UK. The National Garden Scheme will be opening up bee-friendly gardens up and down the country, whilst the National Trust will have bee-friendly activities including bee-garden tours and 'how to build a bug hotel' events at some of their properties.
Follow it all on social media at @BBCRadio2 and #BigBeeChallenge. Listeners can download a Big Bee Challenge poster from bbc.co.uk/radio2 to colour in and stick in their front window and let people know they're supporting the project.
Bees In A Pod podcast on BBC Sounds
A new BBC Sounds podcast, Bees In A Pod, will be available weekly from July. It will celebrate our buzzing buddies, featuring celebrity guests, stories of heroic efforts to save our pollinators, giving an entertaining insight into the fascinating world of bees, it will be the go-to place for curious and nature-loving families.
Professor Dave Goulson, Radio 2's Dr Bee and specialist in bee ecology at the University of Sussex, said: "I've been fascinated by insects all of my life, and worried by their declines. I have a vision of a world in which our gardens, parks, road verges and roundabouts are full of flowers, buzzing bees and flitting butterflies, places where people and nature live in harmony. I'm proud to support Radio 2's Big Bee Challenge, and hope that everyone will get involved, and invite nature in to thrive in their garden."
Adam Frost, TV presenter and award-winning garden designer, who will help build the winning design with the RHS said: "With wild bees and other pollinators in decline, now more than ever we all need to play our part and do anything we can to help these precious pollinators - planting a diversity of plants that will provide pollen and nectar throughout the year - which is why the Radio 2 Big Bee Challenge is a big deal. I'm thrilled to be one of the judges of the children's design-a-bee-garden competition, which will hopefully help get the next generation really engage with what's going on outside the back door! And the last twelve months has also shown how much outdoor space means to our physical and mental health too, so I could not be happier that the winning garden will be designed by a young Radio 2 listener and created by the RHS at an NHS Trust site which is used by children and young people with mental health needs, where patients, their visitors and staff will be able to enjoy this new space, along with our little friends the bees."
Across June to August, Radio 2 will be featuring tours of well-known face's gardens and outdoor spaces to find out how bee-friendly they are and giving them tips on what they can do to make them a haven for our flying friends.