LOVERS of Dorset's countryside have been urged to let their gardens bloom this summer to protect the honeybee.

Ivor Kemp of the East Dorset Bee Keeping Association said everyone can make small changes to help the creatures flourish.

The association was founded with the aim of protecting the bee by encouraging others to become beekeepers.

However, members also work with councils to promote wildflower planting, educate children in schools and nurseries and even remove swarms.

Mr Kemp said: "Approximately 80 per cent of all the things you can see in Tesco are dependant on some sort of pollination.

"That's everything from wine and beer to cereals, bread, fruit, vegetables - all need pollination."

And spring is a "critical" time for bees, he said.

"At this time of year, they need energy," he said.

"They will be flying about, gathering food for their young, and it takes a huge amount of the energy they have."

Poor springtime weather can have a huge impact on bee populations.

"If the weather is so bad that there's a threat of starvation, what beekeeper can do it to feed the bees themselves," Mr Kemp said.

"We make up a solution of sugar and water, which is put into the hive, and this will keep them going for a bit longer.

"That's a way we can help keep these hives going."

Members have worked with council officials to plant wildflowers along bare grass verges and say homeowners should allow some dandelions and buttercups to flower in gardens.

Mr Kemp said: "These plants make a wonderful source of nectar and pollen."

Members of the association also work to protect the wasp.

"Most people have a real hate relationship with the wasp," Mr Kemp said.

"What people don't realise is that wasps are fantastic pollinators for plants.

"They're also brilliant at things like breaking down wood, and they clear gardens of horrible creatures like aphids.

"We try to talk to the public about that too, because they're seen in a very bad way."

New members are not required to become beekeepers, although those who are interested will be given guidance and advice.

Mr Kemp first joined after a swarm of bees found a new home in his compost bin.

"I became fascinated," he said.

"Now I've got 10 hives in my garden."

He said beekeeping is "therapeutic" and particularly popular with people on the autistic spectrum.

"You have to slow down and go at the pace of the hive," he said.

"There's a logic and an order to it all. There's a wonder to it."

Beekeeping in numbers: During winter, a bee colony will have around 10,000 to 20,000 bees.

By the beginning of August, a colony will be made up of between 50,000 to 60,000 of the creatures.

Worker bees live short lives - often just five or six weeks. However, during this time they may fly some 50,000 miles.