Britain is currently in the grip of an agricultural crisis greater than the foot and mouth epidemic that crippled our farming communities a few years ago. But because it is being played out in miniature those of us not directly involved are barely aware of it. I was alerted to it by the ever-vigilant Liz, who texted me last night buzzing with the news that Britain’s bees are being decimated.
“Something must be done,” she texted. And it’s true – according to statistics released last week by Britain’s Beekeepers Association a third of the country’s honey bees were wiped out by cold and starvation last winter. They couldn’t cope with a long cold winter coming on the back of such a rubbish summer and couldn’t make enough honey to get by. I think most of us can relate to that. But whereas we can survive a cut in production by reining in the takeaways and trips out, the bees could only huddle together for warmth and a third of them either starved or froze to death. It was the worst year ever recorded for bees and comes on top of a worldwide bee crisis caused by the reduction in meadow habitats and the devastating effects of pesticides.
“So what?” I hear you mutter, “How much honey can one family eat – what does it matter if we lose a few bees? After all they don’t half muck up a picnic.” They may be small but they have a disproportionately huge impact on our food production, and we’re not just talking about honey. They don’t call bees busy for nothing. Without them our arable farming would grind to a halt as bees pollinate 75% of our main food crops worldwide, including some of our favourite produce like apples, strawberries and tomatoes. Scientists estimate that it would cost over £1.8 billion every single year to pollinate UK crops by hand.
So what can be done? Well plenty apparently – you can read up on the problem here, and meanwhile you can create your own bee haven by planting bee-friendly plants like buddleia, poppies, daisies and other wild meadow flowers. You can get started by making a donation to Friends of the Earth and they will send you your own Bee Saver Kit, which includes a packet of ‘bee food’ wildflower seeds, a garden planner to help grow more plants bees love and a Bee ID kit to help keep tabs on what’s going on in your own garden or window box.
Posted by Amanda Blinkhorn