One immediately obvious consequence of our unseasonal cold weather is the late arrival of Spring and with it the emergence from hibernation of millions of pollinating insects that we rely on to pollinate flowers, trees and shrubs as well as crops, fruit and vegetables. We depend on bees for one third of our food supply.
Those of us who are over sixty can remember a time when the air positively hummed with insects in the summer. Now there is a rather eerie silence, not just because of the cold snap. In the UK, Europe and throughout the globe pollinating insects are in dramatic decline. Over 250 species of bee including honey bees, bumblebees and solitary bees as well as moths, butterflies and hoverflies are vanishing at an alarming rate. The honeybee population in the UK has halved in the last 20 years; of our 25 species of bumblebee two have already become extinct; solitary bees have declined in over half of the areas studied.
Those of us who are old enough will recall the beautiful wild flowers, especially the scarlet poppies that used to grow in our corn fields. Last summer I saw a field of poppies on the road into Tetbury and it almost reduced me to tears. It vividly brought home to me what we had lost. Nowadays cornfields are sterile, laced with a cocktail of herbicides and pesticides, with not a wild flower to be seen. Our flower-rich hay meadows have declined by 97% since the 1930s. Hedgerows have been dug up to increase the size of fields. Sadly these rich habitats provided the wild food supply for our pollinators. Even our colourful gardens may be a wasteland for bees: packed full of sterile bedding plants, hybrids and double blooms and doused in chemicals. Lean pickings here for hungry pollinators.
Pollinating insects are also under attack from diseases and parasites like the Varroa mite, and from pesticides, in particular new types of insecticides called neonicotinoids, which are strongly suspected of killing bees. And, as if that were not enough, climate change is altering the timing of the seasons and the emergence of blossom that the insects rely on.
Pollinating insects are at the heart of our eco-system. Their loss would have a devastating impact on plant, bird and animal life and ultimately on us. Their disappearance is a warning sign that we ignore at our peril.
Is it too late to help the bees? If you would like to learn about bees from the experts, find out what you can do, from planting bee-friendly plants to making “bee hotels”, then come to a free public meeting The Plight of the Humble Bee, organised by Abergavenny & Crickhowell Friends of the Earth, at St. Michael’s Centre on Thursday April 18th from 7pm to 9.30pm. Key speakers will be Bridget Strawbridge, Tony Shaw and Marc Carlton.
For more details see http://www.monmouthshiregreenweb.co.uk/aandcfoe/index.php
or contact Sue Harrison on email@example.com