Yesterday, whilst reading through some of the blog posts on the many fabulous blogs I follow, I came across a new post by Brigit Strawbridge. Now some of you might remember her from a series called "It's Not Easy Being Green" where Bee, her husband Dick (of the Scrapheap Challenge and huge mustache fame) and their two children turned a farm in Cornwall into an eco house. Well Brigit is something of an eco warrior and has written many blog posts and several articles on the plight of bees, their decline and the main causes of the problem. She also gives excellent advice on how to plant your garden with plants and flowers to attract insects, in particular, bees and butterflies, into your garden. You can check out her blog here
Bees and other pollinators are critical to food production and these tiny animals pollinate one-third of all the food produced on our planet. In recent years, the serious decline in bee numbers has been attributed to several factors. The increasing use of pesticides, in particular, neonicotinoid pesticides such as Imidacloprid, invasive parasites, habitat loss and disease. The pesticides interfere with the bees ability to navigate back to the hive, and has also been shown to account for an 85% loss of queen bees being produced in the hives. When you add this to the massive decline in flower meadows and the shift from flower borders in gardens to paved patios and decking and the honey bee is in serious trouble, amounting to a total of almost 50% of honey bees being lost in the last 25 years.
Anyway, Brigit's article got me thinking. In my field, each year, I keep a large patch of ground uncultivated. It's never mown, except to strim a path every few weeks to the field gate so I can feed my llamas, I never ever use pesticides on anything either in my field or in my garden and I encourage a wide variety of insects into the field and garden as much as I can. The reason behind this initially was that in a big wall, behind my house, we have bats. All bat species are protected and the flies and flying insects that are attracted to the plants growing in the wild patch are eaten by the bats and I didn't want to cut off the bat's food supply by cutting down the weeds and other not-too-decorative plants.
This year though, in addition to the wild patch, I am also actively going to be planting flowers and plants that are specifically aimed at attracting bees and butterflies. My local cheap-as-chips-buy-anything-and-everything store, Trago Mills, sells a huge variety of seeds that are bee and butterfly friendly and last year, my local Morrissons were selling boxes of seeds for flowers that attract bees and butterflies that you just shake onto a patch of bare earth, water and wait to see what pops up. I never got around to shaking the box last year so this year, I shall be shaking and planting vigorously and hopefully will be rewarded with swathes of fabulous meadow flowers and bees and butterflies galore all pollinating my fruit and veg plants.
On February 25th, 2013, a proposal to ban three of the most widely used neonicotinoid pesticides enters EU law, and if there is a majority vote in favour of the ban it could mean that the honey bee population may, in time, recover. Hopefully it won't be too little too late.