E+E column: The Plight of the Bumblebee

(A little late this week – apologies!)

There is something quintessentially British I think about plump furry bumble bees meandering lazily from flower to flower in the heat of the summer sun. The kids were delighted to find a horde of them on a lavender bush in the gardens at Topsham museum (a quirky little museum well worth a visit, by the way) whilst taking part in a bug hunt organised as part of a family fun day there. Whilst encouraging to see that the local bee population is alive and well, a fact further evidenced by their regular presence in even our tiny garden, it got me thinking about their future and possible plight.

If you’re savvy on social media, you might have seen people urging you to sign petitions to ‘save the bees’ over the last few weeks. The uproar started after the government temporarily lifted a ban on neonicotinoid pesticides in certain parts of the country. Although there isn’t a complete scientific consensus on the effect of these pesticides on bees, there is a growing body of scientists and environmentalists who claim that neonicotinoid based pesticides are a threat to bee colonies and the source of a global decline in the bee population. I’m certainly not qualified enough to draw a judgement on the issue but it does seem that the figures regarding the decline in bees are fairly conclusive. Bees are absolutely essential to our food supply as they are one of the main pollinators of a lot of our fruit and vegetables. The complete extinction of bees would certainly be very bad news for us.

But I believe in staying positive and in the absence of a clear proven cause of the dwindling population, I think we should take matters into our own hands in the most obvious way possible….growing bee friendly plants in our gardens. It’s such an easy and often cheap way to be part of the solution but so very satisfying. Bees are pretty laid back and the list of plants they prefer is endless but some of my favourites are sunflowers, poppys and snowdrops. Or if you want to be incredibly efficient you can fill a herb garden with things like lavender, thyme, sage and fennel – feeding the bees and adding flavour to your meals at the same time. It seems logical that the more of us that fill our gardens will plants that the bees can visit, the more local bee populations will not only survive but hopefully thrive and grow.

We can also support British bee populations by buying local honey. It’s not hard to come by in Devon and although admittedly a fair bit pricier than your bog standard honey from the corner shop, is supporting a very worthwhile cause. I also find that it goes further, maybe because it’s got a more intense flavour or maybe just because I know how much it costs and am more sparing with it! So, if you can possibly can, I’d urge everyone out there to do their part to Save The Bees!

01.08.15

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