If you still get the chance to enjoy these summer delights, then you are either a skilled gardener or very lucky. Because, like the song thrush and the skylark, the red squirrel and the slow-worm, and many other species besides, bees are in a heavy spiral of downward decline.
Now that we’ve farmed our land intensively, plied it with deadly chemicals and replaced flowers with shrubberies and paving stones, we’re beginning to appreciate the value of the little buzzers. A Guardian report stated that it would cost in the region of £1.8bn to manually pollinate the UK’s food crops – something that bees naturally carry out free of charge.
Hand pollination is the only remaining alternative if the current decline continues. This has already become necessary in China where they hand-pollinate pear orchards. Bees are collected and driven to places of shortage in the US.
In the UK half of the farmed honey bee hives have disappeared whilst wild honey bees are also virtually extinct, and solitary bees are confirmed as being in decline.
Friends of the Earth have campaigned for action to reverse the problem and have highlighted the fact that food prices will sky-rocket if farmers have to hand-pollinate crops.
There is evidence from two main studies that the pesticide, neonicotinoid, can cause colony collapse disorder (CCD). Chensheng Lu of Harvard University who produced one of the studies is calling for a global ban on these pesticides to help the bee population to recover.
The main example of this pesticide is registered in over 120 countries.
As of April 2012 the UK government’s stance was that there is no evidence that a normal level of use of the pesticides causes harm. However, Lu’s study shows otherwise.
A clear message went out 50 years ago through Rachel Carson’s paper, Silent Spring, but that was also largely unheeded.
It’s clearly got to stop and organic farming is the only real solution to the problem.
We can all do our bit and, with a little help from our greenhouses, our own gardens can contribute to the much needed, pesticide-free flowers that the bees need.
The Soil Association offer bee-keeping courses if you’re interested in starting your own hive – see http://www.soilassociation.org/practicalskills/Smallholdingcourses?gclid=CMaZqp_b27QCFe7MtAodcnEA_Aand Fragile Planet also have one-day courses and information http://www.fragile-planet.co.uk/beginner.php?gclid=CPug46Pb27QCFcjKtAodxCcAhA.
Gabriel Ash’s Robin Parker commented: “I can’t think of anything more idyllic than a Western Red Cedar framed greenhouse, a garden full of flowers and a beehive, buzzing with happy, healthy bees – can you?”
Sign Friends of the Earth’s 'Bee Cause Petition' page if you want to lobby the government directly.