- Luke Llewellyn
Happy World Bee Day
Updated: May 21
In aid of World Bee Day, we’ve created a new special episode at For the Love of Plants. Check it out!
To refresh one’s memory, there are around 270 species of bee in the UK - 250 of which are solitary bees - with ground nesting miner bees ‘Andrena’ accounting for most species. Of course, there are the classic Honeybee’s ‘Apis melliferaa’ and Bumble bees ‘Bombus’. Now, you may think honeybees are the most affective pollinators, but interestingly solitary bees are much better at it. They don’t have modified pollen baskets on their legs and instead capture it in their hair, increasing the chances of spilling it in other plants after collecting. Overall, bees contribute massively to global crop pollination. A BBC documentary ‘What if Bees Went Extinct?’ revealed that bees pollinate masses of crops we rely on. Pollinators are required for almost a third of all global crop production.
This brings me on to the next point: Pesticides. The impact of pesticides has been a hot topic of debate in recent years after various studies concluded that the use of noenicitinoids or ‘neonics’ for short - threatens pollinating insects. They affect the central nervous system of insects, disrupting their life cycles indiscriminately, not just the targeted pests they’re designed for. This resulted in the European Union banning the use of these pesticides.
This created a controversial situation, as a complete ban of this pesticide staple has a detrimental effect on crop yeild. Estimates determine the EU sugar industry having yield losses of up to 50% due to the ban. Despite this, one could argue any amount of initial loss within the industry is worth the protection of wildlife. Especially when honeybees contribute directly to local food production and make an important contribution, through pollination, to crops and the wider environment. ‘The economic benefit of pollination to crop production in the UK is approximately £600m each year, based on yield.’ – Scottish Gov
Regardless of the recent debate and unlimited scientific evidence, the Health and Safety executive in Britain has allowed the emergency use of noenicitinoids in the production of Sugar Beet. Much to the annoyance of environmental charities and bee lovers. The British Beekeepers Association (BBKA) said in a statement: ‘The BBKA is totally opposed to the use of this and similar pesticides due to their effect on honeybees and other pollinators, and the wider environment. The UK government has yet again issued a licence for the temporary use of this banned bee-killing pesticide just days after the European community High Court ruled that all temporary licences for banned pesticides were forbidden in Europe. Our government’s Environment Policy rewards farmers for planting more wildflowers for pollinators. Surely these temporary licences make a mockery of encouraging more pollinators onto farmland.’
Generally, gardens have always had a high degree of living elements within them, which in turn interact, thus, creating a beautiful ecosystem of interconnectivity. Many elements are reliant on each other. As a gardener, I relish seeing the Lavandula angustifolia covered in bumbles at certain times of the year and can’t possibly imagine a world where we would knowingly destroy such beautiful beneficial bees. If, like me, you would like the UK government to overturn the decision to allow the use of neonicotinoid pesticides on sugar crops then you can sign the petition online: www.petition.parliament.uk/petitions/631948 or for more information on Neonicotinoids and bees, visit the BBKA www.bbka.org.uk/