7 Aug 2013
What's killing our bees?
Bees, it seems, are enjoying the city life. The environment suits bees rather well and recent projects to encourage and train more urban bee keepers was absolutely the right thing.
Leaving the telly on last week after Gardener's World, I serendipitously caught Horizon's report on BBC2 into the research that's been going on over the past decade as to the health and welfare of our bees and what's causing the recent decline in bee numbers in this country. Neonicotinoids were discussed at length - arguments for (scientific) and against (environmental ) were presented. The way these pesticides interfered with the bees navigation systems made compelling viewing. Amazingly, it appears that the British government would still like to support the use of these chemicals, judging the research to be inconclusive! Un-bee-lievable! The programme was fascinating, informative and well worth making the time to view on iplayer (link below), if you haven't already seen it.
My little veg patch here fairly well buzzes throughout the summer months as various flowers on the veg, fruit, herbs, shrubs and annuals come and go over the weeks. It may look like a jungle with orach, fennel and sunflowers towering above all else but the bees are happy! At the moment it's the sunflowers, raspberries, lavender, eryngiums and herb flowers that are drawing them in and it would be all too easy to believe, on numbers, that things were pretty hunky dory for our bee friends. Unfortunately not so for the countryside bees, as Horizon's documentary clearly demonstrated, but urban bees are actually doing quite well, helped by the wide range of food available to them from parks, gardens and allotments. We're obviously doing something right, here in the city.
The bees have plenty of choice in the summer but nectar rich winter plants are even more important and many gardens have plants that, quite by chance, provide a winter food source for bees: Hellebores, aconites, crab apples, Chaenomeles (flowering Quince), Mahonia and Sarcococca to name just a few. Planting beautiful snowdrops that will help to feed bees in the cold winter months is a win:win situation, in my book. The extra warmth generated by city buildings would also help and we can carry on doing our bit by providing the right environment in our gardens and reap the rewards of a healthy, bio-diverse plot!
Catch the documentary if you can; it's available until 2nd September on iplayer: What's Killing our Bees?
The British Bee Keepers Association has an excellent list of what to plant to ensure a year round supply of nectar and pollen rich food for bees; it can be found at this link: Gardening for Bees.