Aren’t bees amazing!

They have been around, pollinating flowers for more than 120million years and are exceedingly good at it. One species even gives us honey. What’s not to like?

In parts of South West China bees are now so scarce due to over-zealous use of pesticides, that the apple and pear orchards have to be pollinated by human hands—with paintbrushes!

We need to look after our bees to stop their numbers declining further. The same goes for other pollinating insects. If they die out, so do we.

The most obvious solutions are to use fewer pesticides, or none at all, and to provide suitable habitats for feeding and nesting.

 

Gardeners have a vital role to play here. Bumblebees nest in the ground or hollows of trees, so a bit of dead wood and a real, untreated lawn can be a good start. Leaving a patch of lawn to grow long in the summer, and only cutting the grass once the flowers have finished, provides nectar and nesting areas for many insects. Dandelions are beautiful flowers providing nectar early in the year. Cut the seed heads off to prevent an invasion later.

Aim for a selection of open headed flowers (not doubles) all through the growing season but beware ‘’Bee Friendly’’ labels in garden Centres. The type maybe friendly but it is probable they were sprayed with pesticides during their time in the nursery. By the time you buy them the poison will be in the pollen! Always ask before you buy.

Provide water in your garden. The birds will appreciate it and so will the bees. Try to leave some areas undisturbed so small creatures can live and hibernate in peace.

Dave Goulson , in his book ‘The Garden Jungle, or Gardening to Save the Planet’, provides a wealth of information and ideas in an entertaining read. I believe David’s Bookshop stock it.

Through reading it I realised that dog and cat fleas are often treated with a proprietary product containing pesticides, some of which are lethal to bees, some of which must find its way into the garden or the water supply, or both. Not enough testing has been done on this issue yet, but I’m not taking chances any more. From now on my cat gets groomed daily with a metal flea comb and my ‘catches’ dropped into soapy water to die! It’s quite satisfying in a weird way.

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