Friday 14 March 2014

Bee Decline: as important & urgent an issue as Climate Change

Solitary male bee Andrena nitida
I'm feeling hugely frustrated this morning.

A handful of charities and a number of passionate individuals have been campaigning to raise awareness of the existence, importance and decline of wild bees (bumblebees and solitary bees) for YEARS. Some of these have crashed and burned in the process because they have lacked the funding and support they so desperately needed to continue with their awareness raising.

Why then, has it taken so long for the national press and some of the larger conservation/green/wildlife organisations to recognise and speak up for these unsung heroes? Where were they ten years ago, or earlier?  Of course it's absolutely wonderful that so many organisations are now running campaigns to help bees and other pollinators, but I do so wish it hadn't taken till 2013/14 for them to start making their noise.

Bee decline, and its consequences upon the pollination of human food crops and around 80% of the world's flowering plants IS NOT NEWS. The world has had access to research about the dire effects of intensive agriculture, with it's complete reliance upon pesticides, and the destruction it causes to habitat, for decades. We were warned about these consequences by Rachel Carson in her book 'Silent Spring' ... FIFTY YEARS AGO.

I simply cannot understand why those individuals and organisations who have it in their power to effect change have not shown an earlier interest in the global decline of pollinators, not to mention the little matter of the possibility of mass insect extinction. I also struggle to understand why so many individuals and organisations are still sitting on the fence about the neonicotinoid issue. It reminds me of the days when the world was in complete denial about the negative effects of smoking….or when DDT, which is nowhere near as toxic to bees as neonicotinoids are, was still considered safe to use.

I know there are many many other issues that need to be addressed with equal urgency, but to my mind 'Bee Decline' should be up there with 'Climate Change' as one of the most urgent and important issues of our times. The thing about pollinator decline is that it is relatively easy for us all to do something to help. If we get it right for bees, we begin to get it right for all life on earth…and the thing about pollinator decline is that it is relatively easy for us all to do something to help.

All we need to do is plant more pollen & nectar rich flowers, stop using pesticides, and create a world full of Bee Friendly Zones - it's that simple!

Anyway, that's enough of a rant for today. I'm going to close my computer now, put my energies where my mouth is, and spend the weekend taking advantage of this beautiful weather to see if my partner and I can turn the little concrete yard behind our cottage in Dorset into a haven for pollinators and other wildlife.  More about that project later :-)

In the mean time, here are some excellent resources and ideas for anyone who'd like to help pollinators and other wildlife.

My favourite website -  THE POLLINATOR GARDEN

My favourite wildlife gardening book -   THE WILDLIFE GARDEN - by Kate Bradbury

My favourite charity - BUGLIFE

Have a lovely sunny weekend x


  1. Very well written. I can understand completely your frustration at the lack of foresight about this issue, especially since, like you say, the likes of Silent Spring should have been ringing alarm bells. The decline of pollinators, including bees, will have far-reaching social and economic implications (as much as I hate seeing the world in economic terms) as well as the obvious environmental detriment.
    There is such much green space taken up by unimaginative, mown grass. I don't understand why most land-owners aren't encouraged to plant wild-flower meadow mixes on land such as grass verges, sections of park lands, urban gardens and so on. I used to work in urban amenity woodlands for the FC, and we had lots of spaces of just overgrown grass and bramble; yes, it's a forestry organisation, but it wouldn't take a lot of effort to seed up open areas and mow them at most twice a year and lift the cuttings. Likewise, I'm sure maintenance costs of managing road verges etc as meadows would be lower than regularly and often mowing grass?
    As for business interests pushing pesticides - I feel hopeless and depressed at the general lack of morals of businesses interested in pursuing profit at the expense of the environment. Again it's a lack of foresight - do agricultural businesses not realise that even just the economic cost of losing pollinators will far outweigh the loss in profit of not selling pesticides?! Sometimes the economic focus of the world makes me so despondent.

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  3. pretty nice blog, following :)

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  5. Great blog! Hope the politicians are reading it.
    An ecosystem is rather like a giant game of Jenga - remove one block and it becomes unstable but remove another and the whole thing comes crashing down. I think there are three fundamental problems;
    one is big corporations putting profits over and above everything else. If selling a harmful pesticide generates more moneyprofits than a bee-friendly version then so be it. By the time these companies realise, it may be too late.
    Secondly - Most governments around the world see this declining bee problem as an insignificant problem way down on their 'priority list'.
    Thirdly, a widely held misconception that such a small insect could be so influential to our environment. Not enough people in positions of power and influence realise or are even aware of the 'butterfly effect' where small, seemingly insignificant changes lead on to big effects. Our main crops are insect pollinated with the majority of those insects - beeing the humble bee (in various forms). It annoys me that humans are the only species to pollute our 'larders'