By Alex Blundell
With summer just around the corner, we’re all seeing the winding branches of winter ravished trees beginning to green. And with that, we expect to soon see open fields or grass patches start to fill up with sweet wild flowers. A perfect setting for a picnic, to relax and perhaps to share a cider with some friends… But what if you were to learn that the spring blossom and that signature southern drink may be in trouble due to an important pollinator?
There’s currently a bee decline in the UK, which is not good for a lot of our flowers and crops that rely on them. According to Lesley Gasson the Education Officer at the Dorset Bee Association there are three main reasons as to why this is happening.
These mites are external parasites that affect both the bee and the brood (the egg, larva and pupa stages of bee development). They feed on the blood of the bee and can shorten it’s life. If untreated Varroa will spread and can even kill entire hives.
The mites spread between colonies via solitary bees or drones. Once a bee has picked up a mite and returned to the hive a female mite will enter into a brood cell. It then seals itself in with the larva and will lay eggs which will continue to feed on the larva. By the time an adult bee has emerged there will be several mites waiting to parasitize other bees.
The key to stopping this bee killer is prevention. To help our bees, if you see these mites on a bee that is near or belongs to a hive, a local bee association or bee keeping group can direct you or treat it using a product called Apistan.
This may sound strange but crops and farming are becoming an issue. The amount of space needed to farm crops is quite a lot and this was space previously allocated to things like wild flowers. Which are important to a whole array of pollinators.
To help, Lesley Gasson suggests that those of you whom are green thumbed plant shrubs or small trees which are perfect for accommodating hives. Also mentioning
“Things like rosemary, thyme, lavender are all things bees that attract bees. They love it.”
There’s a particular pesticide called neonicotinoids that have proven to be especially damaging to bees. Crops are planted with it and so, the pesticide grows into every part of the plant. This means when bees come to collect the pollen they also get the neonicotinoids.
This pesticide attacks the bees central nervous system and their navigation. Lesley comments on the subtle destruction saying that
“You won’t find dead bees outside the hive, what you’ll find is that bees go out and never come home.” This is a sad but true reality to the hives which are affected.
In aid of our important pollinators, try to support growers who don’t use this type or any pesticides! You’ll be doing bees and your food a world of good!
Without Bees there would be no almonds, pumpkins or apples. Not to mention a huge chain reaction down the food chain.
A decrease in bees would means rising produce prices, more environmentally damaging imports and perhaps a stop to the countries famous cider production.
Dorset Cider coveyed that it was vital to not use neonicotinoids. The dangers were brought up in a recent South West of England Cider Association meeting – as “no bees mean no cider.”
Thatchers also spoke out about how they were planning on helping out the bees:
“To help create ideal conditions for foraging for the solitary and bumblebees, we are trialling the planting of wild flower seed in our orchards.
We’re planting twelve different wildflower species including birds foot trefoil, yarrow and knapweed rich in nectar and pollen.
By planting wild flowers we help the bees, and in return, they help us pollinate the blossom to create the apples for our ciders.”