With the farmers request to use neonicotinoids to destroy pests (aka insects) in Sugar Beet crops, petitions have been posted on social media. These pesticides are incredibly harmful to bees either killing them (see the previous post) or causing collonies to be affected. The impact on mammals isn't something that should be ignored. In animal testing on mice, exposure to neonicotinoids caused liver cancer, other testing reported brain damage to fetuses' and young children. In all the reports more research was highlighted as key.
As a crop native to North America should we be using pesticides to grow it here in the UK? In my opinion no, however this will not lead to the return of the bee levels. There are many reasons for this including the development of farming for profit.
In the 1970s Signal Crayfish were introduced into waters. This was instigated by the British Government and seen as a lucrative market to export to Scandinavia. The crayfish began to erode the river beds and posed a huge threat to the native crayfish causing a huge decline in numbers. In introducing an alien species for profit we have caused an unbalance in our rivers and to native species. That was 50 years ago and we continue to put profit ahead of respect for our environment.
In the 1940s there was an alteration to farming. Crop rotation had always been recognised as a way to fight pests and diseases. A crop was grown on one of four fields and each year a different field was used. One of the fields was plants with clover. This allowed the soil to replenish, controlled weeds and prevented disease. The clover was used by cattle to feed on and interestingly bees where attracted to this native, benefical crop. After the Second World War machinery in farming became more common, reducing the need for horse drawn ploughing. Crop rotation also began to disappear along with the vital clover for bees.
The reduction in the growth of clover would have had an impact on the bees although so would the development of building towns, tree removal, the decline in meadows or countryside. Our farming practices have changed to include hydroponic growing in greenhouses which has removed the need for pollination by insects to pollinating by hand or artificially.
Along with farming our need for pretty gardens is having an impact on insect populations. When we shop humans love a bargain. Imagine going out the a local shop or nursery (we can dream) and buying all the plants you'd like for your garden at a low price. That would be great, a bargain. The companies who supply us with the plants will obviously want to make a profit. This has led to the introduction of terminator seeds. These seeds do not reproduce and die back at the end of the season, requiring their replacement the next year. If you are not a gardener you may think it's helpful not to have to deal with the plants during the winter but and there is a huge BUT, terminator plants are sterile. The pollen that the bees try to collect has been found in their digestive system causing a similar disease as that which shows as colon cancer in humans. There is also no need for a bee if we continue to support the growth of this industry.
We can help bees on an individual level. We can purchase heritage plants and yes they will cost more to purchase. This will provide food for the bees and insects as well as seeds for growing the next year. We can consider the diversity of our gardens and parks. A weed is a plant in the wrong place and if we want pretty, we are lacking the understanding that plants such as stinging nettles, dandelions, ivy, clover (in the lawn) will support the bees which need our human intervention. We can create meadow areas, keep hedges and shrubs along with trees. Think of our outdoor areas with more green and less concrete.
Oh, and do you know how else we can help? Lets not let pesticides into our food chain or the modification of seeds become the norm. The modification of seeds is another whole discussion but for now I have a petition I need to go and sign.
Thank you for reading,