Wednesday, 12 March 2008

Would You Miss The Buzz?

Photo: Andreas

Albert Einstein is rumoured to have once said:

"If the bee disappeared off the surface of the globe, then man would only have four years of life left. No more bees, no more pollination, no more plants, no more animals, no more man."

Whether or not he actually did say it, we don’t know. The jury’s still out.

Now I can’t be absolutely certain that it would only take four years as I’m neither a bee, nor or bee-keeper, nor a person who’s studied bees. I have, however, always known that we’re dependent on them to pollinate our crops. That’s our fruit, veg, corn etc. Yes, science is making lots of progress when it comes to self-pollinating crops, but is that really the answer? Wouldn’t we miss the gentle buzz of bees during summer? What was that you said? You hate them because they sting? Noooo! Just leave them to get on with their business without swatting at them and you'll be fine.

Anyway, back to the point in hand.

Apparently we could be facing a bit of a bee disaster this year. According to Scotland’s Sunday Herald, thanks to the extreme mild temperatures that February brought with it, queen bees were emerging early this year. That’s two months too early!

When the article was written there was fear that these Queens would be killed off should temperatures drop during March, which they have done. I don’t know about where you live but here in South Cheshire we’ve had some very nippy nights. LM (that’s DD2) had to keep scraping ice from her car windscreen in the mornings!

Considering there’s already been a decline in the numbers of bees in this country over recent years – thanks to destruction of their natural habitats and chemical pesticides etc - this isn’t good news at all.

This is something I think we all need to take action on.

  • Instead of planting flowering plants that have little or no nectar at all, find nectar rich - preferably native – plants for the bees to feed on instead.

  • Let the clover grow in your lawn. It’s an excellent source of food for bees whereas lawn grass offers nothing at all. The scent of clover also entices them into the garden, as does cat mint (nip).

  • Make sure there are safe and warm places for them to spend the winter. Special bee houses can be bought but I’ve seen some simple home-made versions that have worked just as well. A pile of old dried logs can be useful too, but remember they like to nest up relatively high.

  • Unless you have a pond or bird bath, put out a tray of water so that the bees can quench their thirst.

  • And for goodness sake stop using chemical pesticides in your garden. A ‘perfect’ garden without insect life just isn’t worth the environmental risks that go along with it.
Photo: Andreas

Plants that are good for bees include:

  • Heather
  • Primroses
  • Snowdrops
  • Crocuses
  • Poppies
  • Borage
  • Thyme
  • Foxgloves
  • Cornflowers
  • Marigolds
  • Sunflowers
  • Honesty
  • Aquilegia
  • Lupins
  • Hollyhocks
  • Campanulas
  • Lavender
  • Salvia
  • Old fashioned roses
  • Honeysuckle
  • Jasmine
  • Any flowering berries and fruits

Before you go dashing off to the garden centre, one thing to bear in mind is to avoid double flowering varieties. They may look pretty but they’re far less useful to the bees. In fact, some aren’t of any use at all because the nice, plump bees just can’t get far enough in.

I’m definitely going back to a wildlife friendly garden. One day, my mud pit will be transformed, until then I shall put out plenty of pots and plant a new honeysuckle. Oh, and I do plan to throw a packet of grass seed around, mixed in with some wild meadow flower seed. It's gotta be better than it is now :)

Sharon J


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Anonymous said...

I think you should warm people about bees in the lawn becoz when I was little I sat on one and it stung my bum and that hurt like made and it can easy happen to kids.

happyhippychick said...

I love the gentle hum of bees too... most of my plants in my courtyard garden are enjoyed by the bees and as you know my allotment will be organic so they should bee happy buzzing around there too ;) (sorry!)

and I'll try and grow a patch of clover for them too somewhere... just love the smell of that in the summer

Sharon J said...

Anonymous. I think the answer to that particular problem is that parents should inform their children about the importance of bees and warn them to take a good look before sitting down. Of course, there will always be a chance that they'll step on one but the likelihood's very small really. And yes, I've been stung and it DOES hurt, I'll grant you that, but luckily it doesn't last long and a drop of vinegar on the sting usually helps alleviate the pain.

Rae. I'm sure the bees will love your allotment. I'm hoping that there will be plenty of clover once I get some grass sown out the back here, too.

Carol said...

Borage Oh tell me about borage!! Albert square garden is full to the brim of the stuff and it looks a right state, but last year the garden was full of bees, so although it is going to get a thorough tidy up, I am looking for a spot to keep some of it and add to the wild flowers. By the way, Is my house still standing?

Sharon J said...

You really must keep part of it wild, Carol. A lot of insect life (and other wildlife to that matter) has become dependent on private gardens these days.

As for the house - I really couldn't tell you. I'm sure LM would've mentioned it if it'd blown away though. Can't vouch for what the garden looks like. My chairs and several pots have cartwheeled up the garden. Luckily the wormery didnt' follow them.

Anonymous said...

Contrary to Anonymous, I was one of those who 'freaked' when a buzzy thing came near. Since moving to Mid Wales I have been stung by Bumble bees, Honey bees and Wasps and its okay! Not something I would pay for, but nothing like as bad as I imagined - anaphylactic shock aside! I once read a novel called No Blade of Grass, food for thought about the delicate balance we all share with the smaller forms of life, both flora and fauna, on this see-saw we call Earth. As for Borage no bluer, more delicate flower exists and frozen into ice cubes they pretty up a Pimms no end, and in salad have a Cucumbery freshness!

Sharon J said...

If only everybody would sit down and read a book like that, Cherry. Maybe fewer people would use all those awful herbicides and pesticides then.

I think Borage is an incredibly pretty plant too, but I didn't know about freezing the flowers. The things you learn when you're not expecting to, eh?