Tuesday, July 03, 2012

The Birds and the Bees

I first published the picture below on 12th May 2011. My Pyracantha bushes were laden with blossom and I needed some bees to pollinate it. They did a pretty good job for later in the year all that blossom turned into nice red berries and we were delighted when a couple of Fieldfares turned up one day to be followed a few days later by a whole flock. They stuck around for a few days feasting on those berries and then they were gone. I’m rather hoping they remember and return again this year.

Which leads me to the curious question of bees and what’s going on – the reports of Colony Collapse Disorder in the media. So off I went to Wanstead Library for a free showing of the film ‘Queen of the Sun’ put on by our friendly Wanstead and Woodford Friends of the Earth people. It was packed out, more chairs were needed, and if you get the chance it is well worth a view. It is not really about bees, but about us, Human Beings and how we have lost touch with the natural environment that supports our own existence – Nature Deficit Disorder.

Bees, like foxes, are thriving in urban environments. It is the countryside where they are having problems. Some put this down to the pesticides used by farmers but the biggy for me was Monoculture. Bees need to feed all year round to survive, so they need plants and shrubs that blossom at different times of year. This is the contract between the plants and the bees. The plants know that they have to share the bees on flexi-working otherwise they won’t be there next year. In urban environments there is an abundance of plant diversity as we gardeners and allotmenteers are all growing different stuff. Even window boxes help and some people have roof gardens in densely popualted areas. But out in the country it’s not like that.

Out in the countryside there are fields after fields of the same crop and the hegerows are disappearing. I don’t think it is so bad here in good old blighty, simply because we don’t seem to do much farming these days, in fact we don’t seem to do much of anything productive other than “financial services”.

The example used in the flim was from the United States. In California the main crop is the Almond. As you can imagine with our friends across the pond the exercise is huge, they do like to do things “big”. Viewing from an aeroplane it was massive – row after row of neatly spaced almond trees and nothing else. Absolutely nothing else. And no bees. This is because the almond trees blossom for a couple of weeks in the spring and there is no food for the bees over the rest of the year. You can hardly expect them to stick around in these circumstances. But these people are Americans. So what they do is truck the bees in for a fortnights holiday on the west coast. Masses of them. They have industrial beekeepers elsewhere in the country who just tape up their hives with cling film and load them onto huge lorries (that’s English for Truck) with a fork lift and hundreds, possibly thousands, of these form convoys on the interstate highways burning rubber and oil on the way.

Working with nature, letting nature do the work for you, seems to be a forgotten wisdom. But Mother Nature has a habit of coming back at us and biting our bums when we don’t play ball.

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