So neonicotinoids are to be banned across Europe for two years from December 1st 2013. It is evident that there are a range of possible reasons for a decline in bee populations, including diseases such as Varroa, issues surrounding breeding and sufficient food and habitat availability. In two years’ time there will be a review of the ban, but is that long enough to prove anything? I think we’ll just have to wait and see. There are some interesting views on the topic here.
One thing the whole debate has stirred up is the need to do more for bees and other pollinators, and it has given much needed publicity to the importance of bees in the environment.
I spoke to Andrew Hughes, Farm Manager at Trinley Estates, where they’ve done a lot of work to help bees and other pollinating insects thrive on the farm. “I’m a strong believer that if you provide bees with a good variety of plants, populations will be maintained and healthy. We always want to improve the amount and variety of nectar sources with pollen and nectar mixes, wild bird seed mixes, grass strips and we also have a wild flower meadow. By producing greater plant diversity then we can produce stronger and broader food chains that will rescue some of our most endangered insect and bird species.”
Through some good woodland management, with coppicing and maintaining the flora, there is also a thriving wild bee population in the woodland found on the farm.
Andrew has also been working with local natural beekeepers, “The aim is to keep bees in as near natural conditions as possible to promote health and vigour and the ability to cope with pests and pathogens”. And it seems to be working, “Our beekeepers have mentioned that many of the hives around us haven’t been doing so well recently, but where we haven’t taken any honey from the hives in the last few years, they’re doing really well.”
Andrew has been recording the fauna and flora on the farm through photography on its own dedicated website. “Ultimately, I am interested in monitoring population changes from one year to the next. But what it’s really doing is making me much more aware of the species we do have on the farm”. I urge you to take a look – it’s great to see the diversity of wildlife and there are some cracking photos too, my favourites being the hare shots!
Perhaps we hear about this kind of wonderful work disproportionately at LEAF, because of the nature of our members. At LEAF, we promote Integrated Farm Management, which is an approach delivering sustainable farming. One part of this is landscape and nature conservation, which sits alongside other areas like crop health and protection. The point is that everything needs to be integrated on the farm, and lots of our members have that approach.
Bees are vital to farming. Integrating positive steps to provide food and habitat for pollinators into commercial farming is something we fully endorse.
What do you think of the neonicotiniod ban? Is there more we can do for pollinating insects or do you think we’re doing enough already? I’d like to hear your views – please comment below.