Last night I went to a Friends of the Earth meeting in West Ealing about their ‘Bee Cause‘ campaign. (For anyone who isn’t familiar with them, FoE are an international charity working to protect the environment).
Quentin Given, the Ealing Campaign Coordinator, gave a very enthusiastic speech about the campaign and the reasons to support bees.
From Friends of the Earth’s point of view, bees are obviously an appealing cause for several reasons – they’ve been in the media a lot recently, are photogenic, tangible and valued or even revered by many cultures. They’re a good way to engage people.
The worrying figures in their FoE Bees Briefing Report include:
- Two UK bumblebee species have become extinct
- Managed honey bee colonies fell by 53% between 1985 and 2005 – John Chapple was very skeptical of this, as BBKA membership numbers have risen in the last few years. Also, there is no official national count of hives and many beekeepers remain ‘under the radar’ and don’t register their hives on Beebase. Would be interested to know where the FoE got their figures.
- Wild honey bees are nearly extinct in many parts of the UK – this must be anecdotal?
- Solitary bees gave declined in over half (52%) of the areas studied.
Although I’m a honey-bee beekeeper, my main concern is actually for the bumble and solitary bees, because they do not have beekeepers looking after them. Honey bees as a species are not under threat of extinction, whereas many other bee species are.
Friends of the Earth have already taken many positive steps as part of this campaign, including distributing 10,000 free packets of wildflowers. They are calling for a suspension in the use of neonicotinoid pesticides and a shift in farming practices. The government have drafted a national action plan to help bees, but in FoE’s opinion it merely states what the government is already doing, rather than putting forward any new proposals. The final draft is due out in December 2012.
Some rather wonderful launch events were arranged for the campaign:
- A temporary bee friendly meadow at London’s Southbank area in April. Even though the flowers were new, bumblebees turned up the day they arrived! See FoE’s Flickr photostream for lots of super cute photos.
Image from http://carolannsteinhoff.com.
- Local FoE campaign groups had their own launch events, including the brilliantly named ‘Keep the buzz in Leighton Buzzard‘
- Guided bee walks, honey tastings, film showings and skep making workshops have also been going on around the country.
- FoE are working with fifteen community groups to set up bee-friendly public gardens, and hope to add more groups as the campaign goes on.
How can we help?
- By increasing bee-friendly forage in our gardens. Think simple, open flowers with easy access to nectar and pollen.
- FoE have an online Bee Cause Petition asking David Cameron to introduce an effective National Bee Action Plan.
- Plantlife, the UK’s wild plant conservation charity, have a quick online survey on wildflower meadows which they need people to complete – ‘Save our Magnificent Meadows‘. I’ve done it and it really does only take five minutes or less.
My next blog post on the meeting will focus on the second talk at the meeting, given by Rob Mitton of Royal Holloway College about the effects of neonicotinoids on bees. And also some dubious claims made by a certain member of the audience!