I think we can safely say this year has been a disaster. After the warmest April in the UK we all got excited and looked forward to coping with a long hot summer. The retailers stocked up on water butts and hosepipes and we started planning for the hosepipe bans.
Well May turned that around and by June we didn’t think it could get much worse. The press mentioned that people in far off places like Hull and Sheffield had a bit of a flooding problem but July was coming so things could only get better.
That turned into the worst prediction since the Titanic’s captain said “we’ll be fine”. The floods hit Gloucestershire and this time the media paid more attention, it being nearer to London and so forth.
Now you might have noticed some mention of the crops lost in the floods. I paid attention to that – reports that 40% of the pea crop had been devastated, potatoes rotting in the field as well as my allotment and barley ready for combining being flattened by rain if not drowned.
Livestock farmers have not been able to make forage for the winter, not just because they can’t get on the field, but also because hay must dry and even silage must be allowed to wilt or it will spoil. Silage without dry matter is no good for stock.
It’s not just the areas directly flooded but the whole country that’s affected by this.
Lack of some basic foods, increased costs for livestock are bound to drive up prices but the UK is a food importing country. We get a lot if not the bulk of our food from abroad, so it won’t make much difference, will it? Well in fact it will. First we’ve increased demand and markets react to higher demand with higher prices so we’re bound to pay more. Secondly, it’s not just us. Europe as a whole has had a bad year. Places like Greece were too hot whereas northern France has done little better than the UK for weather. The USA has been suffering some freak weather events as well so globally the pressure is on.
Bee Population Decline
Just before we relax thinking next year will be better, it might not matter what the weather is because the humble bee is in serious decline. In the USA they are suffering something called Colony Collapse Disorder which has been described as ‘bee aids‘ and some beekeepers have lost 80% of their bees.
In the UK and Europe there’s also been a serious decline in the bee population. Not just honey bees, but wild bees of all sorts including the bumble bee. The reason is a declining habitat, lack of wild flowers for them to feed on and pesticides.
So what’s the problem? It isn’t an impending shortage of honey that we need to worry about, it’s the fact that bee’s are the most important pollinating insect on the planet.
Bees pollinate the flowering crops we rely on for food. Among them: apples, peaches, pears, nuts, avocados, soybeans, asparagus, broccoli, celery, squash, tomatoes, cucumbers, sunflowers, cherries, broad beans, runner and French beans . All depend to great extent on the bee to pollinate them and ensure a crop.
Crops like oilseed rape increasingly used in biofuels, also rely on visits by bees and other pollinating insects to produce a crop.
Albert Einstein has been erroneously reported to have stated “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“ Although Einstein never actually said it, the truth may be nearer to that statement than we’d like.
It’s not beyond help or hope – wildlife friendly farming methods will actually help them to maintain yields and allotment holders and gardeners can plant some bumble bee food crops such as Rosemary, Bluebells, Foxglove, Comfrey and Vipers Bugloss.
I’m sure we’ll get over the floods but the lack of bees is a much more serious threat to our food. Let’s do our bit and help out a friend who does far more for us than might be obvious.