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The Demise of the Bee

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Dartford BeeKeepers

In 1955 Pete Seeger wrote the folk- song “Where Have All the Flowers Gone?” Today the question is “where are all the bees going?”

Since 1980 the number of beekeepers, in the Dartford Area, has declined from 125 members of the Dartford Branch of the Kent Beekeepers’ Association to the preset number of 23, resulting in a loss of efficient pollinating insects. This decline was caused by the destruction of colonies of Honey Bees by an Asian parasite arriving in Britain from Europe.

This loss coupled with further losses resulting from the indiscriminant use of pesticides and insecticides ‘has meant a serious decline, not only in the population of Honeybees, but also of both Solitary and Bumblebees.

Why is the decline in pollinating Insects of such importance? Perhaps the following information will assist in answering this question. Of the world’s 115 most important food crops, 87 require pollination to produce fruits, nuts and seeds. They account for a third of the $3 trillion worth of agricultural produce sold each year. These crops provide 35% of the calories we consume yearly and most of the vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. Seven of the nine crops that provide at least half the vitamin C to the human diet depend on insect pollination. They include oranges, cabbages, peppers, tomatoes, melons, tangerines and watermelons. Eight major fruit crops (apple, pears, plums, cherries, almond, avocado, blueberry and cranberry) are reliant on insect pollination.

Apart from supplying our human needs, birds and many small mammals depend on the results of pollination for food. The beauty of our gardens, parks and countryside would be lost as without insect pollination they would fail to reproduce. What then can be done to ensure the environment and a sufficient amount of produce is maintained. First and foremost is “plant for bees” in your garden so that when the spring arrives there is an abundance of pollen and nectar to meet their needs. Not only will they greatly benefit but you will have greatly improved blossoms and if you have planted vegetables the yield will be increased. The allotments holders adjoining the Dartford Branch Apiary will confirm this to be a fact.

There many agencies on the internet which give advice on plants suitable for gardens and bees or alternatively contact willmumby8@tiscali.co.uk who will be pleased to supply details.

Secondly, avoid the use or insecticides and pesticides which are harmful to insects and never spray open blossoms. Lastly consider the possibility of keeping bees. It is appreciated that initially there is a cost involved, no greater that a good quality camera or much less than a set of golf clubs, but the returns are greater. An Instruction course is being held at 7.pm on Thursday evenings at the Meeting Room, Orchard Shopping Centre, to which anyone is welcome, even if the keeping of bees is not your present intentions. Details on www.dartfordbeekeepers.com

William S. Mundy

Dartford Branch Chairman.