We are in the process of producing a new website. Please be patient while we do this. If you want to contact us – please see the contacts page for email details and also the calendar for the next events. Directions for meeting venues are still relevant under the Events and Meetings tab.
Support new research to find out what pesticides are in the plants on sale in garden centres: http://bit.ly/25wdu7v
As we all know, bees are in trouble. Around the world many types of bee are in decline, and some species have gone extinct. These declines are driven by multiple factors including loss of wildflowers from the countryside, outbreaks of disease, and exposure to the many pesticides used in modern farming. This is particularly worrying, as we need bees; they pollinate our crops and our wildflowers. Without bees we would have no strawberries, tomatoes, chili peppers, blueberries or cucumbers, to name just a few. We need to take action to help them.
One action we can all take is to grow bee-friendly flowers in our gardens, providing bees with much-needed nectar and pollen. If every gardener did this we could turn our suburban areas into giant bee nature reserves. Buying plants for bees has proved to be very popular, and most garden centres help by providing labelling to show which plants are best for bees. The Royal Horticultural Society has a special “Perfect for pollinators” label, with a picture of a bumblebee on it. Most bee-friendly flowers are also very pretty, so planting them has the added bonus of making your garden beautiful.
Sadly, there is a problem, a hidden danger. The pretty flowers on sale in garden centres are usually grown on the continent, many of them in the Netherlands, in intensive production facilities. To keep them looking perfect they are treated with chemicals, including a class of insecticide called neonicotinoids which are very harmful to bees. These chemicals, neonics for short, are neurotoxins that attack the brains of insects and paralyse them, or at lower doses leave them dazed and confused.
Neonics have been banned for use by farmers on flowering crops such as oilseed rape, but their use on garden flowers is much less well controlled. If you ask your local garden centre whether their plants have been treated with neonics, they usually do not know. Greenpeace recently screened some garden flowers on sale in mainland Europe, and found that many contained neonics and other toxic chemicals. It seems almost certain that this is also true in the UK, but no-one knows for sure. The sad truth is that this weekend a kind-hearted wildlife enthusiast might buy a pretty bee-friendly plant such as lavender, labelled with a RHS “Perfect for Pollinators” sticker, not knowing that it is full of potent neurotoxins and that they will be inadvertently poisoning their bees.
We want to raise money so that we can screen a range of bee-friendly plants from UK garden centres and identify which ones are truly safe. These could then be sold as neonic-free. If we find significant concentrations of neonics or other harmful chemicals, we would use this information to highlight the issue, putting pressure on the garden centres to buy in only plants that are genuinely good for bees.
Unfortunately this work is not cheap. It is very time consuming to prepare the samples and the expensive equipment needed to screen for the chemicals costs a lot to maintain. This is where we are seeking your help. For £5,000 we can do an initial screening of a selection of bee-friendly plants from UK garden centres. If we can raise even more then we can screen larger numbers of plants and get a clearer picture as to which ones are safe.
Find out more here: http://bit.ly/25wdu7v
Professor of Bumblebees, University of Sussex
Our Winter programme of Better Beekeeping sessions(formerly called Novice meetings) is now on the Calendar. Meetings are held at Goldsithney St Piran’s Hall every month.
Aluminium sulphate solution has long been known to counter insect stings. Unlike antihistamines this treatment is absorbed through the skin and denatures the venom before it has a chance to stimulate a reaction. Until a couple of years ago you could buy a small spray applicator under the name “Stingose” which contained a 20% solution of aluminium sulphate, but this has now been discontinued due to lack of sales. As no other supplier offers this simple remedy I have purchased a supply of aluminium sulphate and will be bringing it along to the January meeting with intructions for making up your own solution (free of charge).
Is the Fera National Bee Unit website, providing a wealth of information designed to help beekeepers by providing free information to assist them look after their bees and keep them healthy.
The recent cases of American Foul Brood in our patch has emphasised the importance of all beekeepers being registered on BeeBase. It has allowed the bee disease inspectorate to know about and visit nearby apiaries. Contact tracing is very important in the event of an outbreak of a notifiable disease. It has also meant that the National Bee Unit can send out alerts to beekeepers in the proximity of any case which will help them take the necessary action to protect their colonies from disease in their area.
The website itself is a valuable resource containing a wealth of information and advice in the form of the downloadable advisory booklets and leaflets on diseases and pests, best practice guidelines, and fact sheets on a range of subjects from where to site an apiary to queen rearing. It also contains information about the National Bee Unit, its role and activities.
It is in everyone’s interest for all beekeepers to be registered and this can be done easily by googling BeeBase or by going to http://nationalbeeunit.com where they can sign up on line and, if necessary, amend their data.