Your News: A buzz in your garden

Stuart Bullen
Stuart Bullen

Well its official. The air in Bourne and elsewhere can cause cancer. That’s according to a report published in October by the UN’s World Health Organisation cancer agency IARC. The world’s air has become so polluted and is now been classified as carcinogenic causing lung cancer and possibly increase risk of bladder cancer.

Scientists have known that specific pollutants in the air are toxic for some time but this is the first time they have classified outdoor air pollution as cancer causing. The risk is said to be similar to breathing in second hand cigarette smoke, which is quite dangerous. One of the worlds’ most powerful poisons, 40 – 60 mgs of nicotine, is said to be enough to be a lethal dose for an adult. For years it has been in use as a powerful insecticide manufactured from waste from the tobacco industry. After World War 2 over 2,500 tons were sprayed worldwide. This dropped over the years as cheaper and less toxic insecticides became available. It was finally banned in the USA and in the new year will not be available for sale.

A bit of good news for wildlife we might think. But....

Neonicotinoids are a fairly new form of insecticides which are chemically similar to nicotine ones. They have been in use since the 1990s. The chemicals in them disrupt the nervous system of the target insects, eventually leading to death.

Unfortunately, bees seem to particularly vulnerable to Neonicotinoids. The chemicals impair bees’ communication, homing and foraging ability, flight activity and immune systems. Recent studies show that bees don’t have an ability to detoxify chemicals in the same way as other insects. A worldwide sudden decline in bees has lead to some organisations such as the Soil Association calling for them to be banned.

Neonicotinoids are not just used in agriculture. Its very easy to buy them to use in the garden. Products containing, acetamiprid, imidacloprid, thiacloprid and thiamethoxam can be bought in any garden centre.

Avoiding these pesticides will help to reduce bee decline in our own area. Other things can be done!

Turn your garden into a bee friendly area by planting up with plants that encourage them in. Shasta Daisies and Red Valerian will help a Bumble bee while honey bees will appreciate the nectar of your veg patch – beans , parsnips and carrot when they flower. As the British countryside changes due to intensive farming bee habitats are being put under strain or lost. So don’t be shy of introducing some of our native wildflowers such as Campions- Red Campion is a particular favourite of mine.

Planting bulbs for spring such as Aconite and Bluebells will help feed bees when they come out of hibernation.

Not all plants are that great. Avoid double headed F1 types as they have little or no pollen or nectar. Annual bedding plants such as Bergonias and Pansies, pretty as you might think, are not so hot for bees.

Providing food isn’t the only way we can help. Not all bees live in colonies or hives. Some are solitary and live in burrows just below the surface of your garden. The Red Mason, a fairly common garden bee, will use gaps in stone or old brickwork in walls or buildings to shelter in. A few cut up Hollyhock stems tied up into a cylindrical shape and then placed in a quiet area will provide an alternative for it if you don’t have an old wall.

Filling a terracotta pot with shredded paper placed upside down in a small hole will help a Bumblebee this winter.

There are lot of expensive “bee hotels” that are on the market. The jury is still out on whether bees will use them on a regular basis. They do look good however and make the garden look wildlife friendly.

But putting these things into action might not seem to be doing much to slow the decline of bees. It can seem like a drop in the ocean. After all what’s one garden? Multiply your garden though with other bee friendly gardens in the Bourne area and it soon adds up. And it’s worth it.

Bees buzzing round the garden adds movement and grace. They make a garden come alive and give a relaxed feeling. Plus these fellows aren’t takers, by helping them you get your plants and veg pollinated for free!

So go on! Get buzzing in your garden next summer!

Check out the British Bumblebee Conservation Trust’s website for further ideas and tips.