Today, the European Parliament are voting on a critical change of law - beekeepers all over Europe are waiting with baited breath to hear the verdict...
Today's vote is about banning the use of neonicotinoids; harmful pesticides that are perfectly legal to use but which have been now proven to cause disruption to honeybees and other pollinators.
In a landmark study undertaken in 2017, tests showed that where honeybees had not been exposed to these harmful pesticides, their behaviour was quite normal; flying to and from the hive and areas of pollen and forage without disruption. They were also on average much more capable of fighting disease. In short, they were strong and healthy. In comparison, those colonies of honeybees that were exposed to neonicotinoids showed erratic flying patterns; their flight paths to and from the hives were confused, lengthened and on average these colonies struggled more with disease. One farmer we spoke to last week runs a very small farm here in Lincolnshire; just a few hundred acres and his annual bill on chemical pesticides and fertilisers is some £70,000. The use of chemicals is big business and that's why the likes of Bayer and Monsanto have been fighting hard against the possible ban.
It reminds me of the famous story in China in the late 1950s. Ruler Mao Zedong ordered the mass destruction of sparrows in the region because the sparrows were considered to be a pest to the people; robbing them of grain and valuable food sources. Horrific scenes played out throughout 1958 as sparrows were shot, captured and tortured until exhausted and finally died a stressful and torturous death. With no sparrows to naturally control them, the insect population made a rapid rise and uncontrollably ate even more of the crop and food sources than the sparrows did. Hundreds of thousands of Chinese were dying from starvation as a direct result of Zedong's orders, which forced them into even more critical action: a mass use of pesticides and chemical poisons to eradicate the insects and protect the crop. With that, they also wiped out the honeybee. To this day, pollination of hundreds of acres of orchards and pollinator crops happens by hand; the region still without the honeybee.
We celebrate the success of our species - but at what cost?
This is why we got into bee keeping and bee farming - it wasn't about honey for us; it was about the environment and a way for us to support biodiversity by supporting the critical work of the honeybee.
In the UK, the honeybee population has fallen by about 75% since 1900. There are several factors; the use of chemical pesticides and a reduction in land planted with suitable sources of pollen just two of them. Brexit will bring with it an opportunity for Britain to decide its own rules on the permitted use of harmful chemicals but whichever way the people in charge vote, we have our own plan: to work with local land owners to encourage them to plant organic, native flower seeds on patches of bare land, verges, mounds and as a valuable ground cover; to install more honeybee hives using the healthy and ethical standards that we employ and include our special monitoring technology in order to provide more scientific data on the health and behaviour of our bees. There are alternatives to dangerous chemicals in use and like many bee keepers, we are keen to encourage conversation and provide multiple solutions to help reverse the decline of the honeybee.
It's for this reason that we recently set up a crowdfunding campaign on crowdfunding platform Indiegogo - we need your help to reverse the decline of the honeybee in the UK.
We're asking for you to help us reach our target in order to install 250 new beehives and in return for your help (from as little as just £10), we're offering a range of exciting perks: honey from your sponsored bee hive, exclusive tours of the farm and even the opportunity to sponsor your very own, entire beehive featuring your name on a special plaque.
Click here to visit our crowdfunding page and help us to help reverse the decline of the honeybee.
Thank you in advance for any help you can give us.
Bees for Business is run from a Soil Association-licensed organic farm in Lincolnshire. We provide honeybee hives for businesses to adopt as part of their corporate social responsibility program and supply wholesale honey to hotels and restaurants. Our clients include The Ned, Burghley House, Nobu Shoreditch, Restaurant Story and Prevost in Peterborough.