Chairman's Chat

The BeeHolder, Summer 2012

In her BBC 2 series “Bees, Butterflies and Blooms”, Sarah Raven talked of the devastation that had happened to the countryside and the dire consequences for the National economy. She did lay blame pretty lavishly, just falling short of using the word “criminal”. As a “carrot” rather than a “stick” person she tried to persuade farmers, Community and County councils, Town planners and corporations, that it was in their own interest to all do their bit to help save our precious pollinators, and bring their needs to the fore. 

Some of the results of her philosophy of naturalness could be seen at this year’s Chelsea Flower Show.

There were definitely bees at Chelsea this year. Naturalness and pollinator friendliness were so much the theme that the prizes could easily have been given merely by counting the number of bees seen on each exhibit. Many of the show gardens recreated “natural” landscapes. It was very clever. A small 6m x 10m plot was evocative of a wild Yorkshire moor landscape, another was Cornwall. Some formal gardens had wild areas complete with artificial foot trodden paths where the dandelions and clover were stunted and compressed and the moss slimy. I even saw the special attachment for making the footprints of fox and moorhen. The public are voting with their cheque books for a return to wildness from the over-bred, pollen and nectar-free, multi-petalled showpiece specimens of previous years. The natural consciousness towards the wispy fluffiness of wild flowers was shown at Chelsea, and the increase in beekeeping is another aspect of this movement.

The national stock of managed Honey bee colonies has at last stabilised after many decades of decline. This has got to be a good thing especially since feral bee colonies hardly exist any more. However there are problems with the distribution of colonies. Too many in some towns, not enough in some country areas. It is pertinent to note that it was a paper’s Crime Editor who flagged up that there are too many bee colonies in London (see article on page 13). Wouldn’t it be wonderful if there was a similar hint that criminality was responsible for the shortage of bees in rural areas? If the media can suggest that some practices within the banking community should be regarded as criminal, so too should they be saying that much of what goes on in the countryside is also criminal.

I doubt that there has ever been a time when Beekeeping Associations (BKAs) were so involved with national and local politics. Many lobby for there to be a total ban on certain insecticides and the importation of bees into the UK. Some BKAs believe that all beekeepers should be registered and licence. But progress is probably easier with lots of education and a big carrot. A big carrot, with just possibly a little stick. Our Fun Family day (see page 7) has probably contributed to a greater knowledge of bees and the environment than any compulsory biology class. And the incentive we gave toward buying local bees by undercutting brought in bees from beyond our borders has probably reduced the risk of disease and inappropriate genes into our area. We could never have legislated against buying queens for abroad. Nor could we really justify dampening the enthusiasm of those who want to take up beekeeping.

Tony Shaw, Chairman MBKA, July 2012