Honey bees

Honey bee 01 Global warming may be the darling of the apocalypse merchants, but we face a much greater threat that would solve the CO2 emissions problem in the relative bat of the eye.

It was no less a figure than Albert Einstein who predicted if the honey bee became extinct mankind would follow in four years. At the beginning of the 20th century there were one million hives in Great Britain, reduced to 400,000 by the 1950s. Today we can hardly muster 250,000 hives and the trend indicates our honey bee population may be wiped out within ten years.

Increasing use of pesticides and higher levels of pollution have taken their toll over the years, but it’s the accelerated decline that’s particularly worrying. There’s a complex mix of causes as diverse as the introduction of the varroa mite in the 1990s to the more recent high price of wheat encouraging farmers to grow far more than normal at the expense of nectar producing crops. Things are getting so urgent that the UK government has started to take notice with £2million being spent on research over the next five years. Sadly such fiscal activity is normally a good indicator that things have gone too far for recovery and there’s been criticism of it being too little too late after years of underfunding and neglect.

In 2008 the UK honey harvest was down by 50%. Last winter a third of hives were lost. We now import a substantial amount of our honey, but the problem is not just one of honey supplies. A third of the food we eat is depends on pollination from honey bees… hence Einstein’s prediction. No honey bees, no apples, strawberries, carrots, onions etc. etc. And the problem is not confined to our shores. Take almonds for example… 80% of our supply comes from the USA where every year bees are trucked from Florida to California to pollinate those almonds.

Honey bees are fascinating creatures…

  • A single hive will be home to as many as 50,000 bees
  • It takes nectar from two million flowers and 90,000 bee miles (three times around the globe) to produce one pound of honey
  • In one trip a bee will visit up to 100 flowers
  • The honey bee is the only insect that produces food for humans
  • When a good source of nectar is found the bee flies back to the hive and shows its friends where the nectar source is by doing a sort of dance positioning the flower in relation to the sun and the hive

At our last meeting of the Hill Rise Allotment Association committee we were discussing wildlife projects for next year and someone mentioned the increased number of honey bees they’d noticed on their plot. Cue a shy smile from another committee member who’s started his own bee hive in the last year. Think we’ve got another couple positioned around the plots… must go and have a look. Would love to start my own hive, but fear I’d have an easier job trying to fly myself than convincing my wife it’s a Good Thing. Linda has only just started to accompany me up to the plot so the last thing I want to do is scare her off with thoughts of bee stings.

Shared the plot with Sammy on Sunday. The usual den building occupied him most of the time, but initially we had a few trips to the woodchip pile to put several layers on the muddy part of the hen run. Popped in on Ray, the gatekeeper of our allotments since he’s there most of every day, to see his new pond... thinking of putting one on my plot to attract wildlife. Sammy caused some amusement since I’d stuck a pair of gloves on him which were far too big. See video of his daring escapades below.

It was with some trepidation that I switched my PC on this morning. Not sure if you’re up to speed with the Samsung HMX-U10 flash camcorder affair bought for my birthday. Popped the PC in to Antechs in St Ives for a new graphics card since the existing one wasn’t up to the job of displaying the new high definition video, estimate about £50. Later in the day got a call… the new graphics card was so power hungry I’d need a new electricity input at about £30… oh dear. Later still got a call from the boss, Tom… bad sign! They’d also put extra RAM in but had come to the conclusion that the existing mother board fitted a year or so ago at a cost of £200 needed upgrading too. In effect we’re talking a new PC, cost just a shade under £500! Given I only paid £130 for the camcorder I don’t think I’ll go that route, so I’ll have to edit the new video footage using the TV. But fair credit to Antechs… they put my PC back together again and made no charge. I’ve always found them reasonable and honest.

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Caterpillar 02 Caterpillar found by Sammy under some wood.
Eggs Are my hens neat layers or what?
Leaves One of our water tanks, attractive with floating autumn leaves. If only I could have kept my shadow out of the image!

Huckleberries, a gift from my allotment neighbour, Peter. Haven’t seen them grown before and I’m going to try myself next year… though they don’t seem to have much taste.

String beans String beans I’ve saved from this year’s crop to plant next year.
Onions seedlings Onion seedlings continue to do well in the shed.
New plots 01 Newly laid out plots along the front of the allotments. The Town Council are setting up a further fifty plots in the adjoining field, so our veggie community is thriving!


  1. That looks like a cabbage moth caterpillar!

  2. That looks like a cabbage moth caterpillar!

  3. Purple and black beans? Cool.

    I do worry about the bees. I have lots in my garden, but I know if something isn't done to reverse what is happening to bees world wide we are in big trouble.

  4. Thanks Jude... just going to try & identify it so you've saved me the job. Think I'll do a separate post of all the wildlife photos I take on our allotments.

    Thanks for the offer of some bees Sylvana, but Wisconsin is a bit far for them to fly. I'll have some of your spinach though.


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