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22/07/2012 at 08:57

The lawn here at our new home has been fairly neglected for years and has a wide variety of plants in it and is loved by the bees.  Regular raking and weekly cutting has made it look more like a lawn, without removing the clover, wild majoram and self-heal (amonst others) that bring the bees to our lawn.

The front lawn has had builders' skips and 1 ton bags of sand etc all over it, and we had thought we would have it re-turfed, but we've discovered that it too is full of white clover and the bees love it, so when the builders have finished their work on the house we're going to try just re-seeding the bare patches left by the builders' detritus so that we can keep the clover.  

When digging earlier this year I  found the larva of a stag beetle on some dead wood under the back lawn 

22/07/2012 at 19:40

I collected a swarm of bees from a neighbour's garden the other day. She spent most of the time apologizing about how 'untidy' the garden was, as some Welsh poppies and Herb Robert had had the temerity to show themselves and *gasp* actually flower (!) among her ghastly, manicured shrubs. 

I commented that they were rather pretty and were actually the only flowers in the garden, so wouldn't it be a good idea to leave them to grow?

She said she was planning to spray them as soon as her recent leg fracture healed...

Sadly, I think this is far too representative of the attitude of many gardeners towards 'weeds' that are actually more attractive than the ugly, imported evergreens so many grow now. 

And these same gardeners are also much too keen to reach for insecticides - luckily I intercepted her before she sprayed the bees - including the dangerously persistent and proven bee-killers too freely sold to people who don't understand the implications of rendering their plants permanently toxic to insects.

Neonicotinoids are killing the insects on which so much else depends, including birds and bees. It's time they were banned, in my opinion.

 

23/07/2012 at 06:09

We sat out in the garden until late yesterday evening, on the first warm evening we've had for ages - it was heartening to see various bumble bees, hover flies and lots of little flies and moths flitting about our garden.  

Other people are talking about having poorly pollinated crops and runner beans failing to set - we appear to have loads of little runner beans forming on our plants - we must be doing something right 

23/07/2012 at 10:50

There are places where bees are managing to get by, despite the concerted assault on them by the agri-pesticide industry.

Much of our farmland is now a toxic wasteland, where invertebrates and those that live on them are struggling to suvive. I went for a five-mile walk on the eastern edge of Dartmoor yesterday and saw only one - yes one - solitary insectivorous bird in three hours. I saw no more than half a dozen butterflies, five bumblebees and no honeybees at all, despite there being at least 16 species of plants in flower.

My town bees are doing well, as I live in a place full of gardens and where most people are very aware of the dangers of using garden pesticides (except see above). I fear that large parts of England are becoming no-go areas for our most important pollinators and they will go into terminal decline unless people get the message soon.

 

23/07/2012 at 11:21
beesontoast wrote (see)
... My town bees are doing well, as I live in a place full of gardens ...

There are a million acres of private gardens in Britain. That's 5 times more land than all the nature reserves managed by the various county wildlife trusts. This is a massive, and generally wasted, resource. Insects, and other animals, are making use of the habitats in gardens where they can. Butterflies normally found in woodland can now be found in Greater London.

Urban gardens also offer additional advantages for butterflies, as the urban environment is generally warmer than the countryside.

Every gardener can do something about this, if they want to.

23/07/2012 at 13:53

Incidentally, a BBC documentary about the collapse of honey bee colonies is being repeated on BBC4 tonight, Monday, 9pm. It's been screened several times before. This program:
http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b00jzjys

There's a link on that page to another website, which says this:
"London – though conventional wisdom would seem to contradict this – may be less polluted than the English countryside, at least in ways that affect honeybees. With its many gardens and parks, the city offers a large amount and diverse variety of flowers for bees to pollinate."

23/07/2012 at 17:10

The main reason they do better in the cities is the relatively light use of pesticides by gardeners compared to farmers and the greater density of useful forage.

A huge amount of our countryside is covered by wind-pollinated crops that have no food value whatsoever for bees - wheat, barley, rye grass, maize - while those that are potentially useful are often planted using seed that is pre-treated with systemic neonicotnoids (espe. Clothianidin) that render the entire plant toxic to all invertebrates, whether in the soil or on the plant itself. These same chemicals also leach into surface water and kill fish. 

 

27/07/2012 at 20:43

I was horrified to learn that BBC presenters are put under pressure to promote pesticides.

I think it's time we wrote some letters in defense of Monty Don and to applaud him for his stance against these dangerous products which should be banned from use in fields as well as gardens. .

27/07/2012 at 21:02

Honeybadger - I agree. Some of the radio and TV gardening presenters are far too ready to pull out the bug-killers instead of looking for biological controls. Makes you wonder if some of them have been 'got at' by vested interests.

Given that Bayer hand out 'freebies' to local horticutural societies, it wouldn't be surprising if certain prominent presenters had been recruited.

 

27/07/2012 at 22:37

I suppose the Beeb will say they have to be even-handed in what they say but I agree that a person's principles ought not to be compromised. Let them wheel in someone else to talk about poisons not try to make Monty do it.

28/07/2012 at 07:17

Gone are the days when Percy Thrower was sacked by the BBC for advertising weedkiller. 

28/07/2012 at 08:59
beesontoast wrote (see)

Honeybadger - I agree. Some of the radio and TV gardening presenters are far too ready to pull out the bug-killers instead of looking for biological controls. Makes you wonder if some of them have been 'got at' by vested interests.

Given that Bayer hand out 'freebies' to local horticutural societies, it wouldn't be surprising if certain prominent presenters had been recruited.

 

I think without any evidence of this you are entering a tricky area

30/07/2012 at 17:05

Coincidentally, someone today sent me a link to http://www.pollinis.org which is a French organisation who have an epetition to try and get these neonicotinoids banned in France (so clearly they aren't banned there at the moment).  I am a huge fan of Monty Don and I am trying to follow organic methods.  I am shocked to learn about the routine treating of seeds and bulbs with pesticides, and the fact that this does not even have to benmentioned on the labelling when we buy these things for our gardens.

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