On behalf of Taylors of Harrogate may I welcome you to the Grand Beedapest Hotel!
Here at reception can we just check your credentials before you sign in? Forgive the impertinence but we do have to count your legs. Six? Perfect. Now if you wouldn’t mind trying us with a little buzzing? Music to the ears. Come right in. Please avail yourself of all our five star luxury facilities.
Maybe you would like a dip in the Peppermint Leaf Pool before dining in the Rose Lemon restaurant? We’ve given you the Sour Cherry bedroom. I hope that meets with your requirements. The gym? Next to the pool, ground floor. Enjoy your stay, Madam!
I particularly love the bees ‘using’ the gym in this little video!
This is all frivolous fun, nonsense of course, but nonsense with a deadly serious purpose. The famous tea company Taylors of Harrogate is using their colourful quirky Grand Beedapest Hotel (inspired, you guessed, by the Wes Anderson movie) to launch their campaign to raise awareness of the bee’s importance to the world, which is out of all proportion to the little insect’s humble size. Because all our buzzy little friends not lucky enough to be in residence at Harrogate’s Grand Beedapest are in trouble.
Bees have a problem
There can’t be anyone who isn’t aware of the frightening decline in bee populations all over the world. Taylors puts it down to the expansion of urban areas, shrinking flower meadows and natural habitats, and pollution. But perhaps not wishing to look ‘political’ or tread on powerful toes, they omit to specify The Big One – pesticides and in particular neonicotinoids*.
Greenpeace has no such qualms about proffering the information: they tell us that biologists have found more than 150 different chemical residues in bee pollen, a veritable “pesticide cocktail” **- a tipple most definitely NOT on offer in the Rose Lemon restaurant of the Grand Beedapest.
Unfortunately the bees and their supporters are up against Bayer, Dow, Monsanto and DuPont, four monstrous megacorporations making vast profits from pushing these chemicals, who have a stranglehold over almost the entire world market for pesticides (and genetically modified plants and seeds). In 2012, Monsanto for instance, reported net sales of approximately 13.5 billion U.S. dollars. Monstrous in their size, monstrous in their power and influence, and monstrous in the damage they are wreaking on the planet.
Why the bees’ plight matters
If saving the bees for their threatened selves is not enough, nor even because they are the ecological ‘canary in the coal mine’ that gives warning of the degradation of the natural environment, let us at least save them for our own survival.
It’s not just the ingredients of Taylors’ teas that are at risk, important as they no doubt are. Three quarters of our food crops rely on pollination by that hard-working insect and other insects, also badly affected by pesticides. If we love almonds, apples, broccoli, asparagus, cantaloupes, cucumbers, pumpkins, blueberries, watermelons, cranberries, and cherries … and on and on, and want to keep on eating them, we really need to take action for the bees.
“Believe it or not, you have a bee to thank for every one in three bites of food you eat” Greenpeace. No doubt more if you’re vegan.
So what does the world need to do?
Easily said, but imperative to act on:
- Ban the use of the seven worst pesticides
- Preserve wild habitat
- Turn from industrial to ecological (i.e. organic) farming – which encompasses both of the first two. But more on that in another post.
What is the situation vis à vis neonicotinoid pesticides here in the UK?
The EU imposed restrictions on the use of neonicotinoids in 2013. The UK’s Tory government voted against the restrictions – well, there’s a surprise. Nonetheless the EU ruling does still apply to us until Brexit is completed, which will be another two years after Article 50 is activated. Theresa May’s government says it will uphold the restrictions post Brexit completion, provided “science proves them necessary.” Hmm. Defra doesn’t exactly have a good track record when it comes to basing its policies on scientific evidence – ask the poor badgers.
Unsurprisingly, the National Farmers Union has opposed the neonicotinoid ban from the word go. We have them to thank as usual for their vigorous lobbying against, it seems, all measures intended to protect our wildlife and the environment. (There is a get-out clause in the EU neonicotinoid restrictions, which NFU members have been happy to exploit. In ’emergencies’ farmers can apply for a licence for a temporary exemption from the ban.)
So what IS the science?
The results of a recent study have just been published in the Journal Proceedings of the Royal Society:
- Neonicotinoids cut live sperm in male bees by 40%
- They cut the lifespan of drones by one third
- 32% of drones exposed to these chemicals are dead before they can reach sexual maturity at 14 days old
And previous studies have already shown a marked detrimental effect on both bumblebee and honeybee queens from exposure to these pesticides
“This could have severe consequences for colony fitness, as well as reduce overall genetic variation within honeybee populations,” the scientists concluded.
What are other countries doing?
- France, responding to overwhelming public concern, has just proved itself a true friend to bees by becoming the first nation to pass a complete ban on the use of neonicotinoids with effect from 2020
- Closer to home, forward-thinking Dorset County Council has adopted a ‘pollinator strategy’ and has banned these chemicals from all its own land. Let’s hope similar strategies will be brought into play around the country
- And in Canada, Friends of the Earth is challenging in court that government’s decision to licence their use
And then there are the glyphosates
Glyphosates are herbicides used to kill plants, not insects so what is the problem with herbicides? Well, bees’ awesome navigational skills are legendary, aren’t they? But in a study last year, it was shown that glyphosates like Monsanto’s Roundup impair bees’ spatial learning process, and so disorientate their flight trajectories. That cannot be good.
What can we do?
The obvious and simple thing we can all do is never to use pesticides and herbicides in our own gardens. The butterflies, birds, hedgehogs, frogs and toads, as well as bees will thank us.
At national level, we need to bring people power into play. The NFU has the Tories in its pocket. So we need to raise our voices even louder against these deadly chemicals that are threatening our food security and decimating our insect life, our biodiversity and our countryside. Be a voice for bees!
And contact your MP again – here
More actions for bees – here
Petition to sign here
And another here
And please share. Thanks so much
(*Neonicotinoids exposure most frequently occurs when bees consume pollen and nectar from crops grown using neonicotinoid coated seeds or from dust created by pesticide coated seeds during planting.)
2nd August 2016 Monsanto’s superweed saga is only getting worse Take Part
9th August 2016 Airforce Tries Killing Weeds with Light Beams not Pesticides – Take Part
18th August 2016 ‘Bee-friendly’ gardens are finally becoming safe for bees Take Part
20th August 2016 UK Government Finds Link Between Insecticides & Bee Decline – Care2
25th August 2016 Brexit – What next for bees and the fight against neonicotinoid pesticides
12th September 2016 Scientist find a new way neonicotinoids are killing off bees – ZME Science
Another amazing video to watch – bee-inspired artwork at Kew
When Bees Go Extinct, These Ten Foods Will Follow – One Green Planet
**University of California apiculturist Eric Mussen