Shadow DEFRA minister Lord Taylor of Holbeach has asked an intriguing question about bees:
The Minister of State, Department of Energy and Climate Change & Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Lord Hunt of Kings Heath): Reports of significant colony losses are being investigated as a high priority. To facilitate this, additional funds of £120,000 (£90,000 from Defra and £30,000 from the Welsh Assembly Government) have been allocated to the National Bee Unit. These funds will be used to expand the investigations the National Bee Unit started last year under a horizon scanning project into significant losses and to meet the demand for increased inspections of bee imports consequential to the colony losses."
I had no idea that bees were in decline, but apparently it’s a real problem. The British Bee Keepers Association calculates that the UK’s bee population fell by 30 per cent between 2007 and 2008. It’s an issue elsewhere in Europe too.
According to the BBC (aka the BeeBeeC):
"Scientists think something called the varroa mite is partly responsible for the bee emergency. They suck the blood of infected insects, weakening their immune systems.
But it is thought there may be other pressures on bees, including some pesticides and the prolonged spells of wet weather which have been seen during the last two European summers.
The situation is so bad there is even a name for it: Colony Collapse Disorder, and the lack of information is one of the things that so concern MEPs.
They are calling on the EU’s executive arm, the European Commission, to spend more money on research into what is causing the bees to die out.
MEPs also want the creation of special recovery zones on arable land, full of nectar-rich plants. It is thought such areas could help bee populations to recover.
The beekeeping industry is welcoming the attention from European politicians, but the commission will take time to act, and time is something bees lack."
Save the bee!