Bees: Friends of the Earth mounts legal challenge over govt pesticide decision

A Government decision to allow farmers to use ‘banned’ bee-harming pesticides in England, is being challenged at the High Court by Friends of the Earth.

rape crop

The environment charity notified the Government on Friday (21 August 2015) that it has applied to the High Court for a judicial review of last month’s decision to allow farmers in England to use oil seed rape seeds coated with neonicotinoid pesticides that are the subject of an EU moratorium.

Three neonicotinoids were restricted throughout Europe in December 2013 after European scientists warned that they harm bees. However, following a request by the NFU, the Government controversially agreed to allow farmers to use enough neonicotinoid seeds to treat five per cent of the oilseed rape (OSR) crop in England. Seeds are being made available to farmers in Suffolk, Cambridgeshire, Bedfordshire and Hertfordshire.

This year’s harvest has seen a good crop of oilseed rape despite the restrictions on neonicotinoids, with yields 3-9% higher than the 10 year national average.

Friends of the Earth is challenging the Government’s decision on pesticides because it believes it did not comply with EU law which sets out the conditions under which governments can grant emergency use of the restricted neonicotinoids.

We believe that allowing farmers to use these ‘banned’ pesticides is unnecessary, harmful and unlawful.

“These neonicotinoid pesticides have been restricted throughout the EU because scientists say they are harming bees, which are crucial for pollinating Britain’s fields, allotments and gardens.

“The Government should be listening to the science and championing the long-term interests of our threatened bees.

“The distribution of these seeds should now be halted until the courts can decide whether their use is lawful.

Last week (Thursday, 20 August 2015), a new study linking losses of honey bee colonies with the use of one of the banned neonicotinoids – imidacloprid – further added to the weight of evidence against this type of pesticide

Royal Mail bee stamps

bee stamps

We think these new Royal Mail bee stamps are brilliant!

Since May 2014, the British Beekeepers Association (the organisation behind Friends of the Honey Bee) has been working with the Royal Mail to produce a new range of stamps featuring bees and their lifestyle.

Adopt A Hive

Adopt A Hive

They go on sale on August 18th, so keep a look out for them (and if sending us any post, remember to use your bee stamps!).


Quarry operator adds 100,000 bees to Derbyshire hills

Quarry operator adds 100,000 bees to Derbyshire hills

E6P7D4 aerial view of Coxhoe Quarry run by Tarmac Northern & site of Hope Construction Materials, near Durham, UK

aerial view of Coxhoe Quarry run by Tarmac Northern & site of Hope Construction Materials, near Durham, UK

One hundred thousand honey bees have been introduced at two Derbyshire quarries and biodiversity in surrounding areas improved, to support the nationwide campaign to grow Britain’s bee population.

Hope Construction Materials, the UK’s leading independent supplier of concrete and cement, has introduced 100,000 bees across its two largest operations – Hope Cement Works, Hope Valley and Dowlow Quarry near Buxton, in Derbyshire.

In both locations, the three-mile radius that surrounds the quarry where the hives have been placed contains a sustainable nectar supply, predominantly from wild cherry plants, buttercups and daisies, making it the perfect environment for the honeybees.

The environment around the quarries and the substantial access to food and water makes both locations perfect for the hives to thrive.

Adopt A Hive

Adopt A Hive

Hope’s bee installation is the latest in a number of tangible steps by the company to improve biodiversity and enhance the sustainability of the quarries. Alongside the installation of the honeybee hives, Hope is working towards the development of the surrounding environments to support bumblebees, whose populations have suffered a decline in recent years. Both of Hope’s quarries are surrounded by a variety of wildflowers including Birds Foot Trefoil, Red Clover and Marsh Orchids.

The company hopes to produce up to 40lbs of ‘Hope Honey’ per hive for employees, local residents and businesses next year. The Hope bees are cared for directly by Hope’s employees, Assistant Quarry Managers Alan Porter and Tom Herrick, who both have a keen interest in bees.

Both are fully trained beekeepers and visit the hives several times a week to check the colonies are healthy and top up their feed of sugar and water to help them mature for their first few months on site.

Alan Porter, Assistant Quarry Manager at Hope Works, says: “We are extremely excited to finally have the bee colonies on site at both Hope Works and Dowlow; and all 100,000 of them seem to be settling in well. Water is essential for a bee’s survival, especially during summer months, and the lakes we have in the quarry is vital to them thriving here. We are looking forward to seeing how we can assist in the Bumble bee population.”

Tom Herrick, also Assistant Quarry Manager at Hope Construction Materials adds: “The pollen from our Italian honey bees in the hives here at Dowlow is dark orange and red thanks to the surrounding cherry blossom and I would expect Dowlow’s honey to be a copper colour, but we will have to wait and see when we get our first honey crop later in the year.”

Gill Perkins, Conservation Manager at the Bumblebee Conservation Trust, says: “The Bumblebee Conservation Trust promotes the development of bee-friendly environments by creating bio diverse spaces around both restored and active quarry sites which could help play a vital role in their long-term survival.

Both of Hope Construction Materials’ quarries provide great environment for bees with the biodiversity of plants available to them, and the passion of the employees is terrific. We are grateful for their support and would like to encourage any other organisations in a position to care for bees to do so.”

Rare bee causes a buzz at reserve

Rare bee causes a buzz at reserve


Visitors to Norfolk and Cambridgeshire can see Ruderal bumblebees on the reserve at WWT Welney Wetland Centre this summer – a species which is scarce in the UK.

The bees are visiting the wildflowers on the reserve collecting nectar. At the same time, they are playing a vital role by pollinating the plants. Some members of this species lack the distinctive striping that is normally associated with these insects.

Only three populations of this species were found in Norfolk between 2001-2011. Many bumblebee species have seen a worrying decline in numbers due to threats including changes to modern land uses and farming practices.

‘Ruderal bumblebees have a particularly long tongue, and so feed on flowers such as comfrey, yellow iris and marsh woundwort. They are also well adapted to feeding from red clover, teasel and thistles. ‘The wetlands we manage provide the plants these insects need to exist. You don’t have to look far; the swathes of wildflowers beside the footpaths are a favourite spot for the bees and many other pollinating insects’.

Adopt A Hive

Adopt A Hive

Wardens say ruderal bumblebees will be out on the reserve for a few more weeks before the queens start to think about hibernating.


Bumblebees Observed Flying Differently When Carrying Either Pollen or Nectar

Bumblebees Observed Flying Differently When Carrying Either Pollen or Nectar


The research shows that bumblebees have the ability to carry more than half their body mass in pollen, and nearly all of their body mass in nectar. According to data collected from Harvard University and the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology , the bumblebee chooses between collecting pollen or nectar based on how it will later affect their maneuverability and stability-all the while taking weather conditions into account.

A new study suggests the flight patterns and maneuverability of bumblebees are altered by the weight of their loads and kind of food they carry. To test their hypothesis, researchers trained bees to fly toward an artificial flower in a wind tunnel. The study is published online today in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Adopt A Hive

Adopt A Hive

During their research, the team found that bumblebees have extra stability when carrying pollen because the loads act like balancing weights that help them become more stable.

But when the tiny insects had to land on a flower that changed position under rough wind conditions there was no difference between the two loads. When they collect pollen, they glue it to their legs in clusters. But scientists wanted to see how their flying varies when carrying pollen and nectar. In the game, players had to make a tradeoff when choosing characters: Embrace the agility of a lightweight character like Yoshi, but risk getting knocked around, or eschew maneuverability for stability with a heavier character like Bowser?

Bee flight performance was measured by gluing tiny ball bearings to the bees, either to their legs or abdomens, and sent them buzzing down a wind tunnel with a fake “flower” at the end of it. The bees’ were filmed with a high-speed camera.

While honey bees have dedicated foragers for pollen or for nectar, bumblebees are generalists and will carry either pollen or nectar depending on what the hive requires. “So if one thing is secure, it isn’t going to be maneuverable and if one thing is maneuverable it is in all probability not going to be secure”.

“Of course, bumblebees fly in a very different way than airplanes do”, he said. This trade-off may explain why some bumblebees prefer to forage for pollen during windy days.

Natural and Organic Pest Control in the Home and Garden

Natural and Organic Pest Control in the Home and Garden


There are many different types of pest that can invade your home and make life uncomfortable or even dangerous. From contaminating food to causing structural damage, even tiny pests can do a large amount of harm. They can also carry disease, and make you feel afraid in your own home.

There are many different ways of preventing or removing infestations. The specific method will depend upon the type of pest you have. Rats and mice are going to need a very different approach to Hornets or wasps. Yet whatever the pest, and whatever method is used to exterminate them, it is important to pay attention to the impact of pest control upon the environment. When used incorrectly or irresponsibly, many pesticides can harm other animals or plants than those they are intended for, which could mean that you end up reducing the number of friendly and harmless animals in your garden.

Thankfully, there are many natural and organic pest control options that can be used in the home and garden to ensure they are pest free. These methods are perfectly effective, without causing damage to the environment.

Non-toxic methods of pest control

The aim of clearing your home from pests and vermin is to provide you with a clean and safe environment. It is therefore not much of an improvement if you are harmed by the pesticides you are using to protect yourself. Many pesticides can be harmful to humans, particularly young children, as well as household pets. Using non-toxic methods protects you and the environment, making them a sensible as well as a safe choice.

One effective non-toxic method of pest control for killing insects is diatomaceous earth. This is perfectly harmless to humans, and can be sprinkled on areas where cockroaches or ants are often seen. Diatomaceous earth is made up of tiny particles which, when crossed, slice open the exoskeleton, causing the insects to dry out over one to two days. As they dehydrate, ants and cockroaches will seek out sources of water, so you may find that insect sightings increase after the treatment has been applied.

For individual sightings, it is worth having a spray bottle filled with soapy water nearby. Spring this on to ants and cockroaches will kill them, making this useful for getting rid of the occasional unwanted visitor. It is always worth killing the odd bug, as social animals like ants will report back to the colony if they find a place with ample food supplies.

You can also try specific traps, such as light traps or sticky traps for nuisance insects, as well as lethal or nonlethal rat and mouse traps. These allow you to target and deal with only the vermin, without harming other animals, insects, or plant life.

Adopt A Hive

Adopt A Hive

Biologically friendly pest control

Many methods for eliminating pests can have the unfortunate side effect of doing damage to nonthreatening plant and animal life. Just because you want to remove one infestation from your home or garden doesn’t mean you want to kill off all types of plants and wildlife! Most people will naturally choose the most potent pesticide or prevention method in order to quickly and effectively deal with their pest problems. However, there are many biologically friendly ways of managing pests that can do significantly less, or even zero, damage to anything else in the surrounding environment.

A more environmentally friendly method of pest control is to start with the prevention or extermination methods that are the least toxic or dangerous to other plants and animals. In many cases you may find that these low impact alternatives are sufficient to deal with your problem. In these instances you have therefore saved yourself from causing a lot of damage to the flora and fauna in your garden. If the pests in question are resilient to more biologically friendly methods, then move up to stronger products, until you find one that works. This way you are only using strong substances and extreme tactics where needed, rather than as a default option.

Integrated Pest Management

Integrated Pest Management (IPM) is a responsible way of preventing infestations in your home or garden. The best way to deal with any infestation is to prevent it happening in the first place, and Integrated Pest Management is an effective program that is followed by farmers and can be easily applied to domestic situations.

Instead of waiting for problems to develop and then reacting to them, Integrated Pest Management works to stay one step ahead of insects and vermin. Once the potential risks of infestation have been identified, methods can be taken to avoid making the home or garden an attractive place for pests. In the garden this could include clearing up areas of stagnant water, removing any junk that provides shelter or collects water, and remaining vigilant of any potential nesting sites. In the home, keeping foodstuffs tidied away and sealed in airtight containers will help to prevent ants, mice and rats from entering in the hope of an easy meal.

An important part of Integrated Pest Management is that threats are constantly identified and monitored. By paying attention to problem areas, and being vigilant at all times, you can take steps to ensure that things which would attract pests are confronted and removed before they can do so.

Natural pest control

The best kind of pest management is one that occurs naturally, as this will work in harmony with the local ecosystem, rather than causing any damage. Planting rose-scented Geraniums in your garden can help to keep mosquitoes and other unwanted insects at bay as they contain Citronellal and Geraniol, both of which are natural insect repellents. Ageratum, Horsemint, Marigolds, and Catnip all also have properties that repel mosquitoes, although the last one won’t be very effective if you have any feline family members! There are dozens of plants which have insect repelling properties.

You do not have to resort to pesticides or other extreme measures to remove pests from your home. In fact, many commonly available household grocery items can be used as repellent to keep your home free of insects such as ants, cockroaches, and fleas. All three have an aversion to citrus, so by leaving a trail of lemon juice, or an item soaked in it, across likely points of entry will stop these insects trying to access your home that way. Cucumber and garlic are also both effective at keeping away ants and cockroaches. Similarly, treating likely spots with peppermint oil is thought to deter rats.

A particularly useful way of helping you to manage troublesome insects is to create a garden environment which attracts their natural predators. Many common American garden birds feed on mosquitoes, so making your garden an alluring place for these species, complete with secure nests and bird feeders, means you will essentially have your own little caretakers to help manage a mosquito problem.

For responsible pest control that looks after you and the environment, including Integrated Pest Management, get in touch with The Aardvark today.



Glenn Springthorpe: Attracting insects to your garden

Glenn Springthorpe: Attracting insects to your garden

A bee on an allium flower

Glenn Springthorpe, manager at the city council’s Woodthorpe Grange Nursery, on the plants which will attract bees and butterflies to your garden.

Here at the nursery we’re now into the next production phase of potting up autumn bedding plants like polyanthus, pansies and wallflowers.

This might seem a bit early considering now is also the time when our summer floral displays throughout the city are looking at their best, despite the recent poor weather. Most of the summer annuals we planted out in late May and June are now producing their colourful blooms that help to brighten up even the dullest summer day; but of course our planting designs don’t solely rely on flowers to provide colour.

Adopt A Hive

Adopt A Hive

We also use varieties that are more popular for their foliage colour like coleus, cineraria, ipomea and kochia. The subtle leaf tones of these species act as a foil when planted alongside more vibrant colourful plants like begonias, marigolds and pelargoniums.

Our displays were recently assessed by the Royal Horticultural Society as part of Nottingham’s entry in to this year’s East Midlands in Bloom competition, and we expect to get the results in early September.

One of the judging criteria concentrates on environmental responsibility and the benefit of wildlife and conservation, and we try to support this using plants in our displays that provide nectar and pollen for butterflies, bees and other pollinating insects. That’s why we’ve been growing bedding plants such as rudbeckia, single dahlias and salvias, as well as using perennials like buddleja, lavender and verbena.

If you want to attract these beneficial insects to your own garden, it’s best to avoid planting double-flowered varieties of bedding plants that don’t hold much pollen and nectar.

Single-flowered plants, as well as native species and herbs and fruit trees, are all great for attracting pollinators; and of the summer flowering bulbs try alliums, as butterflies seem particularly keen to sample their nectar.

Whichever plants you decide to use it’s fascinating to watch these creatures busily enjoying the benefits of the flowers, whilst appreciating them ourselves.


Wrecked beehives given a buzz again after grant towards wildflower garden

Wrecked beehives given a buzz again after grant towards wildflower garden

vandals beehives


A COMMUNITY beehive project which was wrecked by vandals has received a £1,386 grant towards the cost of planting bee-enticing wild flowers.

Avondale Community Beekeepers has been awarded the cash from the Banks Community Fund to set up a wildflower garden near its 20 active hives dotted around the Stonehouse and Strathaven areas in Lanarkshire.

The National reported in May how their beehives, each containing about 3,000 bees, were destroyed by vandals within hours of the project being launched near an old railway line.

The hives were rebuilt and hidden in secret locations.

Dad-of-five and grandfather David Paterson, 56, from Strathaven, came up with the idea of having one of the beehives in his garden, which has led to other people wanting to get involved.

After receiving initial funding from the National Lottery the group is now 30-strong, with local schools now also taking an active part.

Paterson said: “The beehives have become a real talking point in the local area and a great example of what is possible when a community comes together for a worthy and holistic cause.

“Following great support from local schools, we now have 10 schoolchildren from age four upwards helping to manage the hives and the project has proven to be highly educational and rewarding for those involved.

“Wildflowers are in seriously high demand among the beekeepers, who are desperate to get their hands on seeds as they are crucial for the hives to survive and flourish, so this grant will be very well received.”


He said the efforts to save the beehives have been quite remarkable.

One volunteer scooped up all the bees that had fallen to the ground from one hive, while three of the younger helpers, Amy, Kate and Lucy, offered £1.80 from their weekly pocket money to help.

“Such is the love that the kids have for their bees,” he said.

Siobhan Samson, community engagement co-ordinator at Banks Group – the Hamilton-based property and renewable energy business – said: “It is clear how much this project means to the local community following recent events.

“We work extensively with local communities at all of our wind-farm proposals. We hope to create lasting improvements that are beneficial to locals in and around South Lanarkshire, providing them with a better quality of community life.

“The beekeepers are a fantastic example of this and we hope their wildflowers help the hives thrive and begin to pay themselves.”

In May 2014, Banks Renewables had plans approved for its 26-turbine Kype Muir Wind Farm 5km south of Strathaven. As part of its Connect2Renewables partnership with South Lanarkshire Council and neighbouring communities, the firm pledged a percentage of revenue generated will be allocated to the community.



7 ways to protect our honey bees

7 ways to protect our honey bees

The 10th July celebrates ‘National Don’t Step On A Bee Day’ – but what does that mean for our buzzing friends?


Did you know that bees are an essential part of our eco-system and because of that are worth over £650 million per year to the UK economy?

Unfortunately, in recent years the number of bees in some countries has nearly halved because of changes to their habitat and a toxic cocktail of pesticides and fungicides.

The introduction of a deadly mite called Varroa, which was accidentally imported from Asia, has also affected the number of honeybees in the English countryside as well.

In support of National Don’t Step On A Bee Day which is taking place this weekend, here are a few ways to help encourage the honeybees in your garden to thrive…

1) Avoid chemically treating your flowers as the chemicals will transfer onto the pollen and affect the bees. This is because if any chemicals are applied to your flowers while they are in bloom it will get into the pollen and nectar, the bees will then take it back to the beehive and it will transfer into the honey.

2) A lawn full of daisys and dandelions is a great haven for bees and a natural food source, so avoid putting any treatments on your grass and instead embrace its natural beauty. The honey bees will thank you for it!

3) Did you know bees like to drink water? If you want to encourage more honey bees leaving a little water basin out, or making sure your bird bath is topped up with water and stones for them to crawl on, is helpful for both the birds and the bees in your garden!

4) Always try and buy British honey at farm shops and delis.  The majority of honey we find on the shelves in UK supermarkets is imported from abroad when we have so many local beekeepers across the country.

5) Why not experiment with seed balls to help nurture some bee-friendly blooms? Try scattering seed balls made with wild flower seeds, clay, compost and chilli powder in your garden to create a colourful array of flowers that will attract bees from far and wide. Cornflowers, sunflowers and wildflowers like poppies are always popular with buzzing bees.


6) Adopting a beehive is a fantastic way to support The British Bee Keepers Association and to help encourage vital research into honey bee health. It’ll also make the perfect gift for nature lovers and gardeners everywhere!

7) For anyone who has always toyed with turning their fascination with honey bees into a hobby, owning a beehive can be a really rewarding experience. If that seems too much work, installing a bee house into your garden will give any friendly bees a place to hibernate during the winter as well.

More than 14% of England’s honeybee colonies died over winter

More than 14% of England’s honeybee colonies died over winter


More than 14% of England’s honeybee colonies died over the winter, the latest research from the British Beekeepers Association (BBKA) has found.

The BBKA’s annual survey of beekeepers across England’s found that winter losses were highest in the west country (18%) and lowest in the north of England (11.8).

The average reported losses for 2014/15 of 14.5% were higher than 2013/14 when only 9.6% of colonies perished, but much lower than the winter of 2012/13 when a third of hives died, and below the average losses since the survey began eight years ago of 19.3%.

The BBKA says winter losses remain at an “unacceptably high levels and are still in excess of what might be considered normal losses of 5-10%”. It blames poor and variable weather, bee diseases and parasites such as the varroa mite and starvation.

Adopt A Hive

Adopt A Hive

But Francis Ratnieks, professor of apiculture at Sussex University, describes this year’s losses as very low and easily managed by beekeepers. “Honeybee colonies have the capacity to double in number every summer when they swarm, or the beekeepers splits the colony in two, so 14.5% winter losses are totally sustainable,” he says. “A good summer allowed the bees to forage and go into the winter well fed and strong.”

His own 100-strong apiary lost just two hives. “If you make sure your bees have food, a healthy queen and are treated for the varroa mite, you should be able to get winter losses down to single digits,” Ratnieks insists.

Bees are estimated to contribute £651m to the UK economy a year through their pollination services. Some 85% of the UK’s apple crop and 45% of the strawberry crop relies on wild bees and managed honeybees to grow.

More than half of British adults say they would do more to help bees to thrive, but almost two thirds don’t know what they can do, according to additional research by the BBKA. It has launched a bee-friendly guide featuring classic Winnie-the-Pooh characters to illustrate simple steps people can take such as planting a flowering tree in your garden or building bee habitats.

None of the 900 hobby beekeepers who took part in the annual losses survey cited neonicotinoid pesticides as a reason for colony deaths despite their use being temporarily banned on certain crops across Europe over fears they are linked to bees decline. The two year ban from the end of 2013 followed a recommendation from the European Food Safety Authority, which today launched a major new project to establish a framework that aims to assess the risk to honeybee colonies of various threats including agricultural chemicals, parasites and environmental changes.

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