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Bee in flower

To Bee Friendly

Climate change and why the need for pollinator-friendly products has never been greater

A new bee on the block

Last weekend, I was doing some gardening and spotted a relatively large number of what I thought were small bumble bees. Ginger headgear, very stripy tails. I did not recognise them and after a quick thumb through my collection of bumble bee pictures realised that I had not seen them before. The fact that it was November did not escape me – normally at this time of the year, bumble bees are in full decline with only queens really being prevalent. I took a picture and did not think too much more about it.

A little later that day, leafing through my copy of The Biologist and there is a picture of MY bee – bold as brass. Not a bumble bee at all but a solitary bee called the ivy bee (not a dahlia one!) or Colletes hederae. Reading the article I learn that these bees only really start to flourish in the Autumn when ivy starts to flower.

Some bees are doing better than others

In some ways more importantly, I learn that the ivy bee is a newcomer to the UK having been first spotted in Dorset in 2001 but since then has spread as far north as the Scottish borders. The ivy bee, as with the tree bee, Bombus hypnorum (the only bumble bee that has ever stung me), is a bee that has successfully colonised the UK from the near-Continent in the last 20 years and is flourishing, presumably as a result of climate change.

Clearly some bees are therefore doing well, whilst others, which perhaps are not able to migrate in response to climate change. This observation seems in conflict with those who prophesise an insect Armageddon and blaming poor agricultural practices as the sole reason for losses to our biodiversity.

A better bee future

From my perspective, there are clearly a number of problems facing our insects in the UK. However, both the ivy and the tree bee live in the same areas as other bees and are exposed to similar “poor agricultural practices”. Perhaps, rather that throwing mud at farmers and growers, we should be working with them to provide the food that more “fussy” bees need and suitable nesting sites.

There will always be those who suggest that any products that farmers use to control insects should be withdrawn but this ignores the damage that many insects can do to our food, both in the field and in the supply chain. Not only do insects eat the crops but they also spread difficult-to-control viral and fungal diseases, preventing the farmers from producing the high-quality affordable food that we all want to buy.

From an AlphaBio perspective

The company continues to encourage farmers and growers to use insecticides in the most careful way possible and, in the UK, sign up to initiatives such as BeeConnected which encourages dialogue between sprayers and bee keepers.

The company’s ethos has always been to develop products which are derived from natural sources such as FLiPPER®, that control the problematic insects but which have a very low impact on bees and other beneficial insects.

Get it right and we get to enjoy locally-produced food whilst continuing to enjoy the diversity of our current pollinators, and celebrate new arrivals from overseas such as the ivy bee.