If you were to hear the term “ecological Armageddon,” what would you think of? The extinction of the dinosaurs? Perhaps the plight of one of numerous endangered species?
Actually, the term was used last year by Professor Dave Goulson of Sussex University to describe the alarming rate of at which the number of flying insects has fallen in the last 25 years, based on research in German nature reserves.
The honey bee is but one example of this pending crisis. Its numbers have dropped sharply, and the British Beekeepers Association reported at the end of 2017 that their members were producing on average a kilogramme less honey than the previous year. And if you still think this is just the concern of entomologists, think again. Honey bees are pollinators and essential to the continued growth of crops. Without being so dramatic as to suggest falling bee numbers put the human population at risk, the strength of our food chain is directly linked and correlated to the health and survival of bees.
In short, the bees need all the help they can get.
Environment Secretary Michael Gove’s announcement last year that the UK will support proposals for a total ban on insect-harming pesticides is certainly a step in the right direction. But there is also a critical need to promote the importance of the honey bee population, and for biodiversity projects that support their numbers and encourage public education.
These were the driving forces behind Low Carbon partnering with professional beekeepers, which help support biodiversity and sustainability projects, three years ago. It’s a partnership that’s seen the establishment and maintenance of 25 hives across five of our solar park sites around the UK, focused particularly on Dorset, Cornwall and Suffolk. The hives house more than two million bees, providing them with much needed habitats and helping to restore their numbers.
Importantly, the hives also provide opportunities for local education, and we’ve shared the honey produced by the hives in an effort to further raise awareness of the plight of the bee population and the need for concerted action.
But we’ve inevitably experienced challenges. Several hives have collapsed in recent months. And while we continue to use this sustainability project to educate, our experience has mirrored those of the British Beekeepers Association’s membership in that we’ve seen the hives produce reducing amounts of honey over the years.
The plight of the honey bee has been repeatedly reported in the media, but must remain firmly in the public eye. Bees and other insects remain critical to the food chain, and the long-term implications of their declining numbers are grave. Taken to the most extreme, a sustained fall in insect numbers has the potential to cause long standing and widespread food shortages.
But it’s also important to understand their relevancy to continuing discussions over the impact of climate change. Insect-killing pesticides will certainly be a factor in the decline of the bee and other insect populations. But the bigger threat is climate change, as carbon emissions lead to rising temperatures and fundamental changes in weather conditions – all of which impact on the habitats of populations such as the honey bee.
Concerted action is needed, and central to the solution is education. It’s for this reason that biodiversity projects are so important in providing habitats for endangered or dwindling populations of species. And to educate the public on what is a very environmental threat.
Quentin Scott is the Marketing Director at Low Carbon.
Low Carbon (www.lowcarbon.com) is a privately-owned UK renewable investment company.