Inspired by Animals in 2013: Day 1 – The Bee

Inspired by Animals in 2013: Day 1 – The Bee

Who are the animals that have most inspired people in 2013 to add their voices to the growing movement for animals? Leading up to the end of the year, AWP is celebrating the causes, campaigns and characters that have been at the forefront of helping make history for animals. Each day until the end of the year (apart from Christmas Day) we’ll be focusing on another story. Please help share far and wide.

Day 1: The Bee

As the author Maurice Maeterlinck (and not Einstein) has said: “If the bee disappeared off the face of the earth, man would only have four years left to live.”

Bees are one of our major pollinators, and without them we could not grow our crops, leading to catastrophic food shortages globally. But there has been an increasingly urgent need to care for bees in the last few years due to colony collapse disorder, where entire colonies of bees have simply died.

There about 285 species of bee in the UK, in three broad groups: the honeybee, the bumble bee (of which there are 24 species) and about 260 species of solitary bee. Many of our other pollinators, such as moths and butterflies, are also in serious decline, as this year’s RSPB State of Nature Report sadly identified. Two species of British bee have already become extinct.

The UK has not been saved from the tragedy of colony collapse, although some species such as the Cornish black honeybee has proved resistant. But for bees in the UK, especially the honeybee, there are other threats including the varroa mite, loss of habitat (especially in the countryside) and a wide range of diseases that need to be taken into account.

In September, the British government was criticized for failing to support a ban on neonicotinoid pesticides, which have been linked to the decline in bee populations. However, a ban on their use on crops attractive to bees came into effect this December anyway, after a decision by the European Union to introduce a moratorium on them amid concerns that they were damaging pollinating insects.

The National Farmers Union has suggested that things might get worse for wildlife, as their members turn to other pesticides to guarantee their crops.

And yet only this week, new research has in fact suggested these same chemicals can affect the brains of newborn babies. A claim which the pesticide manufacturer, Bayer, rejects. But as George Monbiot argued this year, neonicotinoids could be the new DDT of the killing world.

The poet Susan Richardson has been working with Friends of the Earth Cymru to raise awareness of, and persuade people to commit to supporting, the Bee Cause campaign through poetry workshops, performances and creativity. Susan has kindly shared with us an extract from one of her pieces, written as part of the awareness campaign:

Pesticidal (extract)

Hard to say when she first sensed
that petals seemed less bright,
when she first felt compelled
to embrace the varroa mite. Hard to know
when she first noticed drones
trying to mate, mid-flight,
with cabbage whites, golf balls, crows.

You can find out more about the project from their final event.

So 2014 will be a year when the results of the pesticide ban will be eagerly awaited by beekeepers and those who care about our wildlife. The Animal Welfare Party is aiming to join those voices in Europe, which sadly do not include our own UK government, fighting for the survival of bees and of the people they support by running in the EU elections in May 2014.

Can you make 2014 an even safer place for creatures like the honey bee by becoming a visionary for animals? Support the Animal Welfare Party’s campaign in the EU Elections in May. If you live in London you can PLEDGE TO VOTE, and if you live anywhere and care about animals you can support us in our campaign to raise funds. Fundraising is crucial in our efforts to make history for animals. Make the difference now.

For more information on bee decline, visit the excellent bee site run by PAN UK and visit the Bumblebee Conservation Trust to find out what you can do.

Image of bee © xsannyx

This post was written by
Alex Lockwood is a writer, academic and vegan. He volunteers with AWP and manages the content on the site.

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