It’s a Bug’s Life

FlowerBelieve it or not there was a honey bee visiting the early spring flowers the other day when the sun was shining.

Honey bees are prestigious workers, visiting up to 2000 flowers a day in their search for nectar and, in so doing, pollinating our crops and flowers. As a result of infection by the Veroa mite, their populations have been significantly reduced. Their contribution to the British economy has, nevertheless, been estimated at £100 million each year, even though they are only thought to be now responsible for one third of pollination.

But it’s not just the bees!

Habitat fragmentation, intensive agricultural practices, climate change and a multitude of other human activities are adversely affecting much of our bug life. Many species are in decline and an increasing number are becoming extinct. The facts are disturbing: about 70 percent of both the British butterfly and moth species are declining; a third of our bumblebee species have undergone massive declines; the abundance of mayflies has dropped by 66 percent and of more than 4,000 known species of UK beetles, 250 have ‘gone missing’!

You don’t have to love bugs to appreciate their vital importance. Stopping declines and preventing further extinctions is a huge challenge and one that must be addressed. Nor can we just leave it to agricultural policy-makers and farmers, for even small changes in the way we think and act in our gardens can have significant benefits. Last autumn, in Nuneham Park, we planted meadow flowers that specifically attract insects, left areas of grass uncut from August to provide an overwintering refuge, planned to create a new pond and left more dead wood than usual to decay. A small contribution, perhaps, but if we each play our own part then we can actively influence our future world.

About the Author


who has a background in Agricultural Research has been based at the Global Retreat Centre since its inception in 1993. As well as managing the 55 acrres of garden he also plays a key role in building management. Alongside this, Doug runs Values Development, Positive Thinking and Enlightened Leadership seminars for professional and community groups around the UK and abroad. Since 1996 he has, in particular, been involved in the university’s outreach work in prisons, running courses for prisoners and contributing to seminars and educational programmes for Prison Service personnel.

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