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Bees and badgers: townies are distorting the debates

17 May 2013


From Mr Anthony Bush

Sir, - Canon Angela Tilby, in emphasising the romantic attraction we have to honey bees ( Comment, 10 May), is not giving the whole picture. My best-ever crop of 100 acres of oilseed rape was in 2011, when we achieved double our normal yield; yet, for the first time for many years, we did not host any hives of honey bees on the farm.

Field crops such as rape and beans rely very little on insect pollination, probably only 15 per cent; and these are many and varied, from wild bumblebees and solitary bees to hover flies and others. Some fruit, such as apples and plums, is more dependent on insect pollination, at 65 per cent.

Nicotinoid systemic seed dressings and sprays were developed as apparently safe for bees, because there was an urgent need to provide alternatives to the dangerous organophosphates, pyrethroids, and carbamates, some of which are still legal to use as garden and farm insecticides. But they are much more damaging to pollinator insect life. So the wild social-media campaigns of "24 hours to save the honey bee" may have succeeded only in threatening bees further.

Emotive townies are threatening our countryside at the moment with unfortunate half-truths. The badger cull is opposed with the cry to "vaccinate the badgers". Yet one third of badgers already have TB in the hot spots, and you can't vaccinate a sick badger and expect results. Vaccination also cost £662 per badger in 2012 in Wales; so where is the money coming from?

We know that a careful culling policy works in reducing TB in cows and badgers in Ireland, and in cows and possums in New Zealand. Surely we want healthy badgers and healthy cows, at a realistic price?

As Canon Tilby pointed out, nicotinoids are widely used alongside healthy bees in Hungary. So please can we all try harder to spread the light rather than heat on all these country issues?

Noah's Ark Zoo Farm
Clevedon Road, Wraxall
Bristol BS48 1PG

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