I have to confess I’m not much of a gardener. Let me re-phrase that. I’m not a gardener. I have a garden and I cut the grass and pull up some of the weeds, but that’s really about the extent of my horticulture. In eight years living here, we’ve never used a single chemical agent on the ground and I am happy to let some nettles and other weeds grow. My neighbours, on the other hand, are suffering from OCGD – Obsessive Compulsive Gardening Disorder. They’re good neighbours by the way – caring, thoughtful and easy-going. I like them and get on fine with them. It’s just that they spray and they trap and they weed and they lay down pellets in order to achieve garden perfection. This can make my garden appear a little wild in comparison. However, today, I decided that I don’t really care whether they approve of my approach or not. I care about wildlife a lot more.
We’d been away for about a week – my daughter won a bronze medal in the British Solo Ice Dance Championships (woo hoo!) and, afterwards, we spent a couple of days in Norfolk on holiday and a day in Lincoln for her to attend a training camp. This meant I returned to a lawn in dire need of a haircut. However, as I was starting to mow, I noticed how many bees were feeding on the clover flowers and how many moths were fleeing the spinning blade of my push-mower. It made me pause and think.
Bees are in big trouble. Unless you’ve been keeping Robinson Crusoe company for the last two years, you’re bound to have heard something about this. We need bees to pollinate our food crops so we can eat things and not die of starvation. Bees need us not to cover our crops in nasty chemicals that bugger up their sense of navigation and prevent them finding their way back to their hives. They also need us to stop suffering from OCGD or turning our gardens into car parks, which reduces the amount of food they can find, which makes them weak and susceptible to parasites. Numbers have been crashing and we need to do stuff that might stop them continuing to die off in such massive numbers.
Now, at this point, loads of human being type people will probably be sighing, shrugging their shoulders and saying something like, “Yeah, but it’s all about the farming, dude. Nothing I can do will make any difference.” Those human beings are wrong! If everybody with a garden in Britain did a little thing, it would add up to a big thing overall.
I looked at the honey bees and thought about how they like to let their pals know about where the food is. If I chopped all this lot down, they’d come tomorrow and find nothing. The lads that passed on the news would likely get lynched but, more seriously, they would have wasted valuable time and energy coming to my garden for nothing. It’s not as if my neighbours are offering an alternative with their chemicals and non-native flowers the bees find it hard to feed from. And, so, this morning, Bee Island was formed in a sea of shorn grass – well, I say grass, it’s mainly clover, daisies and moss but you get the idea. It’s not big but it is clever.
This newly-formed, island state immediately welcomed what I could only assume was a Scottish bee, given his ginger hair, but this is no exclusive resort. I’ve known some racist b’s in my time but all the bees are welcome here, no matter their colour or racial background.
I’ve also sub-contracted out the pest control to Mr H Hog (he’s also in bother by the way but that’s a whole different, similar, sad story). He came highly recommended and was cheap, as in free.
If we all make an effort to do something to help our little hairy friends with the massive tongues (and the spiky ones with less massive tongues too) overcome the scourge of OCGD, then maybe, together, we can make a difference to their chances of survival – and ours.