O Rose thou art sick: on bees, flowers and pesticides

The Sick Rose

The Sick Rose

It was national poetry day on Thursday. After reading something today I thought of this poem which was in an anthology I had long ago:

O Rose thou art sick.

The invisible worm,

That flies in the night

In the howling storm:

Has found out thy bed

Of crimson joy:

And his dark secret love

Does thy life destroy.

I was reminded of this poem while reading about the latest research showing that honey bees are being poisoned by neonicotinoids that they collect from wildflowers sown around the margins of arable crops. The neonics are sprayed on the crops, but being systemic they are taken up by all the plants in the area, crop and wild alike. They find their way to the flower, the pollen and nectar, and are collected by the bees.

In a very curious coincidence the research found that 97% of the neonics collected by the honey bees, were taken from wildflowers. Exactly the same statistic as the proportion of wildflower meadows lost from England and Wales since 1940.

Farmers are encouraged to plant wildflowers around their crops to help save pollinating insects, under a project called Operation Pollinator, amongst others. Operation Pollinator proudly publicised a success story recently, when a bee that had not been seen in Lincolnshire for over 100 years turned up at a farm (Beeswax Farm would you believe?) on which they were working – a farm owned by James Dyson the inventor.

Operation Pollinator is funded by Syngenta, producers of neonicotinoid pesticides.

“Blake sick rose”. Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons – https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Blake_sick_rose.jpg#/media/File:Blake_sick_rose.jpg

About Miles King

UK conservation professional, writing about nature, politics, life. All views are my own and not my employers. I don't write on behalf of anybody else.
This entry was posted in bees, Neonicotinoids, poetry and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

5 Responses to O Rose thou art sick: on bees, flowers and pesticides

  1. vicki hird says:

    Perfectly judged cynicism around this pollonator project. We need in field attention in a big way -always have- not edges though they are important too.

  2. Badgerbod says:

    I don’t know a great deal about this subject. Of course I’m aware bees are in trouble and a growing concern for our overall reliance on them. There is an Einstein attributed quote “If the bee disappeared off the surface of the globe, then man would only have four years of life left. No more pollination, no more plants, no more plants, no more animals, no more man.”

    There is a growing realisation that we need to help our bees. Hives on city rooftops etc are an excellent example but is it all in vain? We need more awareness, education and understanding and I thank Miles for helping mine.

  3. Mud-Lark says:

    Commercial breeding of hives of honeybees are big business now, we’ve heard it all before – big business can fix anything if there’s money in it.

    ‘We’ (your blog readers & real conservationists) know it’s not just about honeybees as they are a small proportion of the assemblage of actual pollinators. But until there is a serious problem in the developed world and where we now see ‘cracks’ beginning to show, will the politicians actually act for the greater good?

    We can live in hope? In the interim the reality is that the global chemical companies continue to pollute for profit whilst people and the planet pay the real price?

    Let not the facts of dirty or dodgy deals get in the way of critical mass of people power, carry on campaigning and championing planet above profit:)

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