Here is an update on colony collapse.
Readers with long memories will recall that I wrote a couple of blogs last summer on the subject of bees and colony collapse, prompted by a sudden and fairly alarming influx of bees in Room 5 one morning. I assumed at the time that we had a wasps nest (I am no naturalist), but it seems that one of the colonies in the Botanic Garden over the road from the school may have collapsed (or possibly they were just swarming).
Colony collapse is affecting an alarming percentage of bee colonies in Western Europe and North America (in the region of 30%), and it seems from recent research at the University of Harvard that the cause is likely to be the use of a certain class of pesticides. In a paper entitled Sub-lethal exposure to neonicotinoids impaired honey bees winterization before proceeding to colony collapse disorder which appeared in the Bulletin of Insectology, Chensheng Lu, Kenneth M. Warchol, and Richard A.Callaghan found that half of those colonies infected with non-lethal doses of neonicotinoids collapsed and were abandoned, while none of those in a control group suffered the same fate (read about the research here).
There has been strong establishment opposition (for example, on the part of the US government) to the theory that pesticides are causing colony collapse, and a sound evidence base is therefore doubly welcome.
And if it keeps hooligan bees out of my classroom, that will be a bonus.
I doubt whether the Botanic Garden is spraying its plants with dodgy insecticides, even if they have a lot of pests to deal with: they are far too nice.
Next Saturday they are hosting the Festival of Plants, a grand name for what sounds like a cross between an open day and a flower show. There will be talks in the Talking Plants Tent, an Ask the Gardener session where you can get horticultural advice, plant stalls hosted by local nurseries, a Plant Lab where various science experiments and so on. And, in amongst the various tours you can join, there is a tour of bee plants. A chance perhaps to question them on their pesticide policy. Or just to enjoy the day.
Visit the Botanic Garden site for details here.