To bee or not to bee, that's the worry

Vital research into the decline of pollinating insects will be carried out by scientists from the University of Northampton after £57,000 of funding was awarded by a charitable trust. The Finnis Scott Foundation will provide three years worth of funding for a PhD student to study pollinator diversity in the gardens of large English country houses in the region. Recent studies have suggested some regions have seen an 80 per cent drop in bee numbers as a result of intensive farming, loss of habitat and the over-use of pesticides.

Dr Jeff Ollerton, who will oversee the PhD research along with colleague Prof Jon Stobart, said the research would lead to a better understanding of bee and other pollinator numbers in Northamptonshire.

He said: "Insects such as bees, flies and butterflies provide an essential eco-system service by pollinating crops and wild plants. "However there is growing evidence that pollinator numbers have declined significantly due to rapid environmental change, particularly habitat loss, intensive agriculture and climate change. "Funding research such as this is vital if we are to be able to understand how best to conserve pollinators and therefore reverse this decline."

The Government recently announced it would fund a £10 million Insect Pollinator Initiative over the next five years. The University of Northampton's funding was awarded by the Finnis Scott Foundation, a Northamptonshire-based trust which supports research into horticulture and plant sciences.

Foods including apples, nuts, pears, avocados, asparagus, broccoli, celery, squash, tomatoes, sunflowers, peaches, kiwis, cherries, strawberries and melons all rely on bee pollination for successful crops. Oilseed rape, peas, and runner beans need bees and other pollinating insects to improve the quality and quantity of seeds produced.

Albert Einstein was also quoted as saying: "If the bee disappeared off the surface of the globe, then man would only have four years of life left. No more bees, no more pollination, no more plants, no more animals, no more man." Paul Ash, president of Northamptonshire Beekeepers' Association, said: "There has been a huge decline in the number of bees and they are such an important part of our planet's survival."

Bron: Northampton Chron & Echo , 10 September 2009