Bees are in trouble - but they're getting good support from Bee Roadzz Week
Transition Marlborough started the first Bee Road campaign in our area, and on Tuesday evening a wider scheme was launched to take action on the bee crisis. Bee Roadzz is a collaborative project between Transition Marlborough and the Marlborough Downs Space for Nature.
It is spreading Bee Roads over, around and beyond the Marlborough Downs - to Avebury, Broad Hinton and the southern edge of Swindon - and in doing so spreading the word that bees need our help.
The aim is to raise awareness of the problems and ask people to take steps themselves to remedy the loss of habitats and wild flowers that are in part responsible for the catastrophic decline in bee numbers.
Colony collapse disorder comes with climate change, pesticides (like neonicitinoids - currently banned by the EU), parasites (like the Varroa mite) and loss of suitable foraging, nesting and hibernation habitats. They are all putting Britain's 270 varieties of bees at risk.
It is, of course, a worldwide problem. What is at stake? One third of the world's crops need pollination by bees - so it is a food security and sustainability issue. It was appropriate that the launch was attended by farmers from the Marlborough Downs Space for Nature who have done so much good wildlife work across the Downs.
One of the key messages of the evening was that this is not just about honey bees. Their decline may push up the price of honey and it was reported that one local bee-keeper had lost two-thirds of his hives to the 'Beast from the East'. But the other 269 different kinds of bees matter too - different flowers need differently designed bees for pollination.
The evening was introduced by Chris Musgrave, one of the founders of the Marlborough Downs Space for Nature (MDSN) and its government funded predecessor. He emphasised that bees have been around for 50 million years and they were now threatened on our watch.
Rebecca Twigg explained her work with the Salisbury Bee Trail and its secret garden: "Bee's", she warned, "cannot be replaced - when they're gone, they're gone." And she introduced the audience to Anthidium Mancatum or wool carding bee. It can scrape hairs from leaves - especially from the lamb's ears plant - which it collects as bundles of 'wool' to line its nest.
Ecologist and writer Hugh Warwick has made a lengthy study of hedgehogs - even more threatened than bees. He told us he had last sat in Marlborough Town Hall to do his A-levels - "badly': "From Marlborough straight to hedgehogs - and been there ever since,"
His book Linescapes - soon out in paperback - fits well with the MDSN's aims. He identifies many of the ways wildlife is disorientated and unnaturally confined by the barriers we impose on their landscape - notably roads, railways and canals.
He supports forming corridors through the landscape - one of MDSN's successful projects - to enable wildlife to follow their usual ways. And he held up the A3 tunnel beneath Hindhead as a good if costly example of how roads could be built without cost to wildlife - something that has been rejected for the HS2 development.
Milly Carmichael of Transition Marlborough explained how the concept of Bee Roads had begun with the Marlborough to Pewsey project. And Dr Jemma Batten of Black Sheep Countryside management, the Project Manager for MDSN and the Bee Roadzz, outlined the other events of the week. Some of these can be found here.
And for those enthused to do something truly practical for the vital bee population, Paul Jupp of Devizes based online flower meadow specialist Meadow in my Garden, was there with packets of seeds to liven up your lawn - and please the bees.