Why we should be kind to bees

FIGHT TO save the taste of honey

DESPITE BEING a species threatened by pesticides and disease, bees have been a life-long passion for one Lydgate resident.

BEEKEEPERS: Haydn Clough & Ian Merkel
BEEKEEPERS: Haydn Clough & Ian Merckel

Ian Merckel, 76, took on his first hives 40 years ago when his beekeeping friend passed away, and has been concerned with their survival ever since.

“I have always been interested in bees. I am intrigued by them,” he admitted. “They are social insects who are very clever and very sensitive to where they live.

“People love honey so we steal it from the bees and that makes them work very hard to produce more. For one pound of honey they can fly up to 6,000 miles.

“People should not be scared of bees. They will only sting if you do something silly, something they don’t like – but apart from that they won’t bother us if we didn’t upset them.”

There are twenty different types of bees, including honey, bumble and solitary, and they live in hives of one Queen Bee and her male worker bees.

But pesticides and disease have led to a recent rapid decline in their numbers, and campaigners including Oldham Lib Dem MEP Chris Davies are pushing the EU to ban the chemicals.

A plant called Himalayan balsam is also becoming increasingly popular among beekeepers as it offers their insects a perfect habitat to thrive in.

Ian, who keeps bees with friend Haydn Clough, 71, from Grotton, said: “Gardeners think it is a weed but we think it is one of the best things around and the bees are in it all day long.


“Luckily around here most of the farmers are dairy farmers and so don’t use some sprays that are most dangerous to bees.

“But they are seriously at risk from varroa, a mite that has spread across UK. It can take over a hive and kill off bees.

“It has taken quite a long time to find a treatment but I’m hopeful about latest developments to save them.”

Anyone interested in beekeeping should contact a society such as Oldham and District Beekeepers for advice and tuition: http://www.oldham-chronicle.co.uk/sites/odbka

INDEPENDENT GARDENING expert Andrew Oldham makes a plea to save the bees


BEES MAKE my summer. There is nothing better than sitting in the July garden, the flowers full, the vegetables fattening whilst bees bumble through the borders.

We are working during late spring and early summer to create a nectar bank for them. You can plant for bees with a sowing of annuals, like the vibrant borage and graceful cosmos or include trees and bushes in your garden. Apple and cherry for blossom or a buddleia bush for the flowers.

The bug spray you reach for each summer is killing bees. You may shrug this off, you may continue to do so until bees are extinct and then you will discover a truth. If bees go, so do you and your children.

The awful products containing neonicotinoid pesticides, some being sold with bee friendly seeds, have been linked the decline of bee colonies and many of you could be using them unwittingly.

To give you an idea of what pesticides have done to bees, you only have to think back to a time when bees, butterflies and moths were prevalent In the last 15 years there has been a 30 per cent increase of spraying these pesticides in the UK.

32 per cent of honey bees subjected to sub-lethal levels of neonicotonoid thiamethoxam will fail to return to the hive. Bumblebee colonies subjected to neonicotonoid will significantly reduce and see an 85 per cent decline in queen production (source: www.soilproduction.org).

Make a difference; create a future for bees and your family. Put down pesticides and take up organic gardening.


THE VALUE of honey is explored by Independent health columnist chemist Ian Strachan

SWEET: Honey from the hills
SWEET: Honey from the hills

ALTHOUGH USED for centuries for its healing properties there is still uncertainty as to precisely how honey achieves its anti-microbial benefit.

As these studies are based on medical graded honey, this isn’t the same as your supermarket offering so I would advise never to use honey yourself for treating cuts grazes, or ulcers.

A traditional yet highly acceptable use has been for its soothing properties and benefits in the treatment of coughs.

Warm drinks of lemon and honey will sooth a ticklish or dry cough. Honey-based cough medicines are also used for their soothing action with ipecacuanha which loosens and thins secretions and aids the removal of unwanted phlegm.

As usual I would ask you to consult with your pharmacist on the most appropriate remedy for yourself and to refer any persistent cough in children or indeed adults to your GP.

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