In response to Rosa Steppanova’s and James Mackenzie’s letter Advice on how to stop the decline of bees, (SN, 7 May 2019), I would like to make a few comments.
Although I welcome some of the advice given, some is just wrong. The eugenic perfection (genetic purity) of our native plants is a distraction. Seed introduction, wildflower or “domestic variants”, has been with humanity for eons.
We will always carry a risk of contaminating natural flora but that is no real risk to bees. It is not garden ‘bee bombs’ but all commercial agriculture, garden centres or farming/crofting that is our problem.
Shetland has had many thousands of hectares of natural land desecrated. Limed, burnt back, drained, herbicides and reseeded. This reseeding, with literally tons of seed, mostly ryegrasses with non-native clovers and countless unknown other wildflowers applied. All this ‘land improvement’ has damaged the environment immensely for many decades.
Then, to add insult to injury, the land has been massively overgrazed by sheep. That has destroyed natural habits, bees, birds and all native flora.
It is not in any way the crofters/farmers to blame for this but our friends in Brussels (EU) with their Common Agricultural Policy (CAP). Ludicrous grants for this destruction literally thrown out for endless form filling, paying no heed to our environment. In order to survive our crofting businesses had little choice but to comply with the EU directives.
There are countless further threats to native flowers mostly from casual import of contaminated soil in pots plants. Plant in pots and non-sterile compost carry New Zealand Flatworm (already in Shetland), vine weevil and countless diseases and parasites, regularly imported into Shetland by the ‘garden industry’.
The only true defence is restricting/stopping any grown plant imports; I do not recommend that (gardening would be too dull). There is however not one iota of scientific evidence to support Rosa and James’s claim that “seed from other geographical sources can be a threat to our native flora’s unique genetic pool and ultimately to the bees you are hoping to protect”.
I would suggest the threat from imported seed is far less damaging than the sale and transportation of pot plants in non-sterile soil. I should not need to remind Rosa and James that Lea Gardens is almost entirely made up of imported plants from overseas; with very little, if any, being natural or native to Shetland.
I have no criticism of that, Rosa and James, like other crofters, have to make a living, but please, cut the humbug. Lea Gardens has imported seed for decades.