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As Wimbledon begins experts warn British strawberries, alongside apples and carrots, risk extinction due to dwindling bee population




British-grown foods, including apples and strawberries, could become extinct because of a dwindling population of insects such as bees and butterflies.

Agriculture and conservation experts are concerned that some of our best loved crops could be under threat, if more is not done to protect and help pollinators such as bees, butterflies and bugs who play a critical role in the nation's food chain.

As Wimbledon ticket holders get ready to begin enjoying thousands of servings of home-grown strawberries, there is a warning that the much-loved native crop, alongside British-grown apples, carrots and pumpkins, are among the foods whose future rests on a healthy population of pollinators.

Thousands of strawberries will be served at Wimbledon, but the crop is among those at risk if our population of pollinators dwindles
Thousands of strawberries will be served at Wimbledon, but the crop is among those at risk if our population of pollinators dwindles

Around a third of the food we eat in this country relies on the work of pollinators - which move pollen between flowers and plants leading to fertilisation and successful seed and fruit production.

But bee and insect populations are suffering because of a shortage of regular patches of pollinator friendly flowers for them to feed from, combined with other issues such as the use of pesticides and disease.

While many farmers across the UK are helping to tackle the problem by creating pollinator patches on their land and initiatives like last month's No Mow May, which encourages people to lock up their lawnmowers on May 1 and leave garden lawns, parkland and verges untouched, is designed to help insects, there is a warning those efforts may still not be enough to turn the tide for some pollinator populations.

Last month's No Mow May encouraged people to leave lawns, verges and parkland alone to help encourage pollen and insects
Last month's No Mow May encouraged people to leave lawns, verges and parkland alone to help encourage pollen and insects

Dairy cooperative, Arla, which is owned by 2,300 farmers across the UK, is among the organisations now urging households to also come on-board and devote a corner of their back gardens, balconies, hanging baskets, window boxes or plant pots to helping to protect pollinators.
Working with invertebrate conservation charity, Buglife, Arla is encouraging a nationwide planting of flower seeds to try to avert the crisis and is also giving away 100,000 seed packs to help.

Paul Hetherington, director at Buglife: “One out of every three mouthfuls of the food we eat every day depends on pollinators.

“These pollinators are the backbone of our biodiversity and without them there would be no British strawberries, apples, cherries, carrots, pumpkins and so many more of the foods we love, as well as the flowers in our gardens and countryside.

British-grown apples are among the crops that could be at risk
British-grown apples are among the crops that could be at risk

"Urgent action is needed now, or we stand to lose the food and plants that are such an intrinsic part of the British way of life.”

According to a recent Greenpeace report, a third of UK bees have disappeared in the last 10 years with a quarter of European species also at risk of extinction.

Households are being asked to help create suitable environments for the country's army of pollinators
Households are being asked to help create suitable environments for the country's army of pollinators

The Royal Horticultural Society, which issues a strong warning on its website about the decline of wild bees and other pollinators, has a number of tips for helping to encourage pollinators. Scroll down for its advice

It also has available a carefully curated list of plants and flowers, gardeners can introduce to their spaces and grow to provide forage for pollinators.

The RHS has published a series of hints and tips for encouraging pollinators
The RHS has published a series of hints and tips for encouraging pollinators

To find out more about Arla's work to provide for pollinators - and to claim seed packs - click here.