This year I once again attended one of my highlights of the summer calendar – the Sutton Coldfield and North Birmingham Beekeepers Barbecue, held at their teaching apiary in Royal Sutton Park. It was an excellent opportunity to catch up with the beekeepers and friends of bees from across the Sutton community, and to discuss the fortunes of beekeeping both locally and nationally.
The beekeepers explained the effect of this year’s weather so far to me on the success of their activities – this year happily having seen an improvement in the survival of the bee colonies over the winter. This ensured that the early honey harvest in the Spring was very successful. Both this and the main crop, which is just beginning to be extracted, is on sale in the Sutton Park Visitor Centre.
I also discovered the work that the beekeepers are already doing to ensure that the honey bees go into next winter healthy and with plenty of food stores to sustain them, whatever the weather next winter.
The Barbecue gave me an opportunity to discuss the developments in the National Pollinator Strategy, which is an issue that people in Sutton – especially the beekeeping community - care deeply about. The five main strands of the strategy are supporting pollinators on farmland, supporting them across towns, cities and the countryside, enhancing the response to pest and disease risk, ensuring that pollinators have the resources they need to survive and thrive, and improving the monitoring of bees and other pollinators. The department responsible for this strategy – DEFRA – set aside an additional £500,000 for work in this area in 2014-15, with a focus on inspiring voluntary action to complement the range of mandatory and incentivised measures already in place to support pollinators. I look forward to the publication of the progress report on this strategy in the Autumn of this year.
However, what strikes me every time I attend this event is how important the local response is to the fortune of pollinators, not just the government’s intervention. There is a huge amount of work done by voluntary groups and keen individuals in Sutton to raise awareness for the plight of bees and of the importance of bees to our environment, and this event is just one example of the work that they do year-round to ensure that we all remain aware of the importance of bees in our lives.