Country mouse misses bees

From all over the country, there are reports of a dire apple harvest. Many orchards are bereft of a single apple; pears and plums are almost as bad. A year ago, there was such a glut that, in many places, apples were piled into bags and offered by the side of the road, free to takers. Fortunately, many cupboards still groan with last year’s pickles and fruit chutneys-there will be very little made this year.

At the farmer’s market on Sunday, our cheese stall was set up next to a fruit farmer selling plums. He told me that he’d been lucky he has a crop roughly half as big as last year, but for which, he beamed, he is getting a huge price from the supermarkets.

Was it the weather? In part, he told me, but the real problem was the lack of bees to pollinate the flowers in the spring. British bees have been in decline due to disease. The reality of a world without them is clear in our starkly bare orchards. There’s not been much of a buzz anywhere, as even the wasps have failed to appear. 2012 has been a very poor summer for gardens and orchards, but let’s hope next year is more like 2011.

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