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We have touched on the subject of pesticides because of the potential hazard they pose to human health and the environment and there is no doubt that many people are now turning to artificial grass as a preferred alternative to real grass just so that they can avoid using pesticides on their lawn. That is great news … but what about the birds and the bees? Yes, we mean that quite literally.

Recent reports suggest that both birds and bees are increasingly becoming unwitting victims of pesticide contamination and disastrous consequences loom on the horizon if the situation is not taken in hand with adequate counter measures.

Pesticides of course encompass many types of ‘synthetic poisons’ used in different applications – eg. insecticides (against insects), herbicides (against weeds), fungicides (against fungus) and so on. Using pesticide compounds releases chemicals into the environment and with that is carried the inherent danger of harming ‘innocent’ inhabitants of gardens and farmland – hence the birds and bees reference.

Population declines in birds have been the subject of investigation for some time and detailed monitoring seems to indicate a strong connection between bird population crashes and pesticide contamination. National Geographic has some interesting info on the link between pesticides and bird decline.

Bees and Beekeeping

As for bees, there is growing global concern about the risks that pesticides pose to honey bees in particular. This summer honey bee keepers in southern Germany reported a wave of honey bee deaths linked to clothianidin (pesticide) and as a result the Federal Ministry of Food, Agriculture and Consumer Protection in Germany went as far as suspending the registration of eight pesticide seed treatments (used in sweet corn and oilseed rape). A couple of months later, an environmental advocacy group in the USA filed a lawsuit against the Federal Environmental Protection Agency on the grounds of withholding information about the risks posed to honey bees by pesticides. Serious action on both counts – and for good reason.

The balance of the world’s eco system is already fragile so with every new report of damage to wildlife by pesticides we need to press for greater openness on the subject and support ideas to help solve the problem.

At the end of last summer we wrote about increasing concerns for the future of the honey bee around the world. We quoted examples from southern Germany (where a significant rise in honey bee deaths had been linked to pesticides resulting in the German Federal Ministry of Food, Agriculture and Consumer Protection suspending the registration of 8 pesticide treatments) and the United States where an environmental group had filed a lawsuit against the Federal Environmental Protection Agency for withholding information about the risks to honey bees from pesticide treatments. Clearly, the argument for reducing use of pesticides has never been so strong and with high profile celebrities such as Scarlett Johansson taking to beekeeping, it can only stand to gain momentum.

Now comes the news that the British honey bee population is in serious decline with numbers falling by as much as 30%. See a special BBC News report. The upside to this disturbing news is the growing number of people in Britain who are interested in keeping bees and maintaining their own beehives. The majority live in the countryside which is logical but what about those living in towns and cities? Well, they too now have an option to help the plight of the honey bee. It’s called the beehaus. A bright yellow plastic box about the size of an average barbecue set, it is designed to reduce swarming and, it’s claimed, can yield up to 20 kilograms (44 pounds) of honey in a year. It doesn’t take up much space and its inventors are keen to point this out saying it is ideal for use on balconies and rooftop gardens. There are also other ways to encourage bees into your garden.

So for those Brits who live an urban lifestyle and don’t have a garden, they can now take their balcony or rooftop and convert it into a honey-producing space and play their part in saving the British honeybee. Using artificial grass to make the area colourful and pleasant under foot is the ideal compliment to the venture – no mowing, no watering and, above all, no pesticides required!

After all, where we would be without the birds and the bees?

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