Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Again our friends on the river

There was wind in the willows as the Water Rat and the Mole rowed their boat along the river. They were on their way to visit Toad of Toad Hall.

"Not many honey bees along the river," said the Rat.

"I've read in the paper that honey bee colonies are collapsing," the Mole responded.

"I wonder why?" mused the Rat.

The Mole shook his head. "Well, I'm not surprised," he said. "The weather has been especially wet, which some folks blame on global warming. Farmers are growing more crops, like wheat, that don't produce nectar, and using more fertilizer and pesticides. When a honey bee colony is stressed, it is more vulnerable to mites, viruses, and malnutrition."

"We must ask Mr. Toad what's happening to the bees," said the Rat, his brow furrowed with concern.

Just then they rounded a bend in the river and saw Toad Hall, a handsome, dignified old house of mellowed red brick. They glided up to the landing and Rat shipped the oars. Toad was waiting to greet them.

"We were wondering" said the Rat, "what's happening to the honey bees."

Toad grew somber. "Indeed," he shook his head gravely. "I heard on the wireless this morning that the country will run out of honey by Christmas. No more till the summer of 2009."

"If we're lucky," grumbled the Mole.

"And it's not just the honey," said Toad. "Farmers and gardeners rely on bees for pollination. The UK farming minister, Lord Rocker, told parliament last winter that the country's honey bee population could be wiped out in ten years."

"Oh, you are such a worrywart," said the Rat. "These things come and go." He wondered off into Toad's garden, which he found strangely silent.

"Well, if the farmers are growing lots of wheat, at least we'll have plenty of bread in the shops," said the Mole.

"But will we have honey to put on the bread?" murmured Toad.