Bees on their knees

Bee Collecting PollenMost of the estimated 4 billion insect and animal species that have ever lived became extinct, and now bee "colony collapse disorder" is the big concern. Overuse of insecticides is the principle reason that the world’s bee population is dwindling, spelling disaster for our food supply as these free-flying non-unionised workers are vital for pollinating our essential crops. The colony collapse is already heralding crop failures across America where the bee population dropped by almost a third over last winter alone.

The thirty professional beekeepers of the Alpes-Maritimes are fighting this tendency with their 6000 hives, most of them in mountainous areas, and helped by a €100,000 aid package from the Conseil Général. Professionals keep bees for the excellent Provençal honey, enhanced in flavour by an abundance of wild herbs and lavender. At the same time, the bees pollinate various plants along the way back to the hive. One local measure that has improved bee production is putting off the roadside trimming of foliage until later in the season to give bees more of the environment they thrive in.

It’s not all bad news. A recent UN study claims we are not yet tapping into an easily available and almost limitless source of nutritive food – the some 1000 edible species of insects. Caterpillars are as rich in iron and protein as their equivalent weight in beef. Insects don't disrupt the ozone layer with flatulence like cattle do. And grasshoppers are delicious when lightly roasted and sprinkled with chilli sauce. They'd would go down well with a nice Provençal rosé. Santé!

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