by Sam Fairs, September 2, 2015
As farmers, bees are very important to us as they pollinate our crops and it’s essential that we look after them and other beneficial insects that populate our fields and countryside.
If you buy hillfarm cold pressed rapeseed oil you can be guaranteed that no neonicitinoids will have been used in producing it because we only use rapeseed grown on our farm.
Neonicotinoids are a class of neuro-active insecticides chemically similar to nicotine. They are used to control the cabbage stem flea beetle, small black beetles which jump and can destroy a young group by eating small pinholes in it. They can kill the whole plant if they get to it young enough. However the pesticide used to control them has been linked to declining bee populations and has received a huge amount of negative press. The honeybee is the most important commercial pollinator, globally responsible for pollinating at least 90% of commercial crops. They are the most frequent flower visitor to oilseed rape so as farmers it’s important that we look after them.
We’ve found that if we give our rapeseed plants a good start they will not have any significant damage from the cabbage stem beetle. This means we aim for careful cultivation and drilling (planting) the rapeseed early in a fine drill bed where they can’t hide under the clods. We add a good layer of chicken muck too – we like to think the beetles can’t stand the smell!
What else do we do to look after bees at Hill Farm?
We grow a wildflower mix in different areas of the farm to provide a habitat for bees when there is not much else for them to feed on. We grow 200 acres of borage alongside our rapeseed crops, which flowers after the rapeseed and provides a source of food and cover for the bees.
We look after our hedgerows and field verges to provide natural cover for insects.
We’re also pleased to work closely with a number of local beekeepers who produce honey from our rapeseed and borage crops and are experts in bees and how to look after them.
You may have noticed our special bottle lids featuring a honey bee over the spring and summer 2015. This was our way of celebrating the bee and trying to point out to our customers that we do farm in a bee friendly way.