There is no longer any doubt that neonicotinoid based pesticides are playing a significant role in the catastrophic collapse in world bee populations.
Neonicotinoids, introduced in the 1990s, were designed to kill insect pests, but the reality is that they do not discriminate between pests and beneficial insects.
As bees are larger than most insects, neonicotinoids don’t usually kill them outright, but studies have shown that they cause reduced sperm count amongst bees and also affect their sense of direction and memory. Research by the University of California has found bee pollen can contain over 150 different chemical residues as a result of pesticide use in farming.
Earlier this year, France became the first country in the world to ban all five neonicotinoid pesticides, adding thiacloprid and acetamiprid to the three pesticides already banned in the European Union. Growers in France are not allowed to use these chemicals either out in the fields or in greenhouses.
In Canada, the government has been phasing out the use of imidacloprid, clothianidin and thiamethoxam. The rest of the world is lagging behind but it is vital that we all follow France’s lead.
Last year the United Nations warned that 40 percent of our bees and other pollinators risk global extinction. If we lose them, we lose at least a third of our food supply.
The problem of colony collapse disorder has been exacerbated by climate change, which has meant the bee’s life cycle is increasingly out of synch with the life cycle of the flowers upon which it depends for food. And intensive, chemical based farming is a factor in climate change, through the release of nitrous oxide and methane.
While it is right for us to lobby our own governments to act, we do not need to wait for them to do so.
We should stop using any garden sprays that contain neonicotinoids. In fact, we should stop using chemicals altogether. Our gardens and the wildlife they contain and attract will benefit, and so will we.
And we could find room to grow plants which will attract and feed bees and other pollinators -for example honeysuckle, lavender, lilac, forsythia, fuschia, chives, sage and rosemary. These provide vital food sources and will be all the more important if they are grown without the use of these deadly chemicals.
On to the recipe. I very rarely make cakes, but finding myself with a fair quantity of coconut flour and ground almonds that needed using up, I though it was time to rectify that.
This is the result, a rich but not-too-sweet delight. Serve with a dollop of coconut yoghurt and a pot of Earl Grey tea.
80 g coconut flour
80 g ground almonds
80 g gluten free flour
275 g coconut sugar
120 g unsalted butter
125 g Greek or coconut yoghurt
1 tsp ground cinnamon
½ tsp ground allspice
3 free range organic eggs
pinch sea salt
for the topping
125 g coconut sugar
65 g unsalted butter
1 tsp organic vanilla essence
3 organic bananas
1. Pre heat the oven to 180°C (350°F, gas mark 4). Lightly butter a round cake tin and line the sides and base with baking parchment.
2. For the topping, place the 80 g coconut sugar and the 65 g butter in a large pan and place on a medium heat. Cook, stirring, until both the butter and sugar have melted and have bubbled into a smooth caramel. Remove rom the heat and stir in the vanilla essence. Carefully pour the caramel into the lined base of the cake tin. Peel the bananas and carefully slice them in half lengthways. Carefully arrange the banana halves, cut side down, over the caramel.
3. For the cake mixture, cream the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy. Whisk in the eggs, followed by the yoghurt. Next fold in the coconut flour, ground almonds and gluten free flour, followed by the cinnamon and allspice. Mix until fully combined, then carefully pour over the caramel and bananas in the cake tin. Place the cake tin on a flat baking tray and place in the pre-heated oven for an hour, or until a sharp knife or skewer comes out clean when inserted.
4. Remove the cake from the oven and leave it to rest for 15 minutes. Very carefully tip it out upside down on to a cake plate. Remove the cake tin and the baking parchment.