Bumble bees, the wild cousins of the honey bee, are crucial to our existence. They help pollinate around a third of the world’s farmed and wild plants upon which humans and other species depend.
Over recent years their numbers have declined alarmingly as a result of multiple factors, including intensive farming, pesticides and parasites. However, a new study conducted by the University of Ottowa has revealed that climate change is a further key factor, which is having a massive impact on their numbers.
The study, which reviewed data stretching back over a century, revealed that rising temperatures had driven down bumble pee populations in numerous sites across North America and Europe.
Many insect species thrive in warmer temperatures, but the bumble bee originates from cooler climes and in a growing number of regions temperatures have now risen to the bee’s tolerable upper limits. Although the overall rise in temperatures also means that bumble pee populations have increased in some cooler northern areas, overall their numbers are in steep decline, with bumble bees in countries such as Spain and Mexico being hit particularly hard.
These findings underline the growing urgency of tackling the climate emergency.
The same changing temperatures affecting bee populations will affect other species, including us. The World Bank’s 2019 Groundswell report predicted the mass migration of over 140 million people from sub-Saharan Africa, Southeast Asia and Latin America unless we halt and begin to reverse climate change. Losing vital crop pollinators in those regions will simply accelerate that process.
While serious governmental action is required to make the big decisions, we can nevertheless play our own modest part to maintain bee health in our gardens, allotments and balconies by avoiding the use of chemicals, by maintaining shaded areas like hedges and not being overzealous in mowing the lawn: plants such as dandelions and clover are a vital food source.
On to the recipe.
Back in the early days of this blog I discovered and shared the wonderful alchemy of rhubarb and lemongrass, through my recipe for rhubarb and lemongrass granita.
Here the same combination combines with coconut and pistachio to produce a simple but delicious vegan dessert.
vegan rhubarb and lemongrass fool
300 g organic pink rhubarb stems, cut into 2-3 cm chunks
2 lemongrass stalks
75 g coconut sugar
350 g organic coconut yoghurt
10 g pistachios, crushed
1. Crush the lemongrass stalks with a rolling pin or the back of a heavy bladed knife. Put the coconut sugar in a saucepan and add 200 ml water. Place over a medium heat, stirring until the sugar has dissolved. Add the lemon grass stalks. Bring to a simmer and cook for 5 minutes. Remove from the heat and leave to cool to room temperature. Remove and discard the lemongrass stalks.
2. Add the rhubarb to the pan and place the pan back over a medium heat. Reduce the heat once it reaches a simmer and simmer gently for 5 minutes. Remove from the heat and leave to cool to room temperature.
3. Pour half of the coconut into a mixing bowl. Gently fold in half of the cooled cooked rhubarb.
4. To serve, divide the remaining rhubarb between four bowls or glasses. Next, divide the rhubarb and yoghurt mixture between the four servings, spooning it carefully on top of the rhubarb. Top this with the remaining yoghurt and sprinkle with the crushed pistachio.