Is there a more poignant reminder of why we should dissuade farmers from using pesticides and creating monoculture crops than discovering lady beetles?
I came across these two on Sunday morning as I was pottering about in the garden with a watering can and a pair of secateurs.
Recent media attention has served to highlight the significant, and alarming, rate of decline in honey bee populations over the last couple of years due to increased pesticide use. It is important to remember, however, that these are not the only insects bearing the brunt of our insatiable hunger for bigger, faster, more uniform produce; simply those with the most visible, direct connection to our own profits. We collect honey from bees, but what do we get from lady beetles?
Of course we do actually benefit from lady beetles in many respects; they are one of the many pollinators, apart from bees, which keep our orchards, trees and flowers blooming. Having worked in a stone fruit orchard for many years, I also know farmers consider lady beetles ‘canaries in the coal mine’; lots of lady beetles is a sign of a healthy ecosystem.
Given the pleasure I experienced finding these two in the garden, though, I would argue lady beetles serve another, very important purpose; they remind us, in the most gentle, unobtrusive and genuine manner, that the decisions we make as consumers directly impacts the world around us, beyond even our human spheres of influence.
The jury might still be out on whether organic produce is more beneficial than non-organic in terms of measurable human health benefits, but I for one would prefer to support those farmers who are doing the right thing; prioritising the health of their land and the ecosystems in which they operate by avoiding pesticide use and planting diverse, rotational crops. Small-scale organic farming has measurable health benefits; it just may not be our own health we are measuring.