A startling discovery prompts me to start a new series of short posts catered exquisitely for the delectation of doom merchants.
If worries about climate change rob you of your sleep, this series will be specially for you. If your bottle is half empty, this will be the miserable company in which you will find comfort. If you think the stock markets are nowhere near bottom yet, find joy in this new Jeremiah of a series.
Anyway, enough of all that. Kindly take a swift look at the photo which I shot in my garden a few days ago. Notice anything wrong?
Well, have another look, then.
Got it now? That's right. There is not a seed in sight - just aborted embryos. And the whole point of honesty, Lunaria annua, is that you're supposed to be able to see the dark, flat seeds through the beautiful transparent pods. But the purses are empty because back in spring, we had crap weather and were desperately short of this plant's main pollinators, the bees.
The discovery reminded me of news coverage, during May, that the honey bee is now almost extinct in the wild, in Britain, largely because of the introduced varroa mite. When I was a boy, they nested in our roof and in my last house, built with limesone, they nested in cracks in the mortar. They also nested in the nearest piece of ancient woodland, in a hollow oak.
But, if you see honey bees on your flowers, they will almost certainly be from hives, rather than the wild. All is not well, even with domestic bees, where varroa is increasingly difficult to control, and where there is also a mystery affliction which causes colony collapse - the mad cow equivalent of a bee hive.
And as if that weren't worrying enough, most species of bumble bees are also either in decline or have suffered almost terminal population collapse.
This is a sorry state of affairs for all of us. Apart from the missing hypnotic pleasure of dozing in a garden while bees buzz and hum along the flowers, there are more threatening implications. Just stop to ponder on how many of our essential food crops are bee-pollinated. What if there were no more bees at all? Ever! Scary, isn't it?