What's the buzz this summer?
With highs of 29C and hosepipe bans imminent, summer must really be here. Pavan Amara and Daisy Jellicoe report on seasonal matters
Sunday 27 June 2010
And so, after the coldest winter since 1979, the great British summer has arrived. Months of cold, wind, rain and grey skies have suddenly given way to a burst of heat. And how. Today is expected to reach a high of 29 degrees, the hottest day of the year so far, and the good weather is set to hold for the early part of this week. Followers of the seasons will not be surprised by this, what with spring being all but over, but we know it is summer for many other reasons.
For one thing, the days are getting shorter. No sooner does the sun begin to show its face, then it's 21 June, the Summer Solstice, and before you can say "Stonehenge Visitors Centre" the Earth's axis starts tilting away and the evenings draw in.
Then there's the sport. With Wimbledon, the World Cup, Test Match cricket, and the flat racing season, there are more reasons to stay glued to the telly than at any other time of the year.
Which presents a problem in itself. You want to go out and enjoy the sunshine outdoors, but you want to watch Andy Murray hammer some Belgian or American journeyman too.
Sadly, basking in the sun and action replays in HD are almost invariably mutually exclusive, so you are bound to be disappointed on at least one front: we just have no way of coping with the glare of the sun on oversized television screens.
Earlier this year, the forecaster Positive Weather Solutions was rash enough to predict not only a "barbecue summer", but one of the hottest summers on record. Now we all know what last year's much-hyped prediction meant – a disheartening washout that saw thousands of barbecues quietly rusting into the patio. Mindful of this, the forecaster has since modified its prediction to the more ambiguous, "favourable".
But perhaps the greatest single indicator that the sunny season is upon us are the wasps. Entomologists are predicting a bumper year for wasp colonies, which have been dormant in recent weeks. "They will be very hungry due to the poor weather hampering their ability to forage for food," says Richard Piddocke, a wasp expert. Two weeks ago a giant nest was found in a Southampton pub loft containing 250,000 wasps.
Happily, the hot weather is also good news for bees, who are just as partial to inviting themselves to picnics and barbecues.
Bee numbers have halved in the past decade, and three species of bumble bee are already extinct. Scientists remain uncertain as to why numbers are falling, but the parasitic varroa mite, mobile phones and insecticides are all suspected of damaging colonies.
Campaigns, like the Co-operative's "Plan Bee" or the BBC's "Bee Part of It", are urging the public to support bee colonies. Urban beekeeping is increasing: a hive was installed last week on the roof of St Paul's Cathedral, and there are three million more bees in Manchester, after allotment holders were taught beekeeping as part of "Plan Bee". Anyone with open space is encouraged to grow plants attractive to bees. Which is great news for the little blighters, until of course, the utilities cotton on that summer really is here and impose a hosepipe ban.
The Environmental Agency is concerned that, in spite of massive snowfall last winter and the rainfall since, we remain at risk of drought. Residents in the north-west of England have been warned that they face a possible hosepipe ban starting as early as this week and lasting throughout July and August.
United Utilities, which provides water to the region's seven million people, has applied for a drought permit. Jon Sanders, a spokesman for United said: "We're monitoring the situation, but if we don't have any significant rainfall by the end of this month we will need a hosepipe ban to conserve essential supplies."
Somehow even the gloomy prospect of a pipe ban appears more than a little optimistic. According to Netweather, September is currently anticipated to be a cool and fairly wet month. Bring on autumn.
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