East Lothian has a long history. A significant part of that history was been to do with farming. What some people don’t realise is that farming relies on a well balanced ecosystem and what is even less commonly appreciated is the role of the humble insect within that ecosystem.
Within East Lothian Archive and Local History Collections we have a variety of resources that can help people gain insights into historical, and more recent, investigations into these often neglected areas of study. In 1805 a book was published which was taken from the papers of ‘The Late Robert Sommerville, Esq. Surgeon of Haddington’ entitled ‘Agriculture of East Lothian‘ which included a section on ‘Livestock’. This concluded with the following remarks on Bees:
“These insects seem not to be so numerous in the county, as at some former periods, and perhaps, even in proportion to their numbers, yield less honey. … Honey, however, is not a necessary of life, and if, by the extension of tillage and destruction of weeds, we can raise more corn and feed a greater number of cattle and sheep, we shall not have reason to lament the decrease of bees.”
Mr Sommerville was obviously not a fan of bees, and seems to be unaware of their vital role in our ecosystem. At the other end of the spectrum, both temporally and in attitude, we have Magnus Sinclair who, in 2005, undertook a survey of the types of beetle that could be found at John Muir Park. A copy of the findings of this study are held within East Lothian Archive as EL119.
So over 200 years the interest in the natural world within East Lothian remains, even if the attitudes change. And there are windows into this world to be found in the Council Archive and Local History Collections.
Abejita – Bee image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons