Hopefully, you’ve heard about the problem of declining numbers of bees across the world. Please listen to the bees. Nature is trying to get a message through to us.
The problem of declining bee populations has been around for quite a long time. I made this post on the documentary “Vanishing of the Bees” back in December. The conclusion there was that it’s mostly caused by the widespread pesticide use in “conventional” farming and monocultures. The people that made this documentary provided this simple formula for helping the bee population;
You can bee the change every day. Here’s how.
Vote with you fork – Buying organic produce helps nurture the food systems that take better care of bees and everything else on the planet.
Stop home pesticide use – Natural cleaners and pest remedies are safer, more effective and less expensive than toxic chemicals. Get rid of the poisons in your cabinets, garages and lawns.
Plant a garden – Grow yummy food, delicious herbs, beautiful flowers – it improves your health and helps the bees. Even people in apartments can use planters or raise a window garden!
Raise awareness – The first step to activate change is education. Let people know about the bee crisis, the very real dangers of widespread pesticide use and our perilous agricultural landscape.
The US Government worried about bees – at last
In this article from BBC News they explain how the US government (through the EPA – Environmental Protection Agency) has setup a task force to “tackle the decline of honey bees”. Apparently, the bee population declined 23% last winter. That’s huge, isn’t it?! No wonder they need a task force.
Reading the article (and in between the lines), it’s clear that the main reason for the decline in bee population is modern agriculture techniques, especially monocultures and artificial pesticide use. The environmental group, Friends of the Earth, are criticizing the US government for not acting more directly and banning the use of a specific class of pesticides, “neonicotinoids”, which are linked to bee deaths.
Bee shortage also in Europe
In another BBC News article – Honeybee shortage threatens crop pollination in Europe – we learn that more than half of the European countries already don’t have enough bees to pollinate their crops. And then they immediately make this quote;
Scientists believe that a boom in biofuels has sparked a massive increase in the need for pollination
Ah, biofuels! That makes me recall my post on rapeseed monocultures. I’ve seen, first hand, the huge (more than that even, enormously huge!) fields of rapeseed planted in France and England (see this post), and we know these are most likely genetically modified and require huge amounts of pesticides to get through to harvest. It’s not being grown for food (at least not real food, just for rapeseed oil used in poor foods) but is being used as biofuel, in particular, biodiesel.
No wonder the bees are stressed. We need to listen to the bees! The monocultures are on the rampage along with the amount of pesticides needed to keep them going.
One quote from a scientist is;
In Greece in 2005, there were a few hundred hectares grown (rapeseed), but since then it has exploded because they can get biofuel subsidies for it.
So even our tax dollars are effectively being used to kill off the bees. The funny thing is that biofuels are considered “renewable” but it’s ignored that the monoculture farming practices are “unsustainable”. If we listen to the bees, we see they are giving us an early warning sign.
Researchers are tracking bees to further understand
And yet another BBC News article claims that bees in England have more than halved in number over the last 25 years and they are still decreasing. To get more understanding of the situation, researchers have been putting very small tracking devices on bees and monitoring their movements. Some of the amazing statistics resulting from this are that bees visit more that 1000 flowers per day, they fly up to 4 miles and cover 50,000 hectares.
The researchers are examining the effect of pesticides and the presence of a parasite on the bees ability to navigate.
They also point the finger at modern farming practices in general. Here are some selected quotes from near the end of the article;
Changing land use is also a big problem. Some researchers … think the increase in agricultural and farm land is having an impact on bee populations as food sources are declining. The insects need nutritional variety to survive.
Agricultural land is what ecologists call a “green desert”, over the years plants that bees do feed on have been replaced by vast expanses they don’t feed on. The fields may look green but they aren’t a good food source for bees.
Often urban environments offer bees and pollinators more to feed on because gardens, park and places like church yards have flowers growing and are a much more diverse foraging source. Bee experts are calling for more bee-friendly farming methods.
Company seeks exemption to use banned pesticide in UK
As if things couldn’t get worse, a news article in the Guardian just a few days ago explains how Syngenta is seeking an “emergency” exemption to use neonicotinoid pesticides even though they have been banned by the EU since 2013 because of strong evidence linking them to the bee problem. The article specifically mentions rapeseed oil monocultures! Argh! These things are horrible and we don’t actually need them.
A Syngenta company spokesman said;
Syngenta has made this emergency use application on behalf of UK farmers for a limited use of neonicotinoid seed treatment in two specific contexts where alternative approaches are not effective and a danger to production exists
Given this assessment we urge the government to support farmers and allow limited use this season.
Even though they say “limited use” it would apparently cover about 30% of the rapeseed crops. If the government allows this to go ahead it would be a travesty for the bees and eventually (soon actually) a travesty for us.
Wake up call?
I can’t help but think that nature is giving us a wake-up call through the bees. The modern farming practices of huge monocultures (and their associated pesticides) is not good and not sustainable. The fact that the bees are dying out is a sign that we’re on the wrong track here. It’s not too late to fix this, but we’d better act quickly. Please, let’s listen to the bees.
Please let me know where I’m wrong or have missed something and leave a comment below. Does anyone know of any positive stories for our bees?
This week, Syngenta has withdrawn their application for an exemption to use their banned pesticide. Good news!!
Now Canadian beekeepers are to sue Syngenta in a class action law suit. See this link to an article on CNBC News for more.