This week on my REGULAR RADIO SPOT I decided to talk about bees.
Earlier this week more than 740 bee hives located in remote bushland locations were poisoned on the South Coast of New South Wales. The bee industry hey, who knew it was one of fierce competition and possible espionage. It’s always the quiet ones.
If you think that 1 hive houses 30-40,000 bees and produces around 100kg of honey a season, that’s more than 7 TONNES of honey that has been stripped of a company’s production – devastating.
It’s actually the death of the bees that is most worrying. Did you know bee populations around the world are in decline? Did you know that ONE in THREE mouthfuls of food consumed anywhere in the world is a directly attributable to bee pollination?
Declining bee populations is not just about honey becoming the saffron of spreads but a massive, MAHOOSIVE, issue for food production. We need bees to pollinate everything from our crops to the pastures livestock graze on.
In Australia bee hive numbers are half what they were 20 years ago.
So where are the bees going?
It appears bees are under the pump for a number of reasons – herbicides, pesticides, chemical pollutants, a mite called the Varroa mite and in Australia the arrival of the Asian Honey Bee.
According to Peter Mathieson from Nature’s Gold Honey, the straw breaking the bee’s back is neonicotinoid (NEONICs) pesticides. I know, a big fancy word but what happens is companies like Mon Santo, Dow and Bayer are dipping seeds in this pesticide – the upshot of that is the chemical then becomes a part of the plant and what it produces. You’re modifying the DNA of the plant and well, that’s got to have an impact the whole way down the chain doesn’t it. That’s just common sense.
NEONICS are made from Chlorinated Nicotine Compounds which work via the circulatory system of the plant so when ingested by insects (and bees) it blocks nerve activity in the peripheral and central nervous systems of the insect. In bees the affect is accumulative and only takes minuscule amounts. So yeah, great at stopping insects decimating crops but taking out the beneficial as well. From an outsider’s point of view I would have thought agricultural biochemists would have worked this out years ago. Also file under “naive”.
So imagine this as a flow chart. The seeds get dipped (it can all be sprayed on), sown and grown. The bee collects the pollen, takes it back to the hive to store for a food source in winter and to feed baby bees. They all get sick and die. That’s IF they make it back to the hive. Many bees get disorientated by it and just buzz around aimlessly until they die.
In France and I understand other Eurpoean countries they have banned the use of this chemical and immediate stabilisation of declining bee numbers was noted, as was the growth in bee colonies over the following 12 months. In the US they won’t ban it because – hold on to your heads – it doesn’t kill the bee on the spot. #facepalm #headdesk
The other concerning thing about this pesticide is it has a half life of 25 years. Think about that – the residual in the soil, getting into the water table and water ways and so on. IN US. I mean, we then turn these crops into OUR food, eat the cows etc.
According to that report I linked to above in The Australian Beekeeper, apiarists in NSW’s central west (Dubbo) notice massive impact on their bee stocks (and therefore output) when they are used to pollinate fields of genetically modified canola. That article refers to a statistic that 85% of Australian agricultural crops are treated with NEONICs.
You know all those hairy armpitted hippies who tell you why GM crops are killing the world? I kind of get it now.
UPDATED: here’s an article I found on Reuters about it – France and Germany have already banned its use and yet we use it on 85% of our crops? Madness.
Now, I haven’t even talked about the mite and how Australia is the only country which doesn’t have it and the whole new industry of exporting queen bees to the US and Europe or the issues of a lack of biodiversity in plants for bees and so on OR the big issue of the arrival of the Asian Honey Bee in Australia and what that means for bee populations. (They breed faster, is tougher and spreads quicker than European bees while their pollination is less reliable and unmanageable in terms of harvesting. It would cost the Australian government approximately $3million to eradicate it and protect the $20BILLION of food crops getting pollinated every year but they refuse to spend it, instead focusing on how to ‘contain’ it.)
But know this, bees are complex and cool.
So now go and make these moreish honey cakes