Pollinate or Perish: Help Save Our Bees


[Flyer I wrote for the local Southern Highlands Amateur Apiarists Association intended for local community education, particularly of gardeners. Given that the large-scale, industrial-capitalist bee industry is a part of the problem, local amateur beekeepers may have a very important role to play in the global battle to save the bees under conditions of increasing stress and climate chaos. Photo of bee and Monarch butterfly, also endangered, by Georg Barth, Dancasan Photography.]


Some Bee Facts

Honey bees have survived for 100 million years. Bees and other pollinators are now in rapid decline globally. Our actions, or lack thereof, will now determine their future

Bees can travel as far as 8 km in search of nectar and pollen. In a single trip a bee can visit up to 100 flowers and carry more than half its weight in pollen. During its 20-30 day lifespan a worker bee will produce about 1/12th of a teaspoon of honey. In order to produce a mere 400 g of honey, worker bees fly a collective distance of 89,000 km and visit around 2 million flowers

About two thirds of world food plants rely to some extent on bee pollination. Bee pollination has been valued at $217 billion globally each year

Bees are highly susceptible to many pesticides which disrupt their sensitive nervous systems. A recent US study found that honeybee pollen was contaminated, on average, with nine different pesticides and fungicides

Neonicotinoid pesticides (‘neonics’) like Clothiandin, Imidacloprid, Thiametoxam, were only introduced in the mid-1990s and are now used on seed treatment of more than 140 different crops as well as in home gardens . Neonics are ‘systematic’ pesticides, that is seeds are soaked in them before planting and traces of these chemicals are then to be found in every part of the plant including the pollen and nectar which bees collect and which persist much longer and accumulate in the environment

There is a large and growing body of scientific evidence that neonics attack bees’ nervous and immune systems and their complex flying, navigational and communication behaviour without necessarily killing them immediately. The effects may be delayed and cumulative, the bees being weakened and poisoned slowly over time, making them more susceptible to other diseases. Birds, butterflies, worms, fish and many other animals are also badly affected

In 2008 the German government suspended the use of eight neonic seed treatment products after a 70% of bees died in in one federal state linked to the use of Clothianidin, with legal action then taken by beekeepers against its manufacturer Bayer. In 2013 the European Commission placed a two year suspension on the three most used neonics

In 2008 several apiarists in the Yarra Valley reported on the death of their bees and a state government investigation linked the deaths to an apple grower who had used Sumitomo Samurai Systemic Insecticide (Clothiandin)

The recurrent mass deaths of whole bee colonies overseas (‘colony collapse disorder’) have yet to occur in Australia. Whether neonics and other toxic chemicals are the main factor in Colony Collapse Disorder or only one of the large range of stressors weakening, sickening and endangering bees (varroa mites/other pathogens, decreasing diverse/nutritious forage due to industrial agriculture and urbanisation, industrial bee management, microwave towers, climate change), has yet to be scientifically decided

A world without bees would be a much sadder, bleaker, food- and flower-deprived wasteland

What You Can Do to Help Bees

Help bees and other pollinators thrive by providing them with as much diverse and nutritious food as you can (below is a list of plants you can plant locally that bees love for their nectar and pollen)

Help bees (and other insects and animals) stay healthy and unstressed by not using neonicotinoid and other pesticides in your garden (below are some suggestions for organic control of some common plant pests and diseases)

Some wild plants which some consider weeds are also good sources of pollen and/or nectar for bees and butterflies (e.g. clover, plantain, catsears, thistle, sow thistle, fleabane); if not rampant, why not let some exist in your garden as part of your contribution to pollinator survival?

Help reduce the spread of serious bee diseases like American foul brood by not placing any bought honey in bird feeders

Write to the Federal pesticide regulator APVMA asking why the APVMA will not follow recent EU bans on neonicotinoids (Note: According to FOE, 90% of APVMA’s budget is sourced from pesticide sales and it has recently appointed an employee of neonic manufacturer Sumitomo Chemicals to their Advisory Board)

Talk to your friends and neighbours about how they too can help honey and native bees thrive

Think about keeping some bees in your own garden. Contact SHAA for information and help.

Some Selected Bee Plants for Local Gardens

Native trees: Rough-barked apple, messmate, snow gum, manna gum, mountain grey gum, white stringybark, narrow-leaved peppermint, spotted gum, cedar wattle (for propolis)
Native shrubs: bottlebrush, banksia, correa, boronia, blackthorn
Exotic trees: citrus, apple, almond, all prunus, maples, honey locust, linden
Exotics: clover, rosemary, lavender, balm, borage, sage, thyme, asparagus, all berries

Some Bee-friendly Alternatives to Pesticides

Provide low stress growing conditions in terms of right soils, water, nutrients; prune all dead or diseased branches and all fallen fruit; encourage ducks/chooks or wild birds to clean up insect larvae around tree root zones; encourage predatory insects by planting diverse companion plants; manually remove pests; use safer organic alternatives like white oil, Bordeaux, Dipel, try garlic/onion/chilli/elder/tomato leaves/rhubarb leaves/washing soda and soap sprays ; learn to live with certain blemishes on fruit and veg as a welcome sign of non-poisonous edibility

Contact SHAA for more information: http://www.southernhighlandsbees.org


~ by Peter Lach-Newinsky on May 7, 2014.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: