For the past few years we have been hearing stories about how if all the
honeybees died mankind would only live for another 3 - 4 years. If we look
at the world's food supply , 3 of the main food crops are wheat , rice and
corn. All food crops not pollinated by honeybees.
Another story we here is that 1/3 of the world's food is pollinated by
honeybees. Honeybees are mainly used to pollinate fruit, berries, nuts and
oil seeds. The pollination by honeybees increases the yield of these crops
by 20 - 30% . There are a lot more pollinating insects out there , and have
been for millenia. The commercial beekeepers offering pollination services
have created an industry around this service and most certainly would be
the first to be impacted by the demise of the honeybee. But the crops would continue on at a slighly reduced yield and the void created by the death of
the honeybee would be filled in by other pollinating insects. There might
be a transition of a few years but like all things in nature , the balance
would be re-established. Somehow we managed to survive without the
pollination services of honeybees, and we would again.
The commercial beekeepers who offer pollination services are directly
affecting the health of their bees and local bees where they are placed for
a couple weeks while the honeybees pollinate the crop in bloom. Migratory
beekeepers spread disease and pest wherever they go and contaminate the
local bee populations. They pick up chemical contaimation from the crops
they pollinate and carry it with them as they travel around the country.
There is no denying that the neonics are killing honeybees and many
other insect species , after all it is a neuro toxin. It is also affecting health of humans too. Why has the European Union banned neonics while
North American politicians still drag their feet. Health Canada has reduced
the daily allowable limit of neonic treated food by 50% since the plight
of the honeybee has brought attention to these crops with the treated seed.
The neonic coating on the seed spreads throughout the plant and into the
nectar and seed/fruit. The increase of cancer rates in humans is due to
chemical contamination in our environment and in our food. The honeybee
is the canary in the coal mine , signalling to us that we need
to rethink our whole approach to food production.
Monoculture agricultural practises are not environmentally friendly or
sustainable. Pouring chemicals into the ground and onto the crops is not
healthy. Companion planting and crop rotation are much better ways to grow
food. As an example, if orchardists encouraged dandelions to grow between
the rows of trees, the large tap roots would bring nutrients from lower
down in the soil up to the surface to nourish the trees, and at the same
time provide additional nectar sources for the honeybees. The problem with monoculture farming , once the crop has stopped flowering there is no more
nectar for local bee populations. The migratory beekeepers have to keep
their hives moving from crop to crop because once the first crop stops
flowering there is no more food available. An ecosystem with a continous
flow of nectar , provided by a variety of flowers , throughout the growing season , would be better for all concerned.
Save the bees campaign
There is a large cereal company out there with an advertising campaign
to " save the bees ". Each year they give out 100 million flowers. A
noble idea , but let's look at the specifics of it.
It take 2.6 million floral visits to make a pound of honey. www.honeycouncil.ca/how-to-make-a-pound-of-honey
We'll be generous and allow 10 blossoms per plant and we'll allow
5 visits by bees to each blossom. Let's do the math - 100 million
plants times 10 blossoms times 5 bee visits = 5,000,000 .
Wow , thats a huge number - difficult to conceive the number -
5 billion floral visits. O.K. now let's look at how much honey one
honeybee colony requires to sustain itself for a 12 month period.
The experts say that an average honeybee colony could require 250 lbs.
of honey per year to survive. If it takes 2.6 million floral visits
to make a pound of honey and a honeybee colony requires 250 lbs of
honey per year , then one honeybee colony would require approximately
650 million floral visits. So let's go back to our 5 billion blossoms
that the 100 million seeds are going to produce and divide it by the
needs of one honeybee colony and now we have enough flower blossoms
to sustain less that 8 honeybee colonies. Hardly enough to
" Save the bees " but at least the ad campaign brings some much
needed attention to the problem. What we need is a lot more large
companies to start giving back.
For every acre of land that is ploughed under to make room for houses
or shopping malls or roads , maybe the developers should be required
to plant an acre of flowers somewhere nearby to replace what they are
destroying. Just a thought.
European Honeybees are an invasive species.
The European Honeybee is not a native species to North America.
Early settlers brought them on the boats with many other plants and
animals when they emigrated hundreds of years ago. A healthy honeybee
colony during the summer months could have approx. 50,000 worker bees ,
which when released into an environment , can displace local pollinators
due to competition for resources. The early settlers used the honeybees
to pollinate fruit and berry plants that they brought with them that
were not native to North America either.
Beekeepers in Northern climates go to great lengths to keep honeybees
alive through the long cold Winter months. Some beekeepers have built
large over-wintering facilities with climate controlled environments.
Those same beekeepers replace their Winter losses with honeybees imported
from warmer climates like Chile, Australia, New Zealand and Southern U.S.A.
Maybe the European Honeybee shouldn't be here at all. Just a thought.