Without the humble bee, the ecosystem and global food production will be doomed.

“Syngenta, Bayer and BASF’s bee-killing pesticides put global bee populations at risk. But without bees, the ecosystem and global food production will be doomed.”

− Francesco Panella, beekeeper and president of Bee Life European Beekeeping Coordination.

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Picture courtesy of  http://www.huffingtonpost.com/

Problem!

Syngenta, Bayer & BASF (“the bee-killers”) are giant multinational companies that produce and sell highly toxic pesticides, which are mass-killing bees and other pollinators essential for the environment, agriculture and global food production and don’t think for one minute we’re immune from this stupidity.

We indeed need to be vigilant here in Australia too and ask for the same bans – in fact I’ve noticed in the Southern Highlands a real decrease in bees down here in the last 10 years – please read the rest of this article and you’ll see the situation we could all find ourselves in.

The business with bee-killing pesticides generates a profit of thousands of million euros for the companies and is aimed at securing their control over the industrial system of food production. Some of these pesticides have been banned in Europe since 2013. However, the companies have largely denied that their pesticide business has negative impacts on bees and ecosystems. Instead, they turn to misleading advertisement, greenwashing, aggressive lobbying and pressuring of political institutions.

Syngenta, BASF and Bayer are suing the European Commission for having imposed a ban on their products to protect bees and agriculture in Europe.

Solution?

Join the movement to save the honey bee –

http://publiceye.ch/en/case/syngenta-bayer-basf/

And tell these short minded fools what you think –

Syngenta, Bayer, BASF

 Also read the rest of this article re the plight of the Australian honey bee.

Bee Life European Beekeeping Coordination

Bee Life European Beekeeping Coordination (www.bee-life.eu) is an association composed of European beekeeping and agricultural organisations. Bee Life’s objective is to identify and solve problems related to environmental threats affecting pollinators, especially honey bees.

Facing the dramatic decline in bees, Bee Life gives special attention to environmental threats linked to intensive agriculture.

Bee Life has recently established an international alliance together with more than 45 beekeepers organisations, farmers associations, research institutes, citizen rights and environmental organisations called the “Alliance to Save the Bees and Agriculture”.

Australia’s hottest spring on record has spawn droughts and intense heatwaves; it has been disastrous for honeybees as their hives are melting whilst temperatures soar.

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The Australian continent is no stranger to drought nor heat-waves, but now it’s about feeding 23.4 million people and stoking an insatiable GNP of the 12th largest economy on the globe. Photo from infiniteunknown.net

Aussie honeybees generate about $6B per annum for the 12th largest economy on the globe including pollinating almost 70 percent of food crops, cotton for clothing, over $150M in honey sales and potent medicines used in apis therapy for pain relief of rheumatoid arthritis, fibromyalgia and multiple sclerosis.

2014-01-26-HoneybeeJanuary2014EarthDrReeseHalter
The incomparable honeybee and humans share so many similarities: We both like to dance, travel, enjoy caffeine, nicotine, seek thrills, vote, savor honey and we both get depressed and sick. In the past 6 years alone we have lost over 10 million beehives to Colony Collapase Disorder. Photo from earthfix.opb.org.

Almost 700 species of Eucalyptus produce fewer flowers during heatwaves. Those eucalypt flowers are vital for the health and well being for over 1,600 kinds of wild Australian bees and the domesticated honeybees. In a normal year Eucalyptus is a major nectar contributor toward 30,000 metric tons of honey or enough to feed the Australian nation of 23.4 million people, annually.

2014-01-26-EucalytpusfloweringEarthDrReeseHalter
In good years Eucalyptus flowers profusely providing a constant and reliable source of nectar and pollen for bees throughout Australia. Climate disruption has significantly impaired their ability to flower thereby impinging stress upon Australia’s diverse bee populations. Photo from Whikipedia.

Plants have responded to the stifling heatwaves this summer (2014) across the Australian continent by substantially lowering nectar production. Bees require nectar to make honey — their only food source.

Aussie honeybees are also contending with another crisis this summer as climate disruption has their colonies operating in an emergency mode. Bees store their honey in honeycomb cells made of beeswax, which is now melting because daytime temperatures regularly exceed 95 degrees F.

2014-01-26-BeesonHoneycombEarthDrReeseHalter
It takes 66,00 bee-hours of activity to produce 77,000 splendid hexagonal cells that form the comb of the hive. 2.2 pounds of this hearty wax can support 48 pounds of honey, or more than 20 times its own weight. Photo from kategeagan.com.

So now instead of searching far and wide for flowers to harvest nectar to turn into honey or collect protein-rich pollen to feed the larvae or performing their role as pollinators, the honeybees are spending the lion’s share of each day from 10AM to 7PM searching exclusively for fresh water to cool down their hives.

2014-01-26-HoneybeescollectingpollenEarthDrReeseHalter
It takes about 33 to 110 pounds of pollen a year compared to 132 to 176 pounds of honey a year to maintain a hive for one year. Note the yellow pollen stored in the corbicula or pollen basket on the honeybee’s hind leg. Photo from perthnow.com.au.

Forager bees pass loads of water to receiver bees who in turn tongue-lash the water onto developing eggs and honeycomb. This reduces the temperature of the beeswax and safeguard their stored honey, while the nurse bees fan their wings at 24,500 beatsa minute to help cool down the colony. Other worker bees hover just outside the nest fanning their wings creating a constant flow of oxygen-rich air throughout the colony. Working in concert the beehive has devised an ingenious evaporative cooling system enabling them to survive heatwaves.

This, however, requires a constant source of fresh water and honey or beekeepers to provide a honey substitute such as corn syrup. It’s the increased frequency of theheatwaves within each year and, year after year, that are now taking a brutal toll on the normally prodigious honeybees and their cities of up to 100,000 colonists.

For instance, the intense 2013 spring and early summer heatwaves caused the state of Victoria its worst honey season in 50 years of continuous record keeping. “Feeding bees in the middle of the summer is just about unheard of (in Australia),” said Ken Gell of the Central Victorian Apiarist Group. The vicious heatwaves have return withvengeance this summer (2014) and its costing beekeepers millions of dollars to feed the bees.

It’s not just the lack of honey that is now a concern, but rather it’s the overall health of bees that’s at risk. Scientists know that searing temperatures in the springtime also cause sterile pollen in many plants like almonds, plums, kiwi’s and cherries. Sterile pollen has no protein. Bees collect pollen because it’s of paramount importance for building young bee brains and ensuring strong autoimmune systems. Without protein for larvae those adult bees become unfit, highly susceptible to a wide array of diseases and lethal insecticides like neonicotinoids, which killed 500 billion honeybees over the past 6 years, globally.

2014-01-26-TimeMagazineDyingBeesEarthDrReeseHalter
7.19 billion humans and 1.8 trillion honeybees are locked into the inexorable dance of life on Earth: If the bees die, we die. Photo from Time.com

Experts now predict that Australia’s 2014 honey production will be halved. This poses a series of complicated problems for the processed food industry including consumer products like muesli bars, breads, cakes, pies, sauces and beverages (and many more) that rely upon Aussie honey as their backbone ingredient.

2014-01-26-GoldenAmberHoneyEarthDrReeseHalter
Honeybees produce an astounding 2.65 billion pounds of honey each year that feeds 7.19 billion humans, annually. Some of the minerals in specific concentrations found in honey mimic the concentrations of human blood serum. Thus honey metabolizes easily and can be an important source of essential nutrients. Photo from veganbits.com.

China is the world’s biggest honey producer and it will supply Australia with honey. China, however, uses many banned chemicals and faux honey syrups so Australian Customs and Border Protection Service will be faced with additional costs of thoroughly examining and testing thousands of tons of imported honey. India and Malaysia are other honey exporting nations vying to supply Australia. This much we know about climate disruption: The price of Australian food is set to rise, again.

It would be prudent for Australian’s to scrutinize all processed foods labels, foreign honey will be used when the following wording appears: “Made in Australia from local honey and imported ingredients.”

There’s a lot more at stake here than just processed foods. Australia’s commercial bees are vividly showing scientists the knock-on effect from climate disruption. The occurrence and frequency of heatwaves and droughts are predicted to double, globally; therefore we can expect more bees unable to make honey, and pollinate plants including most of our food crops.

2014-01-26-DroughtSun2EarthDrReeseHalter.jpg
Humans are exceptional problem solvers and exquisite tool makers. It is clearly time that we heed the warnings from our partners the honeybees and plan very carefully for a drier future fraught with more heatwaves. Photo from huffingtonpost.com.

Climate disruption and billions of dying bees are a deadly concoction — global food security is in dire jeopardy.

Earth Dr Reese Halter is a broadcaster, biologist, educator and author of The Incomparable Honeybee and The Economics of Pollination.

Follow Dr. Reese Halter on Twitter: www.twitter.com/DrReeseHalter

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/dr-reese-halter/australian-honeybees-unable-to-make-honey_b_4670475.html

 

8 thoughts on “Without the humble bee, the ecosystem and global food production will be doomed.

    • Thanks for your feedback and yes I totally agree re changing our behaviour to a finite resource – cheers, Steve.

  1. There’s something fishy about a campaign, which ignores one of the biggest companies that have posed the biggest threat to the bee population worldwide, and for far longer than Syngenta, BASF or Bayer. Conspicuous by its glaring absence, where is the name Monsanto?

    It seems they are moving from Frankenstein foods to Frankenstein bees. Is that why this campaign fails to mention the company? Here’s a link your readers might like to read before signing up to this campaign: http://www.honeycolony.com/article/what-is-monsanto-doing-to-our-bees/

    And there are plenty of articles on the net.

    Sorry, I really sympathise and agree with your objectives, and have been commenting on this issue for years now. But I don’t agree with your choice of campaign,

    Nevertheless, I wish you all the luck in the world with your own personal efforts to save the bee population of Australia.

    • Hi stranger – nice to hear from you again Bryan, as I always appreciate your feedback and advice. Many thanks for that link too and you’re right, the lack of mention re Monsanto I must admit had me perplexed! Cheers, Steve.

      • Always a pleasure to see the passion you put into your articles and causes. It seems there are a lot of Australians really fighting for their environment, and using the internet to do it.

        I share your concerns for the future of the planet.

        I’m old enough to have experienced the pleasure of seeing an old English kitchen garden teeming with butterflies and buzzing with different varieties of bees to a backdrop of bird chirping their little hearts out. Unfortunately, though still beautiful, nature no longer exists in such variety and abundance in the UK. The same goes for Spain, where I now live.

        Glad to be of some help. I can’t explain exactly why Monsanto is missing, but there has to be a reason.

        We have to be careful of some of those who sometimes pretend to be our supporters and friends.

        Cheers!

      • Hi Bryan, great to hear from you again – Mmmm Spain must be very nice this time of the year, as it bitterly cold here – as he clings to a roaring fire!
        Yes, Australians are indeed fighting for their environment, because if it was up to local and federal governments we’d have a very polluted and unsustainable environment and this is still a magnificent country. Honestly, you would have thought that the thousands environmental disasters seen over seas would not fall on death ears and blinkered apathy in political circles here – but apathy is something we unfortunately excel in – just take a look at our current Prime Minister re the environment, talk about a Luddite!
        I too remember a thriving ecosystem as a boy growing up in the UK, once a rich abundance of life is now a sad shadow of its former self, something we can still avoid here if we could just stop worrying about ordering the next 7 series BMW and drenching everything with chemicals! Re Monsanto being missing from the article – well spotted and something of an oversight this end and you’re indeed right we have to be so careful to avoid the rhetoric and the spin doctors who specialise in online propaganda.

        Bye for now, talk soon, cheers, Steve.

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