The Plight of the Bumble Bee

When Arthur Conan Doyle retired Sherlock Holmes for the last time, he had the fictional detective spending his retirement keeping bees. It is, like coarse fishing, a most innocent occupation. Bees live in hives and serve for humans two purposes. They product honey, and everyone needs a little honey in their lives, and they pollenate plants.

I have never kept bees but I have eaten honey which is made by bees. I have eaten honey in dozens of countries of the world where thousands of people keep millions of bees, and I have spread honey on bread, mixed it with yogurt and drank it with hot water and lemon.

Mostly bees are benign and helpful to humans. I knew a man who died as a result of a reaction to a bee’s sting, but that reaction is fortunately very rare. Many folk find it dangerous to eat peanuts. Occasional danger from innocent species is something with which humans have always had to cope throughout history. Far more danger comes from other humans, than it does from plants and animals.

Bees have been in declining numbers. If bee numbers decline not only will there be less and more expensive honey but there will be a bad effect on the environment as many of the plants that we enjoy or which are an intrinsic part of the ecological food chain will decline. Our environment will be much poorer as a result and we do not know how nature will react if an intrinsic part of the food chain is lost forever. It is unlikely to be a pleasant experience for those of us you remain as part of that food chain. If you disturb an ecological system, you can never protect humanity fully from all the consequences.

The European Food Safety Agency thinks that the decline in the number of bees is partly as a result of three specific pesticides which humans developed and use to control pests in farming food. These are imidacloprid, thiamethoxam and clothianindin which belong to a class of insecticides called neonicotinoids and they paralyse the nervous system of insects. They are nerve chemical warfare for insects. These pesticides are not essential to the production of food. They may even be unnecessary, because humans are quite gullible when it comes to buying what are sold as panaceas and sometimes are simply snake oil.

Anyway, as a result of the work of the European Food Safety Agency it was suggested that these three pesticides are banned for two years, in order to give the bee population and other pollinating insects a chance to recover. A vote in the European Parliament failed to reach the majority needed with the United Kingdom and Germany opposing the two year proposed ban.

Of course the industries that produce and sell these pesticides say that there is insufficient evidence to blame the decline in the numbers of pollinators on these chemicals and also claim that failing to use these pesticides would create massive problems for farmers.  The debate is at a similar stage to the debate about the effects of smoking in the 1950s or the effect of lead in petrol in the 1960s. Eventually the science more or less prevailed in those debates after a long time of arguing probably because the dangers of smoking and lead in petrol were directly to human health. Trying to ban a product that has an indirect effect on human health is always much more difficult.

2 Responses

  1. As a bee keeper I can add a few finer details to this debate.

    Firstly not all foods are pollinated by bees, but also thousands of other flying insects, many of the mono crops are being pollinated by bee farmers and are fairly badly treated which accounts for around 50% of their losses, whilst being driven around the country and thrust into the huge crops, thus bad management has contributed towards their decline, better management practices has halted this model of neglect.

    The main reason for the decline is due to the bees becoming wet by physical spraying, the rush to produce food more quickly has created an unatural balance, where nature dictates when the insects fly, as the heat of the day rises, the bees react and venture outside only to be sprayed with insecticides, if the timings were better managed the wetting out phase of the plants would be dry before the insects come to the plants/mono crops.

    In china there are entire areas where all the majority of the honey bees and insects have been lost to airborne pollutants, that they have had to resort to manually pollinate their fruit trees, but it can still be done.

    Today the bees like us humans are under attack by a plethora of drugs, these drugs are now present in all of the worlds remanufactured wax foundation preperations, that the companies are no longer using old wax combs that have been used by the brood layer, the bees themselves are sick due to the intervention of these in hive products, and its not simply down to the N-tin- oids, but an overall exposure model.

    And often overlooked is the weather and flying time of the honey bee, it the weather is cold and wet they simply do not venture outside, infact if a hive is out and the weather suddenly changes for the worse an entire hive can persish before reaching the safety of the ready made hotels we supply them. What I have personally recorded using Stevenson Screen Tech is a maked cooling of the honey run period, the weather has cooled down, thus effecting the bees and all other nectar loving insects.

    And last but not least, there is now evidence of man himself creating many of the problems by geoengineering/or known as chemtrailing, this is really taking its toll on the planets food supply, see these studies on the subject.

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