There is no doubt that the honeybee is in trouble. Colony Collapse Disorder and honeybee population decline are becoming familiar terms in our language. There is also a great deal of information and discussion freely available in the media and on the internet about threats to the honeybee. As a community we now need to fully appreciate the direct link between threats to the honeybee, and threats to our own wellbeing; without the honeybee we lose in excess of 30% of our food production through loss of the pollination activity of the honeybee.
Unfortunately there is no one single problem for the honeybee that, if cured, would relieve their stress. Rather, they are facing a myriad of stressors that is causing an alarming decline in populations worldwide.
This highly informative TED talk by Marla Spivak presents a summary of the major stressors to bees, but also likens the experience of honeybees to being a mirror for human experience. Much like the canary in the coalmine, the demise of the honeybee can tell us that all is not right for people in the world.
At the time of writing, we are also seeing the plight of the honeybee receiving widespread coverage in the mainstream media. On May 31 Channel 9 screened “Bee Scared” on its 60 Minutes program. I think this is a must watch.
Our local bee hero, Dr Denis Anderson, is the person who identified and named the deadly Varroa Destructor mite as a bee researcher with the CSIRO. Though he no longer works with the CSIRO, he continues to champion strategic bee research through Beesdownunder. Short promos of the documentary featuring Denis, Honeybee Blues, are available for very informative viewing.
So what are our opportunities to do something about the plight of the honeybee? There are many:
- Support organisations who challenge large companies to stop selling bee killing pesticides
- Support organisations who challenge the use of bee killing Neonicitinoids in agriculture
- Support Landcare in their attempt to prevent an incursion of Varroa bearing Asian honeybees into Australia
- Consider the impact of mono-cropping and climate change on loss of habitat and forage for bees
- Plant bee friendly plants in your garden and local area
- Consider joining a local beekeeping club and maybe keeping bees
- And, of course, contribute to strategic bee research through Beesdownunder by continuing to enjoy de’bee signature balms!
I am constantly impressed by the number of people who approach the de’bee stall at markets with questions and commentary about bees; “Do you keep bees?" “My grandfather was a beekeeper and I love bees” “I want a beehive – how do I get started?” It confirms to me that the world of the honeybee colony is fascinating and that the system of order, efficiency and collectivism, seemingly unchanged over millennia, is captivating and enchanting.
I do not want to imagine a world bereft of the honeybee. I would miss the beauty, the buzz, the golden honey and wax, and the tireless work to deliver food to our table. So I will continue to share enormous enthusiasm, support and respect for the bees, and hope to learn more about them everyday.