Saturday, July 27, 2013

My friends the bees are in serious trouble, folks

It's such a gorgeous winter's day here in Sydney, sunny yet cool, the lavender is blooming and the bees are buzzing around every fragrant mauve bloom, collecting pollen. This is how it should be, and this is how it is going to be for as long as I can help matters. Yet there are forces at work well beyond both the bees' control and mine which are putting our little pollen-gathering friends in peril, not just one by one, but as a whole species here on the planet. New research just released paints one of those hopeless pictures, like when you hear a friend has been diagnosed with cancer. You know people can survive it and you hope your friend can especially, but you just feel helpless and sad, at least at first.

A useless bystander, all I can really do for the bees is hope and maybe at least practise what I preach about how gardeners, farmers and our society at large should work with nature, not poison and destroy it.

Here's the story which depressed me so much when I read it last night.

While I summarise what the article by Todd Woody at 'Quartz' says, I'll put my summary beneath some photos I've just taken of my little friends enjoying themselves here at my place. God I hope they never disappear.

It seems the phenomenon of Colony Collapse Disorder, where
whole colonies of bees die off suddenly, isn't due to one single
chemical cause, it's a combination of chemicals at work. The
article above calls it a 'witch's brew of pesticides and fungicides.'
And it's not always just the direct action of chemicals which
kills the bees; sometimes the chemicals reduce the bees' ability
to resist parasites, which then kill the bees. 
The surprise finding is that fungicides are playing a major role
in the decline of bee colonies. Up until now they weren't on all
that many scientists' lists of major suspects. Now they are.  
Bee pollen collected by researchers contained an
average of 9 different pesticides and fungicides.
Some samples contained as many as 21
different agricultural chemicals.
This is just my personal opinion, but the level of reform needed
in the use of chemical sprays in agriculture to reverse the
decline of bees is on a par with the task of convincing vested
interests to do something about climate change. And we all

know how slowly, and how badly, those efforts are proceeding.
So, please read the full article, as it's important to understand problems fully, no matter how powerless or depressed they make you feel.

At home, all we can do is encourage bees in our own environment. It's a genuinely good but puny start. No chemical sprays – definitely no fungicides! – plant lots of flowers and spread the word. 

By the way, if you're wondering what's the name of the lavender our bees are loving, it's a modern hybrid, two baby plants of which were given to Pam and I at a gardening event last year. It's called Lavandula x hybrid 'Little Posie Mauve'. Can't stand the corny name, but it's a nice little thing about 50cm high and wide that is currently flowering its head off in the cool winter sunshine, and it's as covered in bees as it is in flowers, which is how things should be.

1 comment:

Lanie at Edible Urban Garden said...

Great post Jamie. So true, the future for bees (and therefore our entire food chain) doesn't look too rosy at the moment. This comes as I just read an article in Organic Gardener by Jerry Colby-Williams about planting an insect attracting patch. So thanks to you and Jerry - I've just ordered a Green Harvest insect friendly flower seed mix.