Toronto’s Globe and Mail posted an inexplicably tepid article recently, “Pesticides, Pollination and the Bees’ Needs” http://www.theglobeandmail.com/globe-debate/editorials/pesticides-pollination-and-the-bees-needs/article19782564/
Weakly waving a hand and saying, bees in danger….mehhhh…is an odd choice for publication. But I invite you to read it as a stellar example of “The Band Plays On” journalism. The remainder of this blog post is from my comment in the Comments section for that article.
We have, as the Globe and Mail suggests, moved well beyond the identification of Colony Collapse Disorder to a deeper understanding of the phenomenon.
Bee colonies are collapsing worldwide from multiple causes (of which Varroa mite infestation and the ubiquity of neonicotinoid use are the prime factors). But bee declines are still well beyond a sustainable level, and the outlook is far from hopeful, particularly in Canada.
Canada’s bee industry is completely dependent on the import of fresh bee packages yearly from New Zealand, which itself is the last country on earth to remain free enough of pests and diseases to offer a clean source of queens and bees for export. The twin spectres of resistant AFB strains and the Small Hive Beetle arriving in Canada have forced us to keep the border closed to USA bee package imports.
Canada’s loss statistics are much more complex than a single average, with the big pollination operations staggering under the weight of their own bee losses and the increased expense of spring packages. Thanks to continent wide factors that include a hard winter in the east, a persistent drought in the southwest (home of most of the big bee breeding operations in the USA), continuing pressure from massive forage habitat loss, neonicotinoids in crops and groundwaters, Varroa and Nosema, bee package prices nearly doubled this spring from an already obscene level.
More importantly, bee scientists and watchers agree that in most of Canada (the warm winter areas are possibly doing a bit better) there are no feral honeybee colonies left; they simply can’t make it through the winter without assistance. They are too hungry, too diseased, too ridden with pests and pesticides. There is no natural reservoir of honey bees to draw upon in this country.
The future of honeybees = the ability of beekeepers to earn a sustainable living.
Presently that equation is under extreme threat. Because bees, and specifically the domesticated honey bee, are critical to our agricultural and food system, everyone needs to sit up and take action on this issue. Do you want to help the honey bees, do you like to eat the products of pollination? You don’t have to wait for regulators to wake up: buy organic, because if we don’t buy what they spray, they won’t spray it any longer
Plant season long bee forage in your gardens and on your roofs and balconies, that helps honey bees and the also struggling native bees (which by the way are important but remain relatively poor pollinators for most of our non-native crops). Plant spring flowering heathers, catmint, clovers, dandelions, sunflowers, Joe Pye Weed, herbs, fennels and dills, Phacelia and Echium vulgare. Lobby your local municipality, landowners and garden clubs to plant pollinator corridors, and forage meadows on all fallow lands. Write your governments asking for a ban on neonicotinoids, and also on tank mixes. Grow your own flower and vegetables from seed. Keep bees yourself!
And buy local raw honey, to help keep your local beekeepers in the game.