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Save the bees?

This might seem like a weird question, but are you sure we need to "save the bees"?

I keep seeing images like the one below and I feel that the message is a little simplistic and may be causing some confusion.

SavetheBees_graphic
image source: https://themuseinthemirror.com/2015/06/07/bee-kind-and-save-the-bees/

First let me say that I absolutely support the concept that we need to save our pollinators, of which honeybees are one species.  In Australia we have lots of native bees and wasps (and flies!) that also pollinate, and these insects should also be considered in this discussion.  We do not rely on introduced honeybees alone to pollinate crops and wild plants.

The quote from Albert Einstein seems to have been mis-attributed, which makes sense as I don't think bees were really an area of expertise (he was smart, but he didn't know everything!).  Whether there would be "no more plants" is also debatable.  Many plants are not pollinated by honeybees or any insects, in particular grains and grass (which feeds beef).  Our diets may be limited, but we would not starve completely.  

Ironically the photo shows honeybees flying over a field of canola - a GM monoculture that doesn't really feed us at all, and is likely sprayed with chemicals that will actually harm the bees.  The photo below shows signs next to (what I assume are) conventionally grown monoculture crops, again, these are likely doing more harm than good for bees and other pollinators.  Also tomatoes are self-pollinating...  


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image source:  https://themuseinthemirror.com/2015/06/07/bee-kind-and-save-the-bees/

I don't mean to be completely negative here, I just find these images, which are shared widely on social media, don't really tell the whole story.  Maybe they are more relevant in Europe where bees are native, but in Australia we need to consider our native pollinators too.  I do agree it would be awful if we had to resort to hand-pollinating our orchards, as has happened in parts of China due to intensive monoculture farming reducing native pollinator populations.  After seeing a massive improvement in the yield of pumpkins and capsicums in my garden since having a honeybee hive nearby, I see first-hand the advantage of healthy pollinators, they are certainly worth saving.  I think we need to be clear about what we are saving bees from....

Commercial beekeeping and industrial agriculture are inextricably linked.  Monoculture crops are pollinated by bees temporarily moved to the area by "migratory" bee keepers who are paid for pollination services.  The bees are fed antibiotics to help them survive on the limited diet available, while farmers continue to use pesticides and herbicides that affect the bees. Native pollinators cannot survive because there is nothing for them to eat, with weeds and wildflowers eliminated.  The only way we can save bees and other pollinators is to change the way we farm, not one beehive at a time.


image source: http://www.simpleorganiclife.org/


This what I think you need to know about pollinators in Australia:
  • We need to save all pollinators, including honeybees, because they are essential for the life cycle of many plants, including those that we eat.  We should do this for the good of the ecosystem in general and not just for our own self-interest (or for industrial agriculture/ commercial beekeepers to benefit).
  • Support organic small-scale agriculture - the two things that are affecting the survival of pollinators are chemical sprays and lack of habitat due to monoculture agriculture (everything flowers at once and then there is nothing to eat, pollinators need a variety of flowers including weeds to feed them throughout the year).  We need to support small farms that don't spray chemicals and that grow a variety of crops to provide lots of food for pollinators.
  • Plant flowers in your garden, particularly trees and shrubs which will provide a large number of flowers at once, and let your veges and weeds flower too, bees love thistles!
  • Create places for native bees and wasps to live - build a solitary bee/wasp hotel (I have started one, will post photos when I finish cutting all the bamboo).  you can encourage native pollinators without needing to keep a honeybee hive.
  • Think twice before you get a honeybee hive yourself if you're not going to have the time to really care for it, you will not be saving the bees if your hive is not healthy or doesn't have enough food for itself - as Rusty from Honeybee Suite says:
"I believe that if you truly want to save the bees, you can be more effective by tending the environment than by tending a hive. You can do both, of course, but you cannot ignore the real problem. Bees and flowers co-evolved and remain co-dependent. If we want to save the bees—any bees—we must first save the flowers."

eight acres: do we need to save the bees?


What do you think?  What are you doing to save the pollinators?  

Comments

  1. Great post, we have laid one paddock over to a wild area, the grasses and wildflowers can set set seed and the area is only cut after flowering, we are also planting up an orchard of mixed fruit trees, we have large areas of lavender and we are surrounded by mixed broad leaf and evergreen woodlands and forests, today I was watching the bees in the field maple trees, it was alive with buzzing of bumble bees and honey bees from our hives, I have just taken delivery of wild cherry trees that are to be planted around the perimeters giving early blossom feeds for pollinators, we are totally organic and so are our neighbouring farms, we are in a lucky position but doing a lot for wildlife as well. Its not just about making it look pretty its about living with nature.

    ReplyDelete
  2. This is very encouraging and eye opening post Liz! I can just agree with you. For the past years we developed our garden to grow as natural as possible. Our garden is now chaotically beautiful, packed with an almost all year round food for several garden friend species including a variety of bees! It's never quiet out there! Two years ago we started beekeeping - one hive, but early this spring, we lost them:( We didn't know exactly why or how, but that one day 'eerie quietness' in the garden was devastating for us all. Next week, we are blessed to get two swarms of new honeybee families in our garden again:) We are not giving up and will learn and do much better this time. Bees make a garden happy and just let everything in the garden bloom:)

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  3. Wow - you have just totally changed my perspective in many ways in this post. I love it when a writer can do that to my brain. thank you

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  4. Sadly, they also adopt this approach for human health too. The food production side of things, has been so warped to originate and be kept alive, completely from a petrie dish, it now takes countless laboratories, to keep up with the research into all sundry of chronic illness (and once rare cancers) plaguing human populations now.

    Making our food "safer" with massive food production factories, like saving the bees now, all comes down to how we do business for the majority. When we start to see more small scale, organic farms and less monoculture ones, we'll start to see the favour tip in balance of both bees, and human health. For we're all connected to the environment, after all.

    Good post to read, and I'm glad you shared your thoughts. :)

    ReplyDelete
  5. Great post Liz and a good read as I think you are spot on with all of your points. I do believe that pesticides are our great bee enemy and that small organic farms with a diversity of crops and beneficial insects should be further encouraged. Trouble is apparently, these kind of farms are not viable, and yet we live on this kind of property and have enough of all that we need.

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Thanks, I appreciate all your comments, suggestions and questions, but I don't always get time to reply right away. If you need me to reply personally to a question, please leave your email address in the comment or in your profile, or email me directly on eight.acres.liz at gmail.com

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