Bee shortage threatens farmland: Mites, diseases, and pesticides are all suspected of contributing to bee colony collapse disorder. The bees are dying at such a fast rate that farmers who rely on bees for pollination are now reserving them five years in advance. NBC’s Anne Thompson reports.
By Adel Heine via dailynewsegypt.com
The current trend of eating a healthy diet has inspired many to switch to organic produce. And while supermarkets now offer organic options, some are taking it a step further and are growing their own vegetables in their gardens, rooftops and balconies. Nawaya, a not-for-profit initiative that promotes true sustainability, organised a workshop recently that introduced yet another possibility to produce your own food: honey.
Urban beekeeping is becoming more popular around the world and according to Sara El Sayed, one of the founders of Nawaya; the workshop fits perfectly with the organisation’s goal of bringing people closer to producing their own food.
“Bees are vitally important to farming, they are needed to pollinate crops,” El Sayed said. “Keeping your own bees will allow you to have access to your own honey, of course,” she added.
Producing your own raw honey is also healthier, according to El Sayed. “Bees collect nectar in an area with a radius of three kilometres so the honey they produce comes from your direct surroundings. The immune system boost that honey provides is greatest when it is directly related to where you live,” she explained.
The workshop provided an introduction to the practicalities of keeping bees and how the bees live. “We do not have any in-house experts on beekeeping so we brought in two, each with a unique practice in beekeeping,” El Sayed said.
The first expert, Sheikh Said, works at St. Catherine’s in Sinai and his bees feed on plants that are endemic to the area. “The plants that grow around St. Catherine’s are used by the local population for their medicinal qualities and the honey that bees produce have these qualities too,” El Sayed said. “Sheikh Said brought one of his colonies with him and showed us how to maintain the lifecycle of the bees.”
Islam Siam, the second expert, works with Sekem and his bees produce a traditional kind of honey from the area around Assiut in Upper Egypt. “His colonies consist of bees that are native to Egypt, as opposed to many other beekeepers that keep an Italian variety of bees,” El Sayed said. “Also the bees are not kept in boxes but in traditional clay columns.”
Most honey is obtained by centrifuging the combs, but the honey Siam produces is made a little differently. “He uses the traditional way of crushing part of the wax in the honey, which means some of the pollen and the antibiotic that the bees produce to keep their own kind healthy is part of the honey. This makes it very healthy and a great boost for the immune system,” El Sayed explained.
Raw honey is believed to help with a variety of health issues besides strengthening the immune system. It is said to be good for many skin diseases as well.
“This workshop was an introduction to what it means to keep bees in an urban environment, how to do it and how to taste the different honeys. We plan to follow it up with how to build and maintain your own colony,” El Sayed said.
When asked if neighbours would not object to people hosting a swarm of bees on the balconies El Sayed said: “Bees are everywhere, we just do not notice them. Having a colony on your balcony might not be ideal but it would be very possible on a rooftop, especially one that is not used very often. Bees will not sting you unless you annoy them.”
To produce your own honey you would need to keep a colony for around one year but it shouldn’t take up too much of your time. “You need to monitor for disease, make sure the temperature for the colony is OK and that there is enough honey to get the bees through the winter months,” El Sayed explained. “It is not hard to do, it gives you a product that is very healthy and you help the environment because you will help to ensure that pollination takes place in your area.”
There are no concrete plans yet to organise the second beekeeping workshop but of those who attended the first one, more than half expressed an interest in having their own colonies. According to El Sayed, beekeeping also serves a greater purpose.
“Besides all the personal benefits we also felt it was necessary to raise the issue of the danger beekeeping is in. Not many people are aware that bees are under threat in many parts of the world due to the use of pesticides and without bees there will be no pollination which means no produce,” she said.
Bees pollinate much of our food supply, but a pesticide threatens their survival
BY RICHARD SCHIFFMAN
If you are an almond farmer in the Central Valley of California, where 80 percent of the world’s production is grown, you had a problem earlier this spring. Chances are there weren’t enough bees to pollinate your trees. That’s because untold thousands of colonies — almost half of the 1.6 million commercial hives that almond growers depend on — failed to survive the winter, making this the worst season for beekeepers in anyone’s memory. And that is saying a lot, because bees have been faring increasingly poorly for years now.
Much of this recent spike in bee mortality is attributed to Colony Collapse Disorder, a mysterious condition where all the worker bees in a colony simply fly off as a group and never make it back to the hive. Scientists have been studying this odd phenomenon for years and they still aren’t sure why it is happening.
But a slew of recent studies have pointed an accusing finger at a class of pesticides, the ubiquitous neonicotonoids (neonics for short), which include imidacloprid and clothianidin, manufactured by Germany’s agro-giant Bayer, and thiamethoxam, made by Syngenta. The neonics, the world’s leading insecticides, are applied on a whopping 75 percent of the farmlands in America, according to Charles Benbrook, research professor at Washington State University’s Center for Sustaining Agriculture and Natural Resources. Neonics are a so-called systemic pesticide. That means that they are taken up by the plant’s vascular system and get impregnated into all parts of the plant that an insect encounters, including the leaves, seeds, nectar and pollen. Corn and soybean seeds are typically coated with the pesticide before planting. Fruit trees and many vegetables are sprayed.
Few researchers believe that the neonics alone are to blame for the bees’ troubles, which appear to result from a perfect storm of contributing environmental factors. Pollinators have been called the canaries in the coal mine for ecosystem health. The declining numbers of both wild species and domesticated bee colonies worldwide is regarded as a troubling barometer of the state of the environment, reflecting habitat loss, the spread of agricultural monocultures, infestation by viral pathogens and bee parasites like the Varroa mite, climate change and even electromagnetic radiation, which seems to interfere with bees’ homing ability.
But the neonics, which contains a chemical related to nicotine that attacks an insect’s nervous system, have been demonstrated to kill bees — and especially the queens — when applied in high enough doses. And a growing body of research suggests that at sub-lethal concentrations, these agro-chemicals mess with their navigation, foraging and communication abilities, throw off their reproductive patterns, and weaken bee immune systems, making them susceptible to sudden colony collapse.
One study published by scientists at Purdue University in 2012 showed high levels of clothianidin and thiamethoxam in bees found dead near agricultural fields. Other bees at the hives were observed exhibiting uncoordinated movement, tremors and convulsions, all signs of insecticide poisoning.
In yet another study conducted by scientists at the Harvard School of Public Health, which I reported on in Reuters last April, researchers actually re-created colony collapse disorder in several honeybee hives simply by administering small doses of a popular neonic, imidacloprid.
These and other recent studies led the European Union to call on Monday for a provisional ban on neonics for two years to see what impact this has on Europe’s endangered bees. The use of the pesticides had already been temporarily suspended in Germany, France and Italy.
The vote in Brussels was split (15 of the 27 EU countries voted for the ban). The British Newspaper the Observer said that there was “a fierce behind the scenes” campaign to prevent the ban. The paper reported that agricultural multinational Syngenta, facing what it called “serious damage to the integrity of our product and reputation,” threatened to sue individual European Union officials involved in publishing the damning report about the dangers of neonics. The U.K. voted against the ban, alleging that the science is inconclusive and that barring the pesticides would be hugely expensive and potentially cripple food production.
But the ban had lots of public support, including a petition signed by over 2.5 million Europeans. And it was universally applauded by environmentalists, who have been fighting for it for years. Andrew Pendleton of the U.K division of Friends of the Earth said: “This decision is a significant victory for common sense and our beleaguered bee populations. Restricting the use of these pesticides could be an historic milestone on the road to recovery for these crucial pollinators.”
Pressure has been building in the U.S. to restrict the neonics. A coalition of beekeepers and environmental groups filed suit in March against the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for its failure to ban the pesticides, saying that the agency didn’t consider the impact of the pesticides on vital pollinators. The American Bird Conservancy published in March a review of 200 studies on neonics, including industry research obtained through the U.S. Freedom of Information Act, which concluded that the neonics are lethal to birds and other wildlife and to the aquatic systems on which they depend.
These threats to wildlife are significant, but the world’s attention is rightly focused on bees, which are responsible for pollinating nearly a third of our food supply. These industrious insects are in serious trouble. And if their decline continues unchecked, we humans may soon be in trouble too.
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A local couple is among a group of urban beekeepers striving for relaxed regulations on their trade, an effort that provides a sanctuary for bees, which pollinate 80 percent of the world’s plants.
In recent years, honeybees have been impacted by a phenomenon known as Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD), a problem that results in adult honeybees disappearing from their hives. The cause remains unknown, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
“There’s so much adding to the problem that it can’t be any one thing,” Hancock Park resident Sean Austin said.
Austin, along with his fiancée Anne Marie Host, tends to bees at the HoneyLove Sanctuary in Simi Valley, where Austin’s sister, Chelsea McFarland, runs the nonprofit conservation organization with her husband, Rob…
In May, Councilman Bill Rosendahl drafted a motion to have the city formally support beekeeping initiatives in the city and decrease the inhumane removal of the insects. Chelsea said the motion is now in the city’s Planning and Land Use Committee.
Although some people may be concerned about living near a beehive, there are likely 9 to 11 colonies of bees living in every mile of Los Angeles right now, she said…
Austin said he and his fiancée would keep bees at their home near Larchmont Boulevard if they could.
“It’s actually a really cool pet,” he said.
While people continue to sign HoneyLove’s petition on change.org and vie for legalized beekeeping, HoneyLove goes to schools and educates children about the necessity of honeybees.
“A lot of fear around bees comes from early childhood experiences,” Chelsea said, adding that her nephew was recently stung by a wasp, and he now has an aversion to bees. “We need kids to grow to like bees.”
Next, HoneyLove and its supporters will undergo a pesticide-free movement. Chelsea said that once a person thinks about the smallest common denominator — the honeybee — their concern for the environment increases substantially.
“Bees are the gateway drug to a sustainable lifestyle,” she added.
[click here to read the full article via parklabreanewsbeverlypress.com]
Today we’re excited to share HoneyLove, one of our Charity Pot partners with you. We knew there was no better way to get you buzzing than to have Chelsea and Rob write about the amazing work that they do, and all the ways that you can help!
In the Spring of 2011, HoneyLove co-founders Chelsea and Rob McFarland would have never guessed that a swarm of honey bees showing up in their backyard would provide the inspiration for what has quickly become their life’s passion—a non-profit organization committed to conserving honey bees. Fast-forward to 2013 and HoneyLove has created an impressive local organization with a global footprint.
Bees pollinate 80% of the world’s plants including 90 different food crops, which means that 1 out of every 3 bites of food is thanks to a bee. However, since 2006, more than one third of honeybee colonies collapsed nationwide, a global phenomenon now called Colony Collapse Disorder or CCD. And while there is no one smoking gun causing CCD, scientists now widely agree that it is a result of a combination of factors, made manifest by industrial beekeeping and the use of agricultural pesticides such as neonicotinoids.
While the situation is dire, honey bees permanently living in urban environments seem to be relatively unaffected by CCD. Why? Urban bees find more than enough varied forage in home gardens, landscaping and weedy areas to feed themselves throughout the seasons. And since the vast majority of the forage in the city is pesticide-free—because most homeowners aren’t dumping industrial-strength chemicals on their yards—bees have one less mortal enemy to contend with. While the city represents the bees’ best shot at surviving and thriving, HoneyLove still has a lot of work to do to ensure we will have a healthy ecosystem in the future. HoneyLove.org inspires and educates urban beekeepers at free educational workshops and beekeeping mentoring sessions. Attendees learn all about how to become urban beekeepers along with fun and interesting facts about bees; for example:
• Bees collect 4 things, water, nectar, pollen, and propolis.
• The honey bee is the only insect that produces food eaten by man.
• 1 lb of honey is the product of bees visiting two million flowers and flying 55,000 miles.
• Honey is the only food that does not spoil (bacteria can’t grow in it, and because of its low moisture content and low pH – honey can last indefinitely).
You can learn more fascinating bee facts here
“By working with LUSH’s Charity Pot, we were able to really step up our education efforts in a short time. We host monthly workshops ranging from real practical beekeeping topics to things like mead-making, beeswax symposiums, honey tastings, and how to plant a pollinator-friendly garden. We try to find something for everyone. We want to give people easy ways to contribute to the future of honey bees, knowing full well that not everyone wants to put on the suit and do the whole beekeeper thing” explains Rob.
“On HoneyLove’s website everyone can find something to do to help the bees, ranging ‘easy’ to ‘hard-core’, depending on how sticky you want to get your hands” jokes Chelsea.
Easy ways you can help today:
PLANT bee-friendly plants in your yard and put out a water source. Bee-friendly plants include native and old-fashioned “heirloom” varieties, borage, sage, mint, thyme, lavender and most other herbs too.
BEE INSPIRED on the HoneyLove BLOG by all the buzz, photos, recipes, DIY projects and more!
SIGN THE PETITION to help legalize beekeeping in Los Angeles! You don’t even have to be a resident to sign. Dozens of other cities have legalized urban beekeeping including San Francisco, Portland, Seattle, Denver, and New York—help HoneyLove add LA to that list!
BECOME A HONEYLOVE MEMBER to join in the action and attend workshops
MAKE A DONATION it is 100% tax-deductible
LEARN MORE ways to get involved
VOTE HERE –> http://myla2050.maker.good.is/projects/HoneyLove
Spearheaded by the Goldhirsh Foundation, LA2050 believes in the power of Angelenos to shape the future of our region. Please take 30 seconds to VOTE WITH HONEYLOVE to make Los Angeles a PESTICIDE FREE ZONE!!
Help us save the honey bees!!
Your contribution directly supports the educational outreach, community action and advocacy efforts to protect the health and well-being of honey bees. HoneyLove is a 501(c)(3) tax exempt organization. Your donation is 100% tax-deductible.