Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Bee Crisis! Answer: Keep More Bees!!!

I've just seen this article in the Guardian. It seems the UK Government is finally waking up to the importance of bees in the environment.



Worried about pesticides, cold wet weather and varroa mites (so far my girls appear free of these) they are wondering what to do about it. I'm not sure about this weather angle concern, as here in Missouri the winter is more severe than in the UK and my bees are just simple Italian Honey Bees, the same as those kept in the UK and they're doing fine!,

Perhaps if more people kept bees (domestically) in a sub-urban environment then this may help to stabilise things. I have heard of a couple of hives being kept in downtown St Louis on top of an apartment block and they do very well, and this is hardly the greenest city centre. My bees are kept in my front garden and they bother nobody (in fact most people who pass either don't notice them or are fascinated by them) and they do not appear troubled by the weather - if they are nand they have problems finding food, I can always feed them.

In a suburban area, a hive's exposure to pesticides may be lower, colonies would not be moved as often as commercial hives (so may suffer less stress?) and there should be adequate supplies of pollen and nectar i.e. parks and trees - as it's not just flowers the bees harvest from). This may even encourage municipalities to plant more bee friendly trees (e.g. European Linden) in public places. I can't see a downside yet!

OK, so all this "Goode Life" stuff may not help large commercial farms (mono-culture strikes again!) but it could make a difference. Maybe some farmers could diversify and keep their own bees or encourage keepers to establish permanent hives on their land. Yes, they would have to plant crops that flower at different times of year (or leave areas set aside as habitat for the pollinators to live off to keep them going once the main commercial crops have finished. Studies have shown that productivity is not diminished by including these measures. This would reduce the distances hives are transported and therefore reduce the stress on colonies and farmers may even have a new revenue stream - HONEY - imagine that a farm that has more than one crop.

Come on, it's not hard to increase bee awareness and it's not difficult to do something about it. It sounds like we will spend millions studying this and then realise that if more people kept bees the problem may not be so great! And how's this for a radical idea - give beekeepers a financial incentive to help keep and maintain hives.


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