Concerned about the environment? So are we – not only do we rely on bees for our livelihood, but all our lives rely on bees. To mark World Environment Day 2018 these are the headlines making the news around the world this week.
Eerie silence falls on Shetland cliffs that once echoed to seabirds’ cries – Climate change has caused a catastrophic drop in the numbers of terns, kittiwakes and puffins.
Whale dies from eating more than 80 plastic bags – Pilot whale was found barely alive in Thai canal and vomited up five bags during fruitless rescue attempts.
With headlines like these it’s no wonder the United Nations initiated a day to help raise awareness on the environment and how climate change, pollution and energy are affecting the earth, eco system and wildlife. We support the protection of bees including the recent vote by the EU to ban chemical pesticides, neonicotinoids, which will come into force in Europe by the end of this year.
Martin Dermine, at Pesticide Action Network Europe, says, “Authorising neonicotinoids a quarter of a century ago was a mistake and led to an environmental disaster. Today’s vote is historic”
Urbanisation, pollution and over consumption are putting a strain on the earth’s natural resources, affecting our health and the decline in the number of bees on the planet is a real concern.
The toxic impact of pollution on every organism
We spoke to Keith Littlewood, BSC, PgDip Endocrinology, Rehabilitation and Performance Coach at Balanced Body Mind based in Dubai and he believes, “What’s increasingly worrying is that the bees like most species, are not alone in the path of harm. There’s robust data that shows the increasing deleterious effects of pollutants across the globe that spares no organisms’ biology. The official endocrine society stance states that environmental pollutants, like plastics, fossil fuel hydrocarbons (soot/exhaust) and pesticides among others, are intimately linked to diabetes, metabolic syndrome and cancer. These aren’t isolated precautionary tales, the effects of these compounds have been well known for over fifty years in some cases”.
Keith also speaks about research being done on the effects of wireless and electromagnetic frequencies on biology. Similar research is also being done in relation to bees.
If there is any doubt about whether bees are worth our protection, Carla Mucavi, Director of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) says, “Bees play a crucial role in increasing crop yields and promoting food security and nutrition. Without them, we could lose a variety of food such as potatoes, pepper, coffee, pumpkins, carrots, apples, almonds, tomatoes, just to name a few. In short, without bees, FAO cannot achieve a world without hunger.”
And if a financial incentive is needed, honeybee pollination is estimated to be worth up to £200m to the UK alone.
How the environment impacts bees
Reasons for Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD)
- Diseases like the invasive varroa mite.
- Over exposure to chemicals applied to crops or for in-hive insect or mite control.
- Mass production and commercial practices when transporting bees to many locations.
- Changes to the bee’s natural habitat and inadequate forage leading to poor nutrition.
We source raw unadulterated honey for Balqees by working with beekeeper co-operatives and small operations so the raw honey is traceable, such as High Peak Estate, New Zealand (in image above). Riath, our founder, travels to some of the most remote places on the earth to ensure we are getting the purest, natural product. It seems there are fewer places in the world like this, with a healthy bio diversity allowing the bees to do their job and thrive.
Learning from unspoiled habitats
One of places Riath visited recently is Australia which has an efficient agri-food infrastructure with strict import rules preventing disease from entering the country. It also helps that it is a long way from the rest of the world. Australia is free of the varroa mite which gives added confidence. In South Australia on Kangaroo Island there is the only pure colony of Ligurian bees in the world. The island was declared a bee sanctuary in 1885 and no other bees have been imported since. A breeding and research resource such as this disease-free and genetically pure strain of bee may well become pivotal in the fight against Colony Collapse Disorder. It seems sad we are having to think in these terms but needs must, though I hope we can all play a part in reducing the risk of CCD.
Ways you can help bees and the planet
How beeswax can help or hinder the environment
Mind your beeswax: global price surge leaves bearded Australians in a tangle – Australia is one of the few countries in the world where hives are free of the debilitating varroa mite.
Are you trying to make better choices to lead a more sustainable life to help improve the prospects of the planet? Beeswax, which is a natural by-product of the hive, is being used to make wax-coated reusable cloth covers to replace the use of plastic clingfilm. Beeswax is also being used to make natural lip balms and with the growing trend in men keeping beards and moustaches there is a demand for natural wax for styling.
Unfortunately, growing demand for this natural product is pushing the prices up. Scammers are taking advantage on this and, as reported in the UK’s Guardian newspaper in April 2018, the Australian Honey Bee Industry Council claimed a sample of imported wax from China was 85% paraffin and contained traces of varroa pesticide. A spokesperson from the council said, “It suggests to me that this is probably being sold because the price is so attractive. People are trying to scam it and trying to make big bucks.” A warning to shop responsibly, ask questions about the source of products and to understand the value of sustainable spending.
Good news for Welsh bees
A National Beekeeping Centre has opened in Wales providing an opportunity for children to learn about the importance of honeybees and they get to sample lots of local honey too. The Welsh honeybee is reported to be increasingly under threat from climate change and loss of wild flower meadows. They have a Hive Aid scheme that lets people adopt a beehive and hold regular courses to train new generations of beekeepers.
Protect all bees
A healthy environment needs bees and that includes all bees. There are over 20,000 variety of bees in the world and all bees need protecting. Marla Spivak at the University of Minnesota, one of the most prominent bee researchers in the U.S.A. says, “Honeybees were the portal, the door to much larger issues, conservation issues in general. Concern for honeybees helped more people understand why it’s important to have more land covered with wildflowers and trees and free from pesticides, such a landscape is good for both honeybees and wild bees. My preference is not to pit one bee against another. I would prefer to live on a planet where there are bountiful flowers to support all of our bees. But the bee that needs our help the most may be that tiny green bee in your garden and not the honeybee”.
Read more about what we can learn from bees
Let us know what you think about the choices we make as consumers, paying more for quality over quantity and ways we can help protect bees and the environment. #WorldEnvironmentDay