Efforts can be made to save bees

Bees are in trouble but everyone can do their part

Bees are in trouble around the world for a variety of reasons, but there are important steps we can take to save them.

By Heather Clay

Without honey bees, humans would be restricted to a very bland diet. One third of our food is pollinated by these amazing little creatures as they transfer pollen from male anthers to female stigma and initiate the production of fruit or seeds. Without bees for pollination, our food sources would be limited to wind pollinated plants such as wheat, rice, corn, or oats. There would be no fruit, nuts or seeds and no alfalfa or canola to feed beef and chickens.

Bees are in trouble around the world for a variety of reasons. It has been a perfect storm of poor nutrition, diseases, pests, pesticides and climate change. A recent study showed goldernrod, which is an important source of pollen and nectar for bees, has lost 30 per cent of its protein content since 1842. The loss correlates precisely with rising carbon dioxide levels in our atmosphere, a direct result of human industrial activity. Climate change may have consequences that we never anticipated.

Over the past decade, beekeepers have experienced increasingly higher losses of their honey bee colonies. Average winter loss of honey bee colonies has been as high as 58 per cent in Ontario during 2013/14. This is on top of unreported summer and fall losses. The U.S. Department of Agriculture recently released the results of its annual honey bee health survey. While winter mortality across the U.S. continues to be around 23 per cent, a new and alarming trend is being reported. Summer mortality of bee colonies was more than 27 per cent.

“In the absence of pesticide kills, 10 per cent summer mortality would be unbelievably high and 27 per cent is off the charts,” said respected bee expert Dr. Gard Otis, with the University of Guelph.

The reasons for bee mortality are complex and a single smoking gun has not been found. There is growing evidence that a new class of agricultural pesticides, called neonicotinoids (often shortened to “neonics”) is a serious risk to honey bees.

Neonics are highly toxic neurotoxins that kill insects but are less harmful to mammals. Only a tiny amount is required for the treatment of a plant. Indeed, this is a selling feature of products with active ingredients such as imidacloprid, thiamethoxam, or chlothianidin. Because a lower quantity of the active ingredient is required, it appears that they are more environmentally friendly than the less toxic older pesticides. Bees are particularly sensitive to this new mode of insecticide action and die if they come in direct contact. Research also suggests that ingesting the chemical affects the bees’ gut bacteria, making it more susceptible to stress and other diseases.

Ontario has introduced a plan to reduce the use of neonics by 80 per cent. While beekeepers are losing colonies at unsustainable numbers, grain farmers are fighting back against pesticide restrictions by sending photos of wire worms and caterpillars via Twitter to push their argument that they need neonics. Clearly, something is killing young honey bees in summer. The problem of climate change is not going away and the situation of unsustainable industrial agricultural practices is global in reach. Is there anything that can be done to assist pollinators at the local level?

Here are three important things you can do to help bees:

Reduce Pesticide Use

– Support a ban on the prophylactic use of neonicotinoid pesticides. Lobby your nursery to stop using the product on house plants and do not buy any product with the active ingredient imidacloprid.

Support a ban on the cosmetic use of pesticides. Bees love dandelions — there is no need to poison the plants.

Lobby for municipalities to stop spraying public areas with insecticides and herbicides.

Reduce your use of synthetic pesticides and look for less toxic alternatives.

Keep Bees

Become a beekeeper, learn the joy of working with these amazing creatures, help maintain genetic diversity, and perhaps become a queen bee supplier.

Provide undisturbed sites in your garden for pollinator shelter and nesting sites.

Learn more about bees and beekeeping at www.urbanbeenetwork.ca.

Plant for Bees

Plant pollinator-friendly flowering plants, shrubs, and trees. Choose species with different flowering periods and a variety of floral shapes and colours. Some great choices prepared by Barb Scharf, Hill Farm Nursery, for the Cariboo region can be found at www.urbanbeenetwork.ca.

Encourage municipalities to plant for bees, reduce mowing, and leave wild areas for bees especially along roadsides, railways, parks, cemeteries, and public areas.

Heather Clay was provincial apiarist for New Brunswick, CEO of the Canadian Honey Council and recently founded the Urban Bee Network, www.urbanbeenetwork.ca. This article is the second in a series of articles about bees supported by SENS (Sustainable Environmental Network Society). For more information, to become a member or volunteer, please contact Julia at 250-542-0892, or see wwwsensociety.org.

 

Just Posted

Bus exchange coming to Vernon mall

Service to resume at historically busy stop at Village Green Shopping Centre

New attainable homes for Enderby seniors and veterans

Habitat for Humanity and Enderby Legion team up to provide attainable housing, office space

Vernon theatre group scores with murder mystery

Powerhouse Theatre production of the Game’s Afoot takes you on many plot turns and twists

Pedestrian struck in downtown Vernon

Firefighters, ambulance and RCMP responding to incident

Vernon’s Together for Christmas group gathering donations for annual dinner

Together for Christmas has brought people together on Christmas Day for 11 years

VIDEO: UBC exchange students offered $1,000 to help with leaving Hong Kong

The university said 31 of its students were attending four universities in Hong Kong

‘Actors can play any roles’: Debate over ‘colour-blind’ casting after Victoria lawsuit

Tenyjah Indra McKenna filed a complaint over racially-motivated casting

Morning Start: Can pictures of cute animals help boost your focus?

Your morning start for Thursday, November 21, 2019

Infants more vulnerable to measles than previously thought: Canadian study

Babies typically don’t receive the measles vaccine until they are 12 months old

Shatner, Obomsawin among 39 inductees to Order of Canada today

Shatner is being given one of Canada’s highest civilian honours for his 60-year career

John Mann, singer and songwriter of group Spirit of the West dead at 57

Mann died peacefully in Vancouver on Wednesday from early onset Alzheimer’s

Teacher tells B.C. Supreme Court that student was ‘happy’ to watch smudging ceremony in classroom

Case being heard in Nanaimo over indigenous cultural practice in Port Alberni classroom

VIDEO: B.C. high school’s turf closed indefinitely as plastic blades pollute waterway

Greater Victoria resident stumbles on plastic contamination from Oak Bay High

B.C. mayor urges premier to tweak road speeds in an ‘epidemic of road crash fatalities’

Haynes cites ICBC and provincial documents in letter to John Horgan

Most Read