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 Save The Bees
 Posted: Jun 25 2018, 04:00 PM

Dentus Chookus

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Bees are dying. What can we do about it?

The Signal
By Stephen Smiley

user posted image

Photo: Experts warn neonicotinoids on crops and rising global temperatures are impacting bee populations. (ABC Open contributor Andrew Lancaster)

Social media is abuzz with photos of bees drinking sugar water from teaspoons, after a post on a fan page dedicated to British naturalist Sir David Attenborough drew attention to the dwindling population of bees worldwide.

Since 2013, bee populations in some parts of the world have fallen by a third, with phenomena ranging from the spread of the varroa mite to climate change identified for blame.

In Australia, researchers and authorities say local bee populations remain resilient, but in Europe, Asia, North America and even New Zealand, it is a different story.

In a widely-shared post on Facebook that has inspired hashtag #savethebees, the Attenborough fan page warned the disappearance of bees would spell the end of humanity within four years.

"If bees were to disappear from the face of the earth, humans would have just four years left to live," it said.

"If you find a tired bee in your home, a simple solution of sugar and water will help revive an exhausted bee.

"Simply mix two tablespoons of white, granulated sugar with one tablespoon of water, and place on a spoon for the bee to reach."

Plant plants, avoid pesticides

In Australia, amateur beekeepers say the suggestion about sugar water to help bees in distress is sound.

The best things Australians can do to support bees are to plant flowering plants in their gardens, and to support bee colonies when they are swarming in search of a hive, the Amateur Beekeepers Association's Nathan Organ told the ABC's daily podcast The Signal.

"The suburbs are a great place for bees, and that's where backyard gardeners are important, in terms of their use of pesticides and that sort of stuff," he told The Signal.

"If our urban gardens are pesticide free, then our urban honey will have fewer pesticides in it, and the bees will benefit.

"The best thing Australians can do is to plant plants — not necessarily native plants, but plants that the bees love — so typically, blues, yellows and oranges — they're the favourite colours of bees."

Bees 'our modern-day canaries in the coal-mine'

The reasons behind the progressive disappearance of bees in most other countries are complex, but bee enthusiast and eco-stress physiologist Dr Reese Halter said the use of neonicotinoids on crops, rising average temperatures globally and the spread of the varroa mite — which causes deformed wing virus in bees — were the principal causes.

Dr Halter said a decision by the European Union to phase out the use of neonicotinoids in all cases except in greenhouses by the end of this year was a good way to try to help global bee populations recover.

He urged the US and Australian governments to follow suit.

"This is a crisis of epic proportions, and we need lawmakers to make laws so that we can protect our only home," he said.

"Bees are our modern-day canaries in the coal mine. In excess of 336,000 types of plants are pollinated by bees, and the bees contributed to 75 per cent of our food crops.

"We need to make some very serious changes in the next five or six years, because we can't lose these bees."

The Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority, which regulates agricultural and veterinary chemical products in Australia, has been monitoring the European decision on neonicotinoids.

It has no plans to implement a similar ban in Australia at this stage, but said on its website it will "continue to monitor and assess new information and credible scientific reports as they become available".

It also said the problem of declining bee populations in Europe is a "complex issue" that involves "the interaction of many factors in addition to pesticide use, such as nutrition, environment and disease, that are not of concern to Australia's bee population".

'Sentinel hives': Australia's bee frontline

The frontline in Australia's battle to avoid the problems that beset bee populations in most other parts of the world is a network of what are termed "sentinel hives", positioned around the country's major sea ports.

The Signal

Justine Crawford oversees around a dozen such hives around Port Botany in Sydney, and about seven at Port Kembla, south of Wollongong.

She said containers arriving in Australia from ports overseas sometimes contain bees that have set up colonies inside.

"If you think about the millions of containers in ports worldwide, they sit there for months, and for bees it's one of the best places to build a home," she said.

"I call them 'Houdinis' — they actually can find their way into the tiniest little spaces and make it home."

Ms Crawford said she uses a sticky mat placed in the hives to collect samples from each of the colonies, which are then sent to the New South Wales Department of Primary Industries for analysis.

She said, once any abnormalities are detected — including the presence of the deadly varroa mite, bees in all the known colonies in the surrounding area are exterminated to try to contain the spread.

"If they find anything, they'll phone us straight away, and then it's a matter of every single beehive within a 20 kilometre radius being shut down," she said.

Justine Crawford said, while the system as it operates is rigorous, she fears it is only a matter of time before the diseases that have destroyed bee populations overseas arrive in Australia.

"If you read all the reports, they're all saying: 'It will happen, they will get here'," she said.

"It's just a matter of when — not if, but when."

The spread of varroa mites is alarming. The fact that the bee population in New Zealand is affected means we can't be complacent in Australia. The work of Ms Crawford and the NSW Department of Primary Industries is a start.
We should also follow the European lead in phasing out neonicotinoids.

“If life were predictable it would cease to be life, and be without flavor.” - Eleanor Roosevelt

“All of life is peaks and valleys. Don’t let the peaks get too high and the valleys too low.” - John Wooden
Phillip J.
 Posted: Jun 25 2018, 05:33 PM


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Very true! Bees are so important to our planet. To be completely honest, I don't believe that the human race would die off in four years, without bees, though! Then again, what do I really know?🐝

This post has been edited by Phillip J.: Jun 25 2018, 05:35 PM

Live as if the world were as it should be, to show how it could be.
If what we do doesn't matter, then the only thing that matters is what we do.
 Posted: Jun 26 2018, 06:33 PM


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This is actually more serious than most people realise, about 50% of hives in the US have been lost to Varroa mites, now a sister species is threatening European honeybees.

In China, humans have to pollinate flowers by hand.

I was told by a close friend who works for a certain government agency that it is just a matter of time before Varroa mites are found here.

However, this article indicates that the humble Bee may have 'found a way'.

ABC Rural By Robin McConchie

Posted 28 June 2017 at 4:27 pm

Bees in the United States and Europe are starting to evolve through natural selection to survive a mite that has been decimating their populations.

Australia will not be immune from mite.

However, Dr Martin, who is a keynote speaker at the Queensland Beekeepers Conference tomorrow, also warned the devastating varroa mite would get into Australia and cause serious damage to the nation's honey bee industry and native bee populations.

He said it was a matter of when, not if, the varroa destructor mite established itself in the country's bee colonies.

Varroa spreads damaging virus

Beekeeping has not collapsed in Europe or America, but it requires a huge amount of management, more intervention, and increased use of pesticides into colonies to control the mite.

"You will suffer a large number of colony losses of up to 80 to 90 per cent initially, until people start to get used to it," Dr Martin said.

"The other big problem is you will lose all your feral colonies as well, and [with] that free pollination disappears.

"Every colony that dies breeds mites and they go back to reinfest colonies even if they have been treated."

Dr Martin said the impact on the bees was subtle because it was usually a couple of years before the colonies started to die.

But by that time, the mite had established itself around the country

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