Sunday 17 May 2009

Why are bees in such trouble?

There is really only one problem
As you probably already know the honeybee is in serious trouble. In many parts of the world including the UK the wild bee has more or less disappeared. And those kept by beekeepers are suffering. The impact has only really been evident on a global scale and with such catastrophic consequences in the last few years.

Many will argue that it's not a single problem but a cocktail of issues which together have placed too much stress on the bees. They are partly correct in that bees have to contend with many issues. However, from the bees point of view there is only one single problem, one which is responsible for all the issues that give such stress to the bees. And that problem is mankind himself! Bees have evolved and survived over many millions of years, compared to man's few hundred thousand, and it's only since we have been meddling with them and their environment that they have become so vulnerable.

So what problems have we made for the bees?
Whilst some of the reasons for their recent plight are not yet 'scientifically proven' the issues are quite obvious to anyone prepared to look. We have created a combination of factors that have broken the camels, or in this case bees, back:
  • Loss of their natural habitat - we used to be a wild and wooded isle; sadly now all gone
  • Poison build up - the large scale use of 'pesticides', we should really call them insecticides as they are designed to kill insects which bees are, and now GM
  • Pollution
  • Mono culture - large scale single crops, often heavily 'treated'
  • Introduction of parasites and disease - with man's greed for a 'more productive' bee we have indiscriminately moved bees around the globe spreading disease, parasites and weakening local gene pools. Sadly we continue to do this.
  • Modern invasive beekeeping husbandry – designed to make life easier and more productive for the beekeeper, not the bee. A perverse philosophy that without strict management by the beekeeper the bees won't survive.
  • and many more....
As beekeeping has progressed, more problems have presented and man has reacted to these further problems by intervening further, inventing new cures, methods or practices. Yet, as with many things, where man intervenes in nature we mostly seem to come up with short term solutions, often leading to longer term problems.

Mankind’s interest in the bee has primarily been as a resource, to make money out of their pollination, honey or other by-products. Therefore the standard beekeeping methods that have evolved and are now used more or less universally throughout the western world have been to make life easier for the beekeeper, not for the bee.

As a consequence of all these problems many have come to question mankind’s role, challenging our past interventions and are looking for ways to reverse man’s meddling as far as possible. We are seeking to put the bee’s needs, wants and requirements back into beekeeping. Bees have survived many global catastrophes over their millions of years of evolution. They are clearly capable of looking after themselves without our interference, provided we give them the space they need to do this.

It is out of this more environmentally aware thinking that Sustainable Beekeeping has arisen which is why YABeeP uses this methodology.

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