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Horizon: What's killing our honey bees (on UK iplayer now)

 
Michael Cox
Posts: 1573
Location: Kent, UK - Zone 8
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I just watched this and thought it was reasonable. It dealt more with possible causes of colony loss than solutions.

Three main areas discussed:
Varroa mites, and the impact of viruses carried by varroa. They looked at some on going research to see if the mites might be having more insidious impacts, for example by messing with bees navigation.

Neonicotinoids clear research that shows that low concentrations of neonics prevent bees from being able to navigate their way home. Evidence is unclear about whether those dosages are actually reached in practice in the field. More on going research was discussed looking at bumblebee populations to see if they were accumulating neonics in they honey, pollen and wax and connecting it to colony growth rates. Results won't be in until next year.

Changing farming practices leading to loss of forage - massive areas of monoculture crops with no bee forage, linked to declining wild be popultations over tha past 80 years. Contrasted with urban honey production which has not declined and is consistently greater than rural areas. This was put down to the much wider variety of flowering species in urban areas. Small trials of planting wild flower strips along side convertional crops led to greater wild honeybee populations, and better pollination of test plots.

What i didn't ike about the program:
There was no talk, at all, about selecting bees for varroa tolerance by looking at survivor colonies.
The discussion on neonics revolved around a chemical arms race - ultimately futile. The line was we cant grow conventional crops without pesticides, so we need to keep making better pesticides or developing gm pest resistant crops.
Current beekeeping practices were not criticised or even suggested as playing a part - frame based systems, commercial pollinators, importing bees etc...
No discussion at all about mitigating varroa impact - natural cell sizes etc... The line was basically that if you have any mites at all then your bees are doomed.

I guess it did quite a good job of raising awareness of the scale of the issue, but the scope of the program was limited. It would have been nice to see at least recognition that there are other paths to follow when caring for bees.

Mike
 
tel jetson
steward
Posts: 3356
Location: woodland, washington
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Michael Cox wrote:
I guess it did quite a good job of raising awareness of the scale of the issue, but the scope of the program was limited. It would have been nice to see at least recognition that there are other paths to follow when caring for bees.


that's roughly how I've felt about every bit of honey bee news or documentary I've seen. for that matter, the same goes for all the save-the-bees campaigns that are recently proliferating. most folks acknowledge the problem, but want to keep using the same bag of tricks that is so clearly failing to rectify the situation.


on varroa: every last one of my colonies has varroa. so far, none have perished and they show no signs of heading that way. I have never used any kind of treatment.

when varroa showed up here, it did a pretty serious number on both managed and feral colonies. but it didn't take long at all for the two species to adapt to each other, and they seem to have arrived at some equilibrium already several years ago. but that's in feral and untreated hives. the situation is much different in colonies treated for mites.
 
Michael Cox
Posts: 1573
Location: Kent, UK - Zone 8
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I think you and I are pretty much on the same wavelength then.

I've been vaguely thinking about setting up some feral bee habitat/colonies in our area. These days people are so good at keeping their houses, gardens and woodlands tidy that there is a general scarcity of suitable hollows for bees. Nothing fancy, just hollow logs, nicely positioned perhaps baited with comb or even with a swarm or split dropped in them. Set them up and then just let the bees get on with being bees.

Once bees have lived in a log for a year the scent of comb will act as a lure for swarms recolonizing in subsequent years. With a bit of thought and preplanning these could even be occasionally supered or used for building weak colonies using a trap out. Honey would not really be an objective however, establishing some good colonies with strong genetics would be. We already have feral bees in the area which survive year after year in the same locations and seem to have good survivor genes.

Will I run foul of bee inspectors with a plan like this? Wild colonies clearly can't be inspected - even if their accommodation was partially fabricated.
 
S Carreg
Posts: 260
Location: De Cymru (West Wales, UK)
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Michael Cox wrote:

Will I run foul of bee inspectors with a plan like this? Wild colonies clearly can't be inspected - even if their accommodation was partially fabricated.

I don't know the answer to this question. I was under the impression - but I may well be mistaken - that the bee inspectors are not there to 'police' beekeepers in the UK - you don't have to register as a beekeeper or anything. You do have to report certain diseases if you are 'keeping' bees - varroa is no longer reportable, but foulbrood is for example. But if put out a hollow log and leave them to get on with it or whatever, I would say you're not keeping bees any more than having a pond makes you a 'frog keeper'. So I would think that a bee inspector would be neither here nor there.
 
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