See also www.britishbee.org.uk
Honey bee health
"If the bee disappeared off the surface of the globe then man would only have four years of life left. No more bees, no more pollination, no more plants, no more animals, no more man." Albert EinsteinIt has been seriously suggested that bees are disappearing because of exposure to the unnaturally large quantities of the naturally occurring pesticide Bt (Bacillus thuringiensis) which is produced in GM crops. In the GM plant Bt is produced by every cell including roots, stems, leaves and flowers - and the pollen. It is not clear if the quantities of Bt produced by GM crops are themselves to blame for bee deaths. We know that the parasitic varroa mite that carries the Israeli Acute Paralysis Virus, has put paid to many millions of bees. However, what is clear is that organic farmers such as those at Sheepdrove go out of their way to nurture plants that redress the balance and help the bees.
June 24 2008 ~ "Defra must be stung into action over missing bees"
Telegraph letter today
Sir – Prompted by reports of problems facing bee-keepers, and the apparent indifference of Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, I conducted a bee survey in my well-stocked garden.
On a warm, sunny day, I found no honey bees at all in this corner of mid-Warwickshire. I have repeated the exercise three times, with the same result. With such a dearth of natural pollinators, what plant species will be under threat in years to come?
When will Defra be stung into action to provide the research that is patently required?
Robin Bussell, Stoneleigh, Warwickshire
June 19 2008 ~ 30% fewer bees "varroa and foul brood akin to foot and mouth disease in bees..the Government must wake up...."
The average loss of bees this winter was 30 per cent. which is three times the expected level. Something is happening to honey bees across the world as well as the UK. There was an entire debate , on June 17 thanks both to Dr. Ian Gibson, MP for Norwich North, and the British Beekeepers’ Association (BBKA - see below).
"...The demise of the honey bee...there would be a major impact on the environment and wildlife, which depend on bees to pollinate fruits and seeds for their survival..."Dr Gibson explained that Lord Rooker had met representatives of the BBKA last December but flatly turned down their request for vital funding. Britain’s leading bee virus researcher was made redundant by Rothamsted Research due to lack of follow-on funding from DEFRA. The Department, said Dr Gibson, "has stonewalled the requests of the BBKA, which, as a result, has mounted a public campaign... One can hardly pick up a supplement these days without seeing bees sitting on plants and a discussion of the issues. The Government have to wake up to the green political capital that they could gain by finding the rather modest sums required to bring about a far-sighted programme. .." Read the debate
June 2 2008 ~ "Pollination, largely by honey bees, contributes £165 million a year to the agricultural economy." Last winter one in five colonies perished.. but there is no commitment to funding
An article in the Mail on Sunday by Vince Cable echoes a growing concern about the global decline of bees. " A mystery plague is threatening Britain's bees," he says, "and the result could be worse than foot and mouth." As we wrote below in May, one dangerous insecticide has been replaced by another. A Parliamentary Answer from Jonathan Shaw on May 21 said, "a contingency plan for exotic pests and diseases of honey bees has been developed with stakeholders" and, on the same day, the Countess of Mar received this answer in the House of Lords:
"A Bee Health Research Funders' Forum has been created to discuss priorities. Defra, the National Bee Unit and the British Beekeepers' Association participate along with other interested parties. Research priorities are also addressed in the draft bee health strategy, which is currently available for public consultation."..which all sounds responsible and concerned - until one reads that in spite of the DefraSpeak wording - 'sharing, prioritising, working together, liaison' - there is no real money. The British Beekeepers’ Association (BBKA) response to the consultation document was gloomy;
" ...despite its advice to DEFRA there are substantial short comings and omissions in the strategy. .... the BBKA has no confidence in government’s commitment to funding additional work and services needed to keep our honey bees healthy.."BBKA wants £8 million to be spent over five years. When one remembers Albert Einstein's now much quoted remark that "if bees were to disappear, man would only have a few years to live" the price seems reasonable. See also Early Day Motion