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Article created on February 28th,2014

 Why do we need a Bee Sanctuary?

Imagine, you get to work as the sun is coming up. 50 acres of fruit trees. Your armed with a tiny paint brush, time to get to work, doing what the bees do. All day pollinating every single flower in the whole orchard.

This is a reality in some parts of the world. For the past 100 + years humans have been developing at a exponential rate, taking up more spa ce than any other species in the earth’s history. To do this there has been a great cost involved to mother earth and its other inhabitants. Massive population growth has meant rapid change to all of earth’s systems, forests, grassland, wetlands and oceans, in-fact there is nowhere that hasn’t felt the touch of man.  This is coming to head in the present, due to the overwhelming realization that finite really means just that. That there is a problem facing the world as real as the food on your plates. That’s it, the food , is the issue. We have stripped the seas for fish. Chopped down the forest for mono cultures of GMO crops for animal feed and fuel. Developed a petroleum based agriculture that uses toxic oil based chemicals to grow our food, which in turn poisons us and the environment in which it is grown.  For the past 20 years there has been concern of having to now experience the long term effects such as; GMO cross pollination, field run off causing fish kills, massive erosion, poisonous water and extinctions.

Insects outweigh humans about 15 to 1. They are the little guys working tirelessly, keeping the world balanced and growing so we can survive. One insect in particular plays a huge role in the existence and proliferation of us , Humans;    Bees.

They are the ones who dance and sing through the fields attracting pollen to their statically charged bodies. Spreading the love (pollen) from plant to plant helping them produce the wonderful array of foods we enjoy today.  Honey is like liquefied sun light,  Plant juices, Nectar, is hived away by the bee. Water is evaporated out of it, Then like magic it becomes Sweet perfect honey.  Bees are still a mystery to humans, we still don’t know everything about them, yet we have been farming bees since the Egyptian days when they were moved up and down the Nile to pollinate dates palms and other crops.  Up to 75% of any meal relies directly or indirectly, on bee’s to pollinate the flowers to produce the parts of the plants we love to eat.  But the Bee’s are in trouble. They are finding it hard to cope with our modern world.

Since the late 70’s numbers of hive losses has risen steadily, in some cases up to 90% of some peoples hives have been lost, which is 3 times more than is expected over a year. 

Around 2006 /2007 a new name had been coined for this problem, Colony Collapse Disorder or CCD. CCD is a concern to the food industry and to humans if we want to be able buy and to grow and eat fruit and vegetables in the future.  CCD is suspected of being caused by many different factors. One, is Israeli acute paralysis virus is a bacteria which has been associated with many CCD cases.  Another is Veroa  Destructor. A little parasitic mite which sucks the life out of bees. This parasite has been affecting bees around the world, but so far is not in Australia.  This puts us in a position which is unique in so far as we are able to develop a strong bee culture to build resistance from the demise of the bee.  American Foul Brood and European Foul Brood are among some of the bacteria’s that are affecting bees . Destruction of hives is the result of these infections.

Some pesticides which are used on crops effect the central nervous system of insects making them loose direction and not returning home that evening.  Monoculture crops are the equivalent to deserts to bees, they might flower for a short time with most of the year being baron of pollen. Lack of strong genetic diversity may also be a player in the bees plight. Due to the commercialization of bees for pollination, there is a big increase in breeding the queens with their off spring, this may be leading to a reduction of genetic diversity, making genetically weaker colonies.  When a new Queen is ready to mate, naturally, she does a maiden flight. She will fly upwards high into the air with the strongest males from her hive and other hives following her. This allows the strongest 12 to 20 males to mate with her ensuring strong genetics in the hive.  Bees are worth billions of dollars to the worlds economy, and are an unsung, unpaid labor force that we have taken for granted.  Australia is the only country that exports bees, we are in a lucky situation that we are an Island Nation which is helping against diseases that threaten bees in other parts of the world. There are, more and more stories from across Australia where the disappearance of bees is being felt and observed, in all states and territories.

The impact of pesticides being used in food growing areas is being felt by private bee keepers everywhere.  I have recently had people from around the world and Australia, tell me their stories about their losses over the past few years.  A couple in south Australia went from 18 hives down to 6 in a week due to a spray that was used on grapes near their property in wine producing area. The same sort of story was from a young bee keeper friend in France who lost 13 hives out of 24 because of aerial spray that was used in her valley.  This doesn’t have to happen here, in this shire, it doesn’t have to happen anywhere because there are alternatives.

Bee sanctuaries around the country and around the world will and can grow to encourage dialogue, research, implementation of bee friendly food production for everyone.

What is the aim of the Bee Sanctuary?

The Aim of the Bee sanctuary is to openly invite discussion about chemicals used in our local food network which are harmful to bees, and to work together with council and farmers and growers of all types of food, to try and come up with solutions and plans to turn to a chemical free environment that is beneficial to us and the bees.

If we have a shire that is caring of the bees, then we are caring for the whole environment.

* Cleaner rivers, good pollination for our chemical free food network, Genetic diversity of plants and Eco-systems.

* Reduction of spray chemicals used by the council on public land where possible.

* A change over to non chemical sprays for backyard gardeners and farmers and council.

* To create a reference of alternatives that are bee friendly and effective for the local food network to thrive.

 

A Bee Sanctuary in the Bellingen shire is one way of saying that we as a community are co operating and working together to create a strong local food network that provides us with a environmental connection that is rarely seen in the world today. If we can create a model that works then we can show other towns how they to can look after the bees in their region.  Honey and fruits and vegetables are the by product of having bees. All types of Bees rely on nature and are affected by changes in the environment very quickly. Honey bees and Native Bees are as healthy as the environment in which they live.  We have hundreds of types of bees in Australia, many types of solitary bees that are here for sometimes only one type of flower. Specific pollinators for specific pollen’s.  We need this diversity of insects and plants to have a strong, healthy environment.

HOW DO WE DO IT?

Chemicals are a easy way of controlling the the pests and weeds in our environment, and they work, but maybe a little bit too well. Some of these chemicals will breakdown the natural balance of the positive bugs that help us live. Like bee’s. The ways in which we can all play a part in the health of the bees is by planting strong flowing plants in our gardens, and choosing ones that flower at different times of the year giving bees food all year around. Talk about alternatives to chemicals, find out what other people do.  Not using chemicals in the garden or fields.  Natural oils as pesticides, species selection, companion planting and poly culture, to bring in the birds to keep down the pests. Grow fields instead of lawns to increase diversity. Experiment with your own garden, and discuss your observations. Researching organic methods of pest control. Letting the garden go to flower: this also helps for seed collection.  Keep an eye out for bees in your garden, check the flowers count some bees.  And this is where I need your help, We can bee a sanctuary for the little guys, we can work together to create a clean bee friendly environment, we can move towards a chemical free future for everyone.

Lets have 1000 people with 1 hive, instead of 1 person with 1000 hives.

Bees are like the Canary in the cage, They can warn us of an impending disaster before it affects us. We just need to look and listen to their message. If you think you can help this happen please come and get in the buzz on bees.

Thank you.