‘Only tea and toast for breakfast if pollination ceases’

September 23, 2013

old hive

LASTING LEGACY: Mervin Bound of the Weymouth and Dorchester Beekeeping Society with a hive that has been used for keeping bees for the last 130 years. There were memorabilia and pictures showing its use back in 1880. Picture by Mathew Bell


BLACK tea and unbuttered toast would all that would be left on the breakfast table if crops weren’t being pollinated.

This was the outcome of an experiment organised by BBC breakfast presenter and amateur keeper Bill Turnbull to serve up breakfast to his colleagues and illustrate what would happen if there was no pollination involved in the produce they were eating and drinking.

The Weymouth and Dorchester Beekeepers Association were very aware of these facts when this blog spoke to members in the apiary marquee at the Dorchester Show,.

The UK produces 25 metric tonnes of honey every year and a third of the food eaten by UK consumers is pollinated by bees. The honey market is worth £200M annually according to the National Audit Office.

Speaking to the BBC in July, Ian Homer, who lives near Dorchester, said: “Five years ago we had similar sorts of losses and thirty years ago we had 70 per cent losses, so it is not unusual to have high losses. It’s not unpleasant but not unusual. Pollen is the protein that the bees need.and nectar or honey is the carbohydrate.”

A single honey bee can visit up to 1,000 flowers in a day; can fly up to four or five miles to collect nectar and pollen and can cover 50,000 hectares.

Scientists claim exposure to Neonicotinoid pesticides has been shown to affect a bee’s ability to navigate

Research carried out by German scientist Randolf Mendel showed how two individual bees were tracked with transponders to see how they reacted. One was exposed to neoneocotoid pesticides whilst the other was not.

In a demonstration done by Professor Mendel in Germany, two bees were captured and fitted with tiny radio transmitters.

When the bees were released, some distance from the capture site, the exposed bee was unable to find its way back to the hive.

In December of this year neoneocotoid pesticides will be banned for a trial period of two years.

Mr Homer added: “Two years is a short time. The moratorium comes into effect on 1 December by which time all the autumn-sown crops will be in the ground, so for beekeepers the period without neoneocotoid pesticides will be rather less than two years.

“Ideally we would like to see a longer period so that some valid, objective research can be carried out.

Across the pond in Oregon in the United States, campaigners against neonecotoid pesticides claim 50,000 bumblebees were found dead in a parking lot after a pesticide called dinotefuran was applied to fruit trees nearby.

Last winter US beekeepers claimed that they lost between 40 per cent and 90 per cent of their hives and almond growers in California could not find enough bees to pollinate their almond trees.

In an answer related to a question posted on the website of neonecotoid manufacturer Bayer Crop Science, they firmly rebut the findings of Dr Mendel and other suggesting an impact on bee populations.

The statement says: “Neonecotoid pesticides are very safe pesticides to use and when used carefully in accordance with labels, should not have any effect on the bees.

“Although some recent laboratory-based studies have suggested that neonicotinoids are to blame for the problems facing bees, these studies were carried out in the artificial confines of a laboratory and are by no means representative of realistic field conditions.

“In Australia, neoneocotoids are widely used yet Australian bees are some of the healthiest in the world. It is thought that this is because the Varroa mite is not yet present in Australia. In France, however, there have been extensive restrictions on neoneocotoid  in place for a ten-year period yet there has been no positive impact on bee health; it remains as bad as, or worse than, that in the UK or elsewhere in Europe.”



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