Recently the British press has alerted the public about the catastrophic loss of bees. A survey of the British Beekeepers Association shows that about one in three of the 240,000 bee hives did not survive this winter and spring (early 2008), leaving as a result of shortage of honey and putting at risk the pollination of fruits and vegetables.
The president of the British Beekeepers Association, Tim Lovett, said he was very uneasy about the results of the survey: “The percentage of losses due to poor weather and disease vary between 5% and 10%, but a loss of 30% is to be very worried. This means very serious trouble for pollination and honey producers. “
One reason may have been wet spring and summer 2007. The bees were confined to their hives. This will impossible to find nectar and pollen, causing stress and creating appropriate conditions to be attacked by pathogens and contamination between them.
However, the honey producers association argues that the causes are unclear. The survey of 600 members revealed a sharp division between the losses between the north and south, with 37% in the north, compared with 26% in the south. “We do not know why there is a difference or the reasons for this high mortality,” said Lovett.
The government recognizes that in Britain the hives are cared for 44,000 beekeepers, it contributes around £ 165 million a year to the economy by pollinating many fruits and vegetables. Lovett said: “The 30% loss of hives could mean an expenditure of around £ 50 million and risk the possibility that people can consume five servings of vegetables and fruits a day.”
The Honey Association announced in July this year that English honey will only until Christmas and must await the next harvest in the summer of 2009 for supplies of English honey. They also argue that: “The blame for the shortage of bees is that more farmers are dedicated to producing wheat that gives them more profit but this does not produce nectar.”
The leading British producer of honey, Rowse, is very concerned about this situation and has promised to donate money to carry out an investigation into the causes of the disappearance of bees and a portion of sales of its honey will be earmarked for this purpose .
Stuart Bailey, chairman of Rowse said: “We are working with the British Beekeepers Association and supporting research for the next 12 months we can selectively breed a more robust bee that can not be attacked by pests or diseases.”
Bailey said the shortage had been aggravated by a 11% rise in demand for English honey over the past year. Although British honey only mean 10% of the 30,000 tonnes of honey consumed in the United Kingdom, other honey producing countries have also been seriously hit by bee diseases and climate.
Argentina, which is the “global supplier” of honey followed by Mexico, producing up to 75,000 tons, has suffered in recent years a decline of 27% in production due to drought and large tracts of soybean, leaving as a result a 60% rise in the price of honey.
In the U.S., honey production has declined due to loss of 36% of the hives, many due to the syndrome of Depopulation of the hive (CCD by its acronym in English). The mysterious disappearance is linked to the varroa mite, sucking blood, other deadly viruses, malnutrition due to lack of variety of foods, use of pesticides and a lack of genetic diversity.
The CCD has spread to Canada, France, Germany and Italy but has not yet been confirmed by the government of Great Britain. The Association of British producers urged the British government to collaborate in research on the causes of the loss of bees.
The minister and farmer Mr Rooker, has announced the disappearance of the bee within a decade. Last November, told parliament: “We do not deny that honeybee health is at risk, and frankly, if nothing is done the bees could disappear in 10 years.”
The National Farmers Union of England and Wales stated that it is essential that the government increase research funding in the bee. “The arrow research, breeding and the Norseman parasite.” Chris Hatfield, horticulture adviser of the union, said: “We’re talking food safety and food supply for the world is at risk.”
Finally a spokesman for the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs UK said: “Significant public funds are being used to support this area of work, but to ensure that this intervention is effective, it is vital that the work is driven by a known strategy where all parties agree. “(1)
An increasingly common problem
Unfortunately this does not apply only in Britain but also in many countries from across the planet and Uruguay is no exception to this reality.
In Florida, United States, the mysterious disappearance of millions of bees has beekeepers are very concerned. In December 2006 found that many of the bees were gone, and the curious thing about this is that there were no traces of their bodies. The other oddity of this situation is that the worker bees are gone, leaving behind the queen, completely atypical behavior within the realm of bees.
On this topic, Scientists are considering different scenarios. One is that the use of agrochemicals has caused some neurological damage to the bees and altered their sense of direction, which would prevent them from finding the way back to their hives. Others blame the drought and even mobile phone waves, but the truth is nobody knows for sure what the real trigger for this phenomenon.
Experts from around the world agree that the causes are multiple and many of them unknown, but all agree that climate change (long periods of drought or rainfall) is affecting, as well as changes in agricultural practices with the advent of huge mono cultures, which leads them to have an unbalanced diet or simply to have great difficulty getting food. Like what happens to every living thing, if the bees are not well fed they become prone to disease.
Problems of beekeeping in Uruguay
Honey production is declining in Uruguay and during the 2007/2008 harvest is estimated to reach only 40% of traditional levels, producing a total of only five to six million kilos. Among the causes that are managed to explain this decline are mentioned bad weather and the new agricultural scenario. With regard to the latter, it is noted that in the west of the country, which produces much of the honey, now the main crops are soybeans, wheat and barley, significantly reducing the areas with meadows, a situation that directly affects in the production of honey and putting at risk beekeeping.
Add to this several years ago in Uruguay that beekeepers are expressed about the disappearance of their hives and bees. While there are institutions in the country would be studying the causes of his death, they are not yet clear.
The massive use of pesticides known worldwide for its toxicity to bees is clearly an important part of the problem. Scientifically it is proven that certain insecticides used in agriculture are highly toxic to bees. Such is the case of imidacloprid, fibroin, cypermethrin and endosulfan, among others, whose use has increased substantially in our country in recent years.
In relation to the imidacloprid, the German beekeepers have been indicted by the company Bayer, who leads world market of pesticides and producing this insecticide. Beekeepers consider that this insecticide is responsible for the death of millions of bees. At this time the sale is suspended in several European countries, as this substance known for its high toxicity to bees. However, it is still used heavily in Uruguay.
Fibroin insecticide is another recognized for their toxicity to bees. France withdrew from the market after finding that the death of millions of their bees had been caused by the use of this substance. In the month of January there was a large mortality of bees in the department of Flores, Uruguay, due to the use of this insecticide. However, its use remains authorized.
Endosulfan is an organ chlorine insecticide. Is classified by the Environment Agency for the United States (EPA) and the European Union as a class Ib, that is as highly dangerous. In several countries in Europe is not for resale.
Endosulfan is very toxic to virtually all types of organisms, being highly toxic to bees. Widely dispersed in the environment, by wind, rivers and ocean currents, moving all over the world. If use in Uruguay has increased dramatically in recent years, linked to the cultivation of soybeans.
Cypermethrin, is another dangerous insecticide highly toxic to aquatic organisms and fish, as well as for the bees. The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) classifies it as “possible human carcinogen.” This insecticide is restricted and sometimes forbidden to use their toxicity. However, in our country is still used extensively.
All these causes and every one of them may be the reason for the disappearance of these insects as sensitive as important in agriculture, that “suck the nectar from flowers and in doing so that pollen can move from one flower to another, which fertilization favors and does, ultimately, the fruit grows. “