Due to modern farming methods, we are hearing the plight of the bumblebee. But what can we do to save them?
This week I was fortunate enough to interview Simon Mulvany from Save the Bees Australia. Simon a passionate beekeeper who runs a social enterprise that raises awareness about the importance and plight of the humble honeybee.
HGCL: I think most people are probably aware of the import role that bees play, especially when it comes to food production. Would you be able to explain for those that don’t know, how bees and our food supply are linked?
SM: Flowers don’t have legs, so they evolved to attract insects to pollinate them. Pollination is a prerequisite for fertilisation. Fertilisation allows the flower to develop seeds and fruit. Bees have tiny hairs that charge up while they are flying, creating static electricity that attracts the pollen. By going from flower to flower they are transferring little bits of pollen from one to the next, fertilising the plants, which then grows into our food.
We often hear “save the bees”, what do they need saving from?
Basically, they need saving from modern farming methods. Monoculture farming involves insecticides, herbicides and fungicides. Insects cannot survive on these farms, and that includes the bees. Honeybees are essentially on suicide missions when they pollinate these treated plants. In more natural environments there are predator insects like praying mantis and ladybugs that keep pests at bay.
Is it the same in other elsewhere?
Not everywhere. Cuba is a great example of a country with healthy bees. The trade embargo meant that no herbicides and insecticides permeated their food landscape. In fact, Cuba is one of the few countries that are not experiencing a decline in bee colonies.
Does pesticide filter through into the honey we buy at the shops?
Yes. These insecticides are systemic, meaning they are inside the food we eat if they have been sprayed. Glyphosate, the generic active ingredient in insecticide has been detected in honey in America so it’s likely to be inside our honey as well.
For people who want to make a difference, what can we do at home to help save the bees?
Avoid imported supermarket honey in favour of raw honey. We are endeavouring to ensure that honey is labelled with its country of origin. As it stands, companies are blending differing countries and calling it Australian, which is both an inferior product and harder to track what insecticides may lay within. The golden rule should be always organic and always local.
If you are looking for local stockists of aforementioned honey products, please consult this handy dandy Google map.