Beekeepers are accustomed to it: every winter 10-15% of a colony dies. That is simply part and parcel of the natural development of a colony. In the spring the numbers are replenished. Over the last few years however, there has been a break in the trend. In 2014, the bee population in the United States dropped by no less than 40%. The wildest rumours spread about the massive number of deaths. Many spoke of a ‘mysterious’ bee disease, but science shows that the causes are far from mysterious.
In the last ten years agriculture has changed significantly: monoculture is an increasingly popular choice, because it has advantages in terms of efficiency. There are fewer flowers and there is widespread use of pesticides to make crops more resistant. As a result, the living environment of bees is suffering severely. However, the greatest danger comes from Asia: the Varroa mite. This parasite drinks the blood of young bees and can destroy a complete colony.
Bee mortality is a complex issue caused for different reasons. Furthermore, the causes reinforce each other. In order to preserve the bee multiple measures are needed, there is no one solution. In specialised laboratories work is being done to develop a bee that is resistant to the Varroa mite. A step in the right direction, but agriculture also needs to change.
In particular, the use of pesticides is damaging both for the bee and for man. We cannot escape serious measures and investment in alternatives if we want to reduce this. But sustainable agriculture is still in its infancy and requires a lot of research. Yet the first successes have been booked. For example, in a short space of time, the greenhouse cultivation in Spain has become organic. Tomatoes and peppers were previously exposed to large scale use of pesticides, but the breeders were put under a lot of pressure to switch. And guess what: the organic vegetables are a huge success.
Change starts with awareness, but that alone is not enough. Change sometimes entails difficult decisions, perseverance in face of adversity. Change is not only a responsibility of the government and the business community: everyone can bring about a little bit of change. If you want to help the bee, all you have to do is plant bee-friendly flowers and plants in your garden. Examples are: marigold, fruit bushes, fruit trees or sweet chestnut trees. Turn your garden into a colourful feast for man and bee. Of course the use of pesticides is absolutely unacceptable, but also completely unnecessary: nature is quite capable of taking care of itself.
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