Where have all the bees gone now? - There still seems to be a lot of debate amongst the bee white coats, about what exactly is happening to our honey bees.
Bee populations dropped 17 percent in the UK last year, according to the British Bee Association, and nearly 30 percent in the United States says the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Parasitic mites called varroa, agricultural pesticides and the effects of climate change have all been implicated in what has been dubbed "colony collapse disorder" (CCD) And whilst here's been a lot of noise about CCD, there still doesn't seem to be a definitive answer to quite what's happening in the world of bees.
And now the investigation has taken an even more bizarre turn. Indian researchers are citing the cause of CCD as radiation from mobiles, which reportedly interferes with bees' sense of navigation. They set up a controlled experiment that compared the behavior and productivity of bees in two nearby hives, one that had 2 mobiles attached to it and one that didn't. The phones on the mobile phone hive were turned on for two 15-minutes sessions a day for 3 months. After this time, there was a dramatic decline in number of bees in the mobile phone hive because the Queen laid far fewer eggs, and the mature bees stopped producing honey all together.
There is more CCD in the UK than anywhere else in Europe, even in areas without high mobile phone use. Israelis are one of the world's top users of mobile phones and most of their honey bees are imported from Australia, so does CCD does exist there? It does, but the Australians have attributed it to a parasite. Interestingly there is very little CCD in Australia, where the bees originate--could this be because of lower mobile phone use there?.
Who knows. It seems that we are still searching for the answer, whilst these creatures continue their decline. In the meantime, most of us feel that we'd like to do our bit to help. Here at MyGardenSchool we have recently introduced Phil Chandler's Natural Beekeeping Course to try and encourage more beekeeping for the sake of the bees, rather than just for honey production.
If you can't quite manage beekeeping, but you have a garden, your responsibility lies in making it bee friendly. Nurture the clover in your lawn instead of cutting your grass really short (bees love clover), plant native garden flowers and wildflowers rather than heavily cultivated double flowers where bees struggle to find the pollen, and nurture the wild areas of your garden which may house rotting wood, a natural habitat for bees.
Considering that only one in six pots of honey eaten in the UK is from British bees, buying local honey in order to support local beekeepers is also a nice idea.