In These New Times

A new paradigm for a post-imperial world

Honey bee becoming endangered species

Posted by smeddum on July 20, 2008

By Diana Royce

Northern Times

Published: 17 July, 2008

At last, (since April 2007)the connection between electrosmog and CCD is getting some recognition in the UK press, albeit inside a local paper.

EAST Sutherland Beekeepers emerged from last winter to some very nasty discoveries.

Early checks for signs of life and activity in beehives were not encouraging and when at last the weather allowed them to open up the hives it was even worse than anticipated. Many beekeepers found that their colonies were dead or on their last legs.

Beekeepers were all aware that the varroa mite had arrived in Sutherland and was spreading quickly northwards. Varroa is a nasty little red crab-like mite about the size of a pinhead which invades the colony, feeding on the bees and multiplying rapidly by breeding in the brood cells. The mite itself does not kill the bees or the colony but they bring with them viruses which will kill the colony if untreated. In future, bee colonies will only survive with a lot more management than we are used to, and treatments in the autumn and spring when the bees are not collecting honey.

Some beekeepers were monitoring infestations and some had started the prescribed treatments. Few beekeepers realised, however, that the impact would be so sudden or catastrophic.

Across East Sutherland including Brora, Golspie and Dornoch, nearly 80 percent of the bee colonies have perished. We understand that similar losses have been experienced across Easter Ross. High losses have also been recorded across England, and it is reported from Denmark that 50 per cent of their stock has died. In America some reports put the losses as high as 800,000 colonies. The honey bee is certainly becoming an endangered species.

Whether the varroa mites are solely responsible for the bees’ plight remains a contentious issue, but modern global life is finally catching up with the humble honey bee. Varroa mites found their way to our shores all the way from Asia. There are recent alarms about pesticide-coated seeds which have caused mass deaths amongst bees across Eastern Europe and Germany, and there are now some research findings indicating that the “electro-smog” from proliferating masts and antenna may be creating disorientating electromagnetic fields which cause damage to bees.

There is a lot to worry about and beekeepers’ meetings are currently never short of topics of conversation. The weather in the past year did not help and this year is looking much the same, so vigilance is required if the remaining stocks are to survive. Varroa has now been found in Lairg, so it will not be long before beekeepers who thought they were safe will be similarly affected.

Ironically, at a time when beekeeping and the honey bee face the most extreme challenges, research funding, education and support appear to be at an all-time low. Yet the bee plays such a vital role in the natural environment. In 1949 Einstein summed up the consequences of extinction: “If the bee disappears from the earth, humans have to live only four years. No more bees, no more pollination, no more plants, no more animals, no more humans.”

In response to the crisis Ian Craig, a noted bee expert and president of the executive committee of the Scottish Beekeepers’ Association, is coming to Brora Scout Hall on July 26 to talk to local beekeepers about the problem and to offer advice on how to try to avoid further losses this winter. There is no charge and all beekeepers great, small and “would-be” from across the north are welcome, and encouraged to attend to help ensure that there is a future for northern beekeeping.

So, is there honey still for tea? Sutherland honey is still in a class of its own, full of mixed blossoms – clover, bell heather, willow herb and ling heather – and much sought after. This is a product worth fighting to preserve along with its creators, the hardy local honey bee.

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