Modern agriculture is stressing honeybees


I’ve just had this published at online news site The Conversation. Viva les pollinators!

Modern agriculture is stressing honeybees: let’s go native

Honeybees are in trouble – a stressful lifestyle and an unhealthy diet are being compounded by mite attacks – but we needn’t panic about pollination. Australia has many native bee (and other pollinator) species that could be taking care of business, if we only took better care of them.

What do we mean when we talk about “bees”?

For many, “bee” means the honeybee – any species in the genus Apis, the most well-known of which is Apis mellifera, the European honeybee. It is a generalist pollinator, which means it shows little preference when it chooses flowers to forage on. It could visit (and potentially pollinate) almost any open flower in its foraging range. It is also adaptable to a wide range of environments and is capable of being “domesticated”.

Read the rest of the article

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© Manu Saunders 2013

12 thoughts on “Modern agriculture is stressing honeybees

  1. uknowispeaksense February 22, 2013 / 5:08 PM

    Manu, congrats on getting it published over at the conversation. When I was in FNQ doing the plant pathology thing, there was a suggestion that some fungicides were also having an effect on bees as well as some wasps. No work was ever done on it but from memory it may have been the strobilurn group which is a common systemic type. There is a mistaken belief that because fungicides are designed to treat fungal pathogens that other elements in the system are somehow unaffected. If that were the case you’d have to wonder about the need for PPE and witholding periods. Great read by the way. 🙂

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  2. manuelinor February 22, 2013 / 7:05 PM

    thanks! 🙂 That’s really interesting – I hadn’t heard of that, but am not surprised….Yes, chemicals are bad (warning: extreme understatement!). Some research from the UK has just proven that neonicotinoid insecticides have sublethal effects on bees, and I think a few other people are working on similar research. And you just have to read Silent Spring – I still get shocked when I read the facts in there, no matter how many times I look at it!
    So, I am not surprised that fungicides affect insects too…we humans love to fight fire with fire! 🙂

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  3. J Abell February 22, 2013 / 8:00 PM

    Yes fungicides do affect bees, i have seen “Greenguard” take out bees during a locust plague in southern NSW. Well done on your blog i look forward to reading more of your work. Keep doing what your doing.

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  4. metan March 1, 2013 / 10:13 PM

    Congratulations on having your article published at The Conversation!
    I loved the header photo of the Blue-Banded Bee, my favourite garden critter 🙂

    I would love to be able to do more to encourage the native bees to my own garden. I really think that most people don’t even know there are any bees other than the ubiquitous honeybee. A pity, I think the natives are much more interesting.

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    • manuelinor March 2, 2013 / 11:25 AM

      Thank you – it was a great photo, wasn’t it? The bee looked like it was dancing!
      Native bees are beautiful insects – I do love honeybees too, but I guess, as an Aussie, I always felt more loyal to our native bees :).
      If there are natives in your area, and your garden has lots of different native flowers, no chemicals, some dead wood or patches of bare/leaf littered ground (for them to nest in), then you’ve probably got bees hanging around, even if you don’t see them!

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    • manuelinor March 11, 2013 / 8:22 AM

      Thanks for the link! The story about caffeine was pretty interesting! Plant-pollinator interactions are just so fascinating 🙂

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