Firstly, many of the foods we consume require pollination to come to harvest. Imagine a world with no apples, pears, melons, all types of beans and peas, broccoli, kale, strawberrys, blueberries, grapes (wine!), okra, kiwifruit, celery, cashews, macadamias, almonds, brazil nuts, beets, mustard, citrus, sunflowers, caroway, coriander, vetch, papaya, tomatoes, cucumber, zucchini, lychee, buckwheat, avocado, eggplant, clovers and more) Pollination is the transfer of pollen from a male part of a plant to a female part of a plant, later enabling fertilisation and the production of seeds, most often by an animal or by wind. Pollinating agents are animals such as insects, birds, butterflies and bats; water; wind; and even plants themselves, when self-pollination occurs within a closed flower. Secondly, insects are food for many other creatures such as birds, other insects, fish, reptiles and some warm blooded animals. So reducing insect numbers lead to starvation of other lifeforms, reduced numbers and even extinction. Thirdly, many insects scavange and clean up our environment by breaking down animal, vegetation and plant litter so that it recycles back into soils and they also work within the soils to keep them aerated and fertile.
Simply, the way we humans live and carry out our food production has compromised the habitat and lifecycles of many insects. Extensive clearing of habitat has left fewer safe places for insects to live. Agrichemicals (herbicides, pesticides and insecticides) have contaminated air, soils and waterways and killed off many insects or drastically reduced their heath and immunity to other diseases. Commercial agriculture has focused on monocultures where diversity of meadow plants and weeds is drastically reduced and insect food sources eliminated. And then there is our domestic penchant for spraying toxic chemicals to eliminate insects and so called untidy “weeds” from our houses, gardens and parklands. We spray toxic chemicals without considering the longer term repercussions of this practice on insects, frogs, small animals or indeed our own health and the health of our children. Large scale beekeeping hive management practices create frequent stress for their bees. Migration of bees over large distances, exposure to communicable bee diseases from other bee hives across many locations, extensive use of white sugar as a supplementary feed and the widescale use of antibiotics and chemicals into the hives all compromise the immune systems of the bees and make them more vulnerable to collapse of the bee colony. In the current drought conditions in Australia its rumour from the coal face of beekeeping that 30% of honey from the large scale beekeepers is derived from the white sugar being fed to bees as supplementary feed in the face of low nectar sources! At By Buzzz we source honey from medium to small scale beekeepers who do not feed sugar and rarely migrate their bee, do not use chemicals in the hives and whose bees are robust and strong. We know the hive management practices of these beekeepers, we support their businesses and we also test honey for contaminants pre purchase
There is concentrated action and research to find good solutions to supplementary feeds for bees and plant based medicinals for their hives. Some of the available bee feed supplements do contain GMO soy protein or China sourced pollens and real efforts are being made to move away from these products as well as away from white sugar feeding. Some of the more promising research is focussing on seaweed based products, powders from a range of medicinal funghi, herbal teas, hemp based pollens, green cover crops that produce pollen and nectar rich blossoms for bees hived in that location and the reintroduction of hedgerows and bee fodder belts around commercial agricultural crops. Exciting work and we are pleased to be one of a number of groups contributing to this R & D.
- Restrict your use of herbicides, pesticides and insecticides to a bare minimum or eliminate their use altogether.
- Plant bee fodder plants in your garden or back yard/paddock. Good nurseries can help you select the best bee fodder plants for your place.
- Plant trees and hedgerows to build habitats for native pollinators and wild bees.
- Install a clean water source, bird bath or pond for thirsty insects, birds and bees to visit. Float things in the water so insects have a raft to land on when they drink.
- Set up native bee hives and shelters in your backyard.
- Keep backyard honey bees. Find an amateur beekeeping group near you and learn to be a beekeeper.
- Support petitions that aim to protect environments and support reduced use of agrichemicals.