• Neonicotinoid pesticides including acetamiprid and imidacloprid (that are responsible for deaths of millions of bees) are affecting developing human nervous system and may even harm developing brains of the unborn babies, experts at European Food Safety Authority say.   

  • Wanneer jy 'n boer in murg en been is, dan is geen boerdery vir jou enigsins te veel om te hanteer nie. Daar is vele vertakkings van boerdery wat suksesvol aangepak kan word en dit kan suksesvol bedryf word.

  •  All was quiet in the pasture until Chad Price and Brandon Weatherly started moving bee boxes. Then the persistent buzzzzz in the air was interrupted only by the whirrr of a passing spray plane or the snap of nearby power lines.

  • Farmers and orchard growers rely on both honey bees and wild bees for pollination of their crops. The UK’s Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) reports that 90% of the world’s food comes from 100 core crops, 70 of those pollinated by bees. Whilst all bees and insect pollinators are facing challenges to their health and survival, the numbers suggest managed honey bee colonies are actually thriving. Despite this, numerous artificial pollination solutions are being developed to address agriculture’s demand for crop pollination, rather unexpectedly they may well help to safeguard the future of wild pollinators.

    Managed pollinators – the continued rise of the honey bee
    Managed honey bee colonies are transported between agricultural locations to provide pollination services and increase crop yields. Whilst a number of challenges are making the life of the professional beekeeper much more difficult, this is an industry that does not appear to be under imminent threat despite some adversities. Indeed as demand for insect pollinated crops increases, so too does the number of hives:

    In the United States, managed honey bees pollinate an estimated US$15 billion worth of food crops each year (USDA). The US National Agriculture Statistics Service (NASS) shows that there were around 3 million hives in 2020, a colony number that has remained reasonably static since at least 1980.

    Canada’s AAFC estimates that the total annual economic contribution of honey bee pollination through direct additional harvest value is about CAD$2.57 billion. There are currently over 750,000 colonies of honey bees in Canada, an increase of 25% since 2010 (up from 600,000).

    In England managed beehives are also in ascendancy with 25,000 beekeepers now managing 120,000 colonies. This is up from 15,000 beekeepers and 80,000 colonies just over a decade ago – a rise in colonies of 50%. Pollination services are estimated to provide £440 million to UK agriculture in the form of increased yields – about 13% of UK income from farming.
    A total of approximately 100 billion managed bees are currently helping to pollinate crops and provide food across the US, Canada and England, with no sign of any long term population decline in the honey bee.

    The mysterious decline of wild pollinators
    Typically pollinator decline coverage focuses on the honey bee as the poster boy (or girl) of ‘pollinators in peril’ but there are thousands of other wild insect species including solitary bees, bumblebees, butterflies, moths and hoverflies that play a significant role in pollinating plants. Indeed there are at least 1,500 species of insect pollinators in the UK alone, 270 of those are different species of bee.

    Whilst honey bee numbers are increasing, native wild pollinator numbers are in decline and this is a cause for concern. It is difficult to establish exact numbers but an ongoing study of all insects in Germany found a seasonal decline of 76%, and mid-summer decline of 82% in flying insect biomass over 27 years. A British study has also found widespread losses of pollinating insects.

    Threats to the health of all insect pollinators
    Some of the health challenges faced by wild insect pollinators are the same as those faced by, and arguably exacerbated by billions of honey bees. Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD) and Varroa mites (Varroa destructor) affect all bees, the prevalence of honey bees might be contributing to their spread amongst wild bee and insect populations. Several European studies have also found that neonicotinoid pesticides negatively affect the health of all pollinators (leading to a complete EU ban in 2018).

    These problems are certainly making life difficult for beekeepers who report increasing levels of ill health among their honey bee hives. However these colonies do at least have beekeepers on hand to help combat the threats from pests and diseases and to ‘recondition’ colonies with new queens. Wild species don’t have that support. Honey bee numbers are up, wild bee numbers are down.

    READ MORE The untapped potential of Africa’s honey bees

    Competition between honey bees and wild pollinators
    Competition for nectar between the two groups of pollinators is not well discussed. When introduced into a new area to pollinate a crop, honey bees have the potential to destabilise the natural ecosystem by competing with local wild pollinators. If combined with increasing losses of nectar-rich habitat it’s possibly  too much for the wild pollinators to cope with, leading to population decline.

    In 2019 a three year field study in Spain’s Canary Islands found that the introduction of managed honey bees had serious consequences for biodiversity: ‘results show that beekeeping reduces the diversity of wild pollinators and interaction links in the pollination networks. It disrupts their hierarchical structural organization causing the loss of interactions by generalist species, and also impairs pollination services by wild pollinators through reducing the reproductive success of those plant species highly visited by honey bees. High-density beekeeping in natural areas appears to have lasting, more serious negative impacts on biodiversity than was previously assumed.’

    The future of crop pollination
    Globally there are a growing number of companies in the automated pollination space as well as several ongoing academic research projects. From soap bubble pollen delivery to autonomous pollen spreaders and the methods described above, some solutions are already proving successful. There will be more in the years ahead.

    If through our ingenuity humans are able to develop effective crop pollination solutions, this will reduce our centuries-old dependence on honey bees and make us more sustainable as we reduce their numbers. That will be to the benefit of thousands of other insect pollinators including several hundred other species of bee. Indeed it’s entirely possible that modern pollination technology might just save the bee from itself.

  • Researchers have found that pesticide exposure impairs bees' social behavior and interactions.

  • “It’s a bee!” someone screams as they jump up from their picnic blanket, knocking over their apple juice and flailing their arms, trying to get away from this flying creature. Does this scene sound familiar?

  • At least one million bees are suspected to have died of poisoning in a wine-producing area of South Africa.

  • Glyphosate is the world’s most widely used herbicide. Because it’s considered safe for animals, it’s extensively used not only in agriculture, but also for weed control in urban areas and home gardens.

  • Beekeepers lose colonies of honeybees on a regular basis; a bee is a fragile creature with a short lifespan even in the best of times, and there are many, many issues that can cause the loss of a colony.

  • Human-elephant conflict poses major threats to the well-being of both humans and animals.

  • It’s sometimes reported that one in every three bites of food depends on bees

  • Bees – including honey bees, bumble bees and solitary bees – are very important because they pollinate food crops.

  • Far fewer bee species are buzzing across Earth today, following a steep decline in bee diversity during the last three decades, according to an analysis of bee collections and observations going back a century.  

  • First marketed in the late 1990s, neonicotinoid insecticides have become the world's most widely used group of insecticides.

  • In line with its commitment to environmental welfare, Fair Cape Dairies has introduced approximately 21 million African Honey Bees to pollinate the canola crops that are grown on the farm.

  • In countries across Africa, honey bees could help protect wildlife, grow food and make money – so why aren’t more people raising them?

  • There is a lot to love about bees. 

  • Honeybees pollinate a lot of our food crops, they’re welcome visitors to our gardens and they are widely kept throughout the world – so much so that some have described them as a domesticated species.

  • On the morning of 27 May 2021, beekeeper Craig Campbell visited his apiary site (an area ideal for bees to forage), to find that overnight, 235 of his bee boxes had been destroyed.

  • Scientists used next-generation sequencing to look inside bumblebees for evidence of pesticide exposure, including neonicotinoids, as well as pathogens, and found both.