The plight of the bumble bee 151



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Recently, our local paper had an article regarding a family who thought they were prisoner in their own home as their neighbour has hives and they don’t want to be stung. They said the hives were close to the fence and they couldn’t go outside without insect spray for fear of being stung.

My first thought was “those poor bees”. This family had approached the neighbour about his bees. The neighbour retaliated with “the bees were here first”. So it is to be a long battle. One of my children has a bad allergic reaction to bee stings, but we knew about it and as things go he was always the only one to be stung in the family. I would never try to be rid of bees in the garden just in case he was stung.

As luck would have it, on that same day there was a TV program on how bees are dying off and the research the CSIRO are doing into the causes and tracking of them. Bees have been fitted with tiny sensors to monitor and track them and the environment.
Bees are crucial to our survival. They facilitate pollination for most plant life so food supplies would be much lower. Dr Albert Einstein suggested that without bees we would have no more than four years to live so the human population would cease to exist.

So what is killing the bees? There is a global epidemic which fortunately has low impact on Australia thus far. One of the causes is Colony Collapse Disorder where worker bees suddenly disappear. There is also a parasite called varroa mite which is killing bees. Australia is the only country where this mite has not appeared – yet.

The bees have also succumbed to bacterial, fungal and viral diseases. Scientists think part of the cause may be environmental change-related stress (we only have to have a drought where crops fail to see that hives fail). The use of pesticides also kills bees. They take the pollen that has been sprayed to their hives and kill more than just themselves. Overseas genetically modified crops have a huge impact of bee populations. Scientists also believe the radiation from mobile phones and other devices impact on bees.

So, what can we do here in Australia? Plant bee attracting flowers, stop using pesticides and perhaps meet a beekeeper who will educate on these creatures. And maybe start your own hive (provided your neighbours don’t mind of course). After all, if bees die off, so do we.
Do you see bees anymore? What do you think about them? Should we be trying harder to increase the population?

Jeanette Southam

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