One of the many fringe events during the Wexford Opera Festival this year was a screening of the Irish made film ‘Colony’ about the dramatic decline of honey bee numbers. The film features beekeepers Lance and Victor Seppi from Pixley, California, but the crisis is a global one. About a third of the world’s food depends of animal pollination and honey bees are the main species in this regard.
I had spoken at the Irish premiere of the film ‘Colony’ in Dublin as a former Minister of Food and Horticulture. Here in Wexford, I spoke before this latest screening as a member of the South Wexford Beekeepers’ Association.
The use of newly developed nicotine based agrichemicals features largely in this documentary as the chief suspect behind the cause of colonies of bees dying mysteriously. Another stress on managed hives in the USA especially is the gruelling journeys they travel sealed in brood boxes strapped on the backs of trucks. These bee colonies are then released to pollinate fruit trees when they are in flower. They’ll go from the orange groves in Florida, to cranberries in Massachusetts, to blueberries in Maine, to apples in Washington , to almonds in California. It is basically a giant loop.
The combined harm to pollination done by agrichemicals and large scale monoculture farming is now measurable and alarming, especially in the USA. However, the American trends tend to be followed in Europe and elsewhere, in the interest of global competitiveness.
A positive response to this crisis would be a massive conversion to organic farming methods. This would mean no agrichemicals and greater biodiversity. Beehives on every farm would be a bonus and save the gruelling road journeys to which many bee hives are subjected. Improved pollination on organic farms would mean higher quality and quantities of food produced.
It may seem like a bizarre question but here goes! If humanity keeps going as we are going and the bees die off, who is going to pay the armies of people required to pollinate many crop flowers with small brushes? Already in Sichuan province in China, the loss of bees means many farmers there now have to hand pollinate their crops.
A good crowd of beekeepers and others watching ‘Colony’, the documentary on bee colony collapse screened in the Spiegeltent in Wexford recently.