According to a Greenpeace article in March 2018, many factors are responsible for the decline of bees: climate change, mites and parasites, viruses and pathogens, the destruction of natural habitats by monocultures (contrary to permaculture) and plant protection treatments.
Crops around the world requiring pollination are increasing and the supply of honeybees is not sufficient, which is also the case for the quantity of bees and pollinating insects.
But do you know why our ecosystem is threatened by this phenomenon?
The causes and consequences of the disappearance of bees
For 10 years now, ecologists and beekeepers have been trying to make themselves heard by denouncing the damage caused by pesticides and in particular neonicotinoids. Two major European agrochemical industry groups, Syngenta and Bayer, market neonicotinoids throughout the world.
These pesticides are partly responsible for Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD), which is currently recognized by the authorities of several countries, including the United States.
An independent and international group of 53 scientists studied the action of systemic pesticides (penetrating the plant and the consequences on bees). They found that neonicotinoids intoxicate and kill bees as they forage on treated plants.
Pollination is an “activity” that generates nearly $153 billion globally for ecological and agricultural services. This is because bees and foragers enable plant reproduction by depositing the collected stamens (male reproductive organ of the plant) on the pistil of another plant (female reproductive organ).
Most crops need this pollination, which makes it an indispensable factor for us to obtain food from the earth. About 1/3 of the food we eat comes from pollination. That’s $15 billion every year.
Actions to save the bees
If you wish to personally contribute to the fight against the disappearance of bees and pollinating insects, here is a list of 15 solutions or actions that you can adopt:
- Consume more honey
Beekeepers in France in 2014 (Auvergne, Pyrenees…) announced the loss of 50 to 100% of their honey production. It is important to help local beekeepers. For 1 kg of honey, there are 1 million flowers collected. This is considerable.
A real source of energy, its nutritional values include 80% of carbohydrates and two types of sugar, fructose and glucose, easily assimilated by the body. Honey replaces white sugar, which everyone knows is harmful to health.
- A garden for bees and pollinating insects
You plant organic seeds of different varieties of flowers in your garden or on your terrace. You keep a certain surface called wild that you will not mow or not very often what will allow the pollinating insects and the bees to benefit from this environment to gather food.
It is recommended to use melliferous plants because they are rich in proteins, nectar and pollen. You can put dahlias, Abyssinian gladioli for example. Crocus will be useful in autumn because they help pollinators to get through the winter.
- Sow wildflowers
In planters on your balcony or in your garden, wildflowers will feed the bees. Preferably choose blueberries, poppies, clovers.
- Planting shrubs
The flowers of trees and shrubs are also nourishing for bees and pollinating insects such as hawthorns, wild roses, blackthorns…
- Provide a watering hole
The water of a shallow pond will allow pollinating insects and bees to refresh themselves and dilute the honey to feed the larvae.
You can also put cups with water and gravel so that they can rest and drink without drowning.
- A nesting box for bees
Some bees are solitary, and benefit from nest boxes. You can use a hardwood log (oak or beech for example). You cut it in two in the direction of the height, you drill holes of 10 cm deep (without piercing the log) with a diameter between 3 and 10 mm and spaces of 2 cm. The nesting box should be placed 30 cm from the ground with a southern orientation, protected from bad weather and close to flowers.
Nesting boxes are available everywhere (garden center, internet..) if you don’t want to make one!
- Have a hive at home
You can buy or build one after downloading free plans of the “Kenyan hive” model, created by a collective of beekeepers. It is an ecological hive whose model comes from African hives simple to install. You can find it under the name of horizontal hive or TBH (Top Bar Hive).
Phil Chandler, an Englishman convinced of the benefits of natural hives, introduced the horizontal hive from Kenya. Its V-shape respects the shape of the bee cluster. The bees build their own wax combs.
It is an eco-citizen way to help save bees while creating a habitat for them in your garden. Your town hall will inform you about the norms to respect. You will install it near the plants.
- Sponsor a hive
On the untoitpourlesabeilles.fr website, you can sponsor a beehive. You help 4 000 bees out of the 40 000 living in a hive. We then send you jars of honey to thank you for your participation in the protection of the hive. You can choose the one closest to your home.
Companies can also sponsor hives.
- Fund square meters of flowers
A roof for the bees also proposes to finance a field of flowers. Since 2010, 40 hectares have been sown in some regions of France with organic seeds of Phacelia, Petit Lotier, Clover, Sweet Clover, Sainfoin… These plants also enrich the soil by fixing nitrogen from the atmosphere.
- Fight against the Asian hornets
Asian hornets destroy beehives. Beekeepers deplore the significant losses because it only takes 10 hornets to put an end to the life of a hive.
You can report the presence of a nest (imposing and spherical) to the town hall or to the Museum of Natural History.
- Use natural fertilizers
Natural fertilizer is the best for your garden. You have compost (see our article on composters), but also organic and mineral fertilizers:
Rock phosphate is suitable for acidic, low-limestone soil. Rock powder or basalt (crushed volcanic rock) contains silicon, calcium and magnesium and trace elements, which strengthens plants against climatic variations.
Nettle manure is rich in trace elements and vitamins. Potash or beet vinasse is also effective. You can also find ready-to-use organic liquid fertilizers.
Also, we advise you to choose a natural weed killer!
- Eat organic
Eat organic and local! You give weight to the organic agriculture so that the local producers can benefit from your consumption.
You can order organic baskets or be part of purchasing groups that support local farmers in your area. You just have to consult the associations supporting organic farmers.
- Spread the word
Your entourage must be informed of the need to preserve bees and pollinating insects. You can organize a collective planting, a workshop on how to make organic fertilizer…
- Get petitions signed
There are associations that take care of contacting politicians to make them aware of this kind of problems: the Nicolas Hulot Foundation, Avaaz, Pollinis will make good use of your support.
- Talk to elected officials
Elected officials will be concerned by the issue, so don’t hesitate to talk to them to find solutions in your community.
Be inspired by neighboring countries
In the world, original and scientific ideas are flourishing:
In China, bee men pollinate fruit trees. They can only pollinate about thirty trees a day by hand, whereas a bee pollinates three million flowers. But it remains a beautiful initiative.
The pollinator drones were developed by Japanese researchers from the National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology.
The Beeonic bee
There is also a robotic bee, the Beeonic, created in the United States, it pollinates flowers in farms and greenhouses. Experimental hives allow to observe the bees with integrated technologies. Sensors collect information to help research and fight against the disappearance of bees.
Politics and bees
To go further, things are moving on the subject at the ecological political level.
You may have heard about Obama’s 2015 plan to save bees and pollinating insects in his country. This action plan is planned for 5 years, with partnerships from the public and private sectors.
Ségolène Royale, then Minister of Ecology in 2016, had proposed a law to ban neonicotinoid pesticides. In June 2017, she told AFP that this fight should not be dropped.
Nicolas Hulot to the ecology of the current government said in October 2017 that he gave himself 5 years to ban glyphosate and other pesticides.
The movements against pesticides
There are currently tens of millions of hectares of crops receiving neonicotinoids around the world. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recognized this year that pesticides, including the neonicotinoid imidacloprid, manufactured by Bayer, are a danger to bee health.
It is possible that the agency will limit or ban the use of this pesticide in 2018. The EPA said, “We have seen fewer and fewer pollinators as well as a decline in honey production.” Soybeans, cotton and citrus are the crops most sprayed with imidacloprid, with the U.S. being particularly affected.
In February 2018, the European Agency EFSA (European Food Safety Authority) confirmed the danger of 3 neonicotinoids on bees and pollinating insects. It thus asked member states to apply restrictions.