Defra and the Welsh Assembly Government today announced a ten-year "Healthy Bees" plan to combat the serious decline in honeybee numbers. The main thrust of the plan - formulated following a public consultation - is to "sustain honeybee populations by supporting beekeepers to ensure effective biosecurity measures are adopted to …
Reduce, Reuse Recycle?
I suddenly have an urge to convert uncooperative tower cases into makeshift hives, they'll certainly be more productive than when they were on the office desks :|
Nah. I can't. Way too obvious...
The Bee Population
Everyone knows they've gone back to their home planet.
free inspection and diagnostic services
"We're from the Govt, and we're here to help." Help you to wipe out your entire colony at the first sign of any disease, that is. If you want to help the beekeepers then tell them what's killing their hives. More red tape won't help.
What is it with uk.gov...
Are they obsessed?!?
What next? IBee cards?
Nah. I can't. Way too obvious..."
Don't want to get stung, then?
Well, I'll do it then
"3- To encourage effective biosecurity to minimise risk from pests, diseases and undesirable species."
Do "pests, diseases and undesirable species" include obnoxious Reg commenters?
Must... fight... urge... to make... lousy joke...
You know El Reg is posting this note for one reason and one reason only... but I won't fall in their trap.
oh, what the hell!: I for one welcome our healthy moderatrix overlady
OK, UK has limited GM but bees are still be contaminated by GM pollen and nectar, US has almost unlimited GM and their bees are very contaminated with GM pollen and nectar, with no decent tracking of bee keepers and associated GM crops the governments have no idea if the decline is related to GM crops (although there is some limited evidence for it), once we have better tracking we may discover a link between decreasing populations and bee health (US bees are vanishing faster), what is a fact is that GM foods tamper with the natural evolution of the environment in a way and at a speed that was previously impossible, does this risk the environment?
GM genes from GM crops have been shown to jump the species barrier into bacteria in bees(see Professor Hans-Hinrich Kaatz work, with many years of study) this is not some random minor, non peer reviewed study involving a part time YTS trainee during a summer job (Dr Arpad Pustzai).
There is a risk, it's a risk that cannot be tracked and it may already be too late, GM foods are not a pancea for solving world hunger, they often need large amounts of care to get the ideal yeild, they can also have an unexpected impact, by having plants that produce their own pesticides (Bt) this kills other insects which affect other related ecosystems, and can be produced in high enough quantities to kill those that eat it (I believe that some sheep died after eating GM crops that produced high quantities of Bt).
What would really help ...
.. would be some proper scientific action.
The amount spent on the National Bee Unit can't be judged in context unless we actually know what happens if we lose the bee population. Ok, I'll be sad if my colonies die but it's not the end of the world for me. However, if that badly affects the overall food chain that is REALLY SERIOUS. And all I have ever seen is speculation as to what it would mean in practice. How much of our food is critically dependent on bee pollination and would anything else fill the gap?
Alongside that it would seem a useful precaution to siphon off a gnat's cock width of the ridiculous billions being pissed away on ID cards and Connecting for Health and invest in some serious work to try to breed Varroa-resistant strains (ideally) or failing that, a miticide that actually works. And whilst on the case for that, try to find out whether we really do have other problems affecting the bee population since as far as I can tell all we really have is a lot of anecdote and confusion at present.
There's a limit to what amateur bee keepers can do no matter how motivated they are. Protecting the security of the food chain however - now it seems to me that's one of the reasons you might want a government.
Too little, too late
Bee population has been declining drastically for a few years now. Probably a bit late to sort out the mess now.
"To ensure that sound science underpins bee health policy and its implementation."
In marked contrast to the bad science that underpins virtually every other area of government intervention!
<joke> I thought it was now illegal to underpin insects</joke>
> You know El Reg is posting this note for one reason and one reason only
There could be another reason..
Lester has a plan B.
but lets wait and C.
Paris, coz she is an unhealthy be'ing.
Mike, you're touching
You know what the problem is with GMOs? It's not their nature, it's the fact that most of them are designed to be more resistant to pesticides, thus allowing farmers to litterally drench the crops in various toxic chemicals. Which, in turn, kill the bees.
No little bee-contaminating mutant GM particles involved here (though resistance might very well jump species, as any gene does in nature, thus defeating the primary goal. But it's another problem).
Note that I successfully resisted the urge to propose my help for, hem, "Bee population emergency rescue". Crap, said it. Oh well.
An issue missing from the article is The welsh assembly Government's(WAG) insistance on bees being bilingual. It is well documented that bees from different areas have specific dialects according to their region of residence.
Welsh hives, in accordance with a WAG directive ensure that the education of all pupae and young drones is delivered through the medium of Welsh thereby ensuring the continuity of the language. Furthermore worker bees are expected to erect billingual signs on discovery of a rich seam of pollen to assist their workmates.
A recent job vacancy posted on WAG's website read 'Wanted - mime artist to entertain the llandewi brefi bee swarm. The ability to speak Welsh is essential for this post' (nuff said)
And about time too
Bees are vital for some sorts of agriculture.
This threat has been looming since the last century
First MAFF, now DEFRA, what next? Changing the letterhead doesn't make any difference.
"(I believe that some sheep died after eating GM crops that produced high quantities of Bt)."
BT are evil... but evil enough to kill little lambs.... you bet your arse they are!?!
Ms Bee... well done on showing maturity and restraint, rising above the obvious baiting from some of our commentards.... but I do love a good flaming... so please, don't hold back!! :)
You do realise, do you not, that cabbages, Brussels sprouts, oil seed rape, swedes, cauliflowers, wheat, oats, barley and carrots are all genetically-modified?
Admittedly, the genetic modification in such cases was carried out by waiting patiently for a mutation to arise naturally and then breeding from the mutant, rather than deliberately causing a mutation and then breeding from the mutant; but nature doesn't give a flying one *how* the genes changed from the original, "wild" variety as long as the DNA in the organism is viable.
It probably *does* make a difference that the early farmers who created modern crops weren't trying to do anything except increase yield and improve edibility, whereas the likes of Monsanto want to claim "intellectual property rights" in living things and sell pesticides and other agricultural chemicals; but there is nothing inherently wrong with genetically-modified organisms.
Perhaps they might want to invest a bit in actually supporting beekeepers. Last I heard the guy who is bee inspector for virtually the whole of south east England (as far west as Dorset, and north as Oxford...) is retiring, and they are trying to find a replacement willing to work for a pitiful £24K. That's for a full-time job, including running evening classes and training sessions for beekeepers across the entire region, as well as actually inspecting people's hives and trying to stop the spread of bee diseases and parasites.
As for science, well, the UK used to lead that field, but due to years of little to no interest/investment, I doubt there are that many dedicated bee researchers left...
Its interesting how something so important (the fertilisation of plants, thus our entire food chain) is deemed unimportant enough that the only reason it exists at all is due to the dedication of hobbyists and amateurs.
PS: nice to see that at least beekeeping is getting some publicity.
Better news, possibly
See the following article from the Economist this week.
Summary: better feeding of bees seems to help against colony collapse, although it costs money and is not the original cause of collapse. It seems that in California, the bad economy has lead to lower almond harvests and therefore more food being left on trees, helping bees to recover.
British Beekeepers Association
"The first step is to improve our contacts with all beekeepers so that we can ensure they take advantage of the free inspection and diagnostic services that the bee unit and its dedicated team of inspectors and scientists provide"
Most beekeepers in the UK will already be members of the BBKA and most sensible beekeepers will probably already be in contact with the under-resourced and overstretched Bee Inspectors. maybe the government should just give the BBKA and Bee Inspectorate the bulk of their budget then the Minister and her department can just carry on with their task of eliminating Farming and Rural Affairs and there will be less chance of the situation become even more forked.
Well anyway Hooray at least for using our taxes on something that is not a complete waste of time
'Bee'n reading about this for years....... doh!
Why is it that I've been reading about this for the past 2 years and only now has the blessed governmanet decided to do something about it??
The whole world is going to wake up to one with little food and a lot of hindsight.......... and we pay our taxes to keep these muppets in office.............. enough said!!
Paris, because she knows if it's dead by the smell................
A natural target
Don't bees have built-in barcodes?
Now we can put each bee on a database and all their little problems will be solved
@British Beekeepers Association
>Well anyway Hooray at least for using our taxes on something that is not a complete waste of time
You're new to this government thing aren't you?
The bee inspectors are going to be far too busy dealing with applications for the mandatory bee keeping licence, running CRB checks on applicants and filling in goal reaching assesments to confirm they are meeting their chatermark requirements to have anythign to do with actual bees!
Then next year all the form filling will be outsourced to some private outfit and the bee keepers will be got rid of to make the necessary savings.
Need to change the role of the bee
Bees are still viewed as honey producing livestock rather than as pollenators. That attitude needs to change.
Stop robbing the bees of their honey and replacing it with sugar water. Sugar isn't good for our children and likely isn't good for bees either.
Bees hives are no longer produced by natural processes. Queens are bred off site and introduced into hives, then killed off and replaced when their fertility drops. This practice might produce more honey but interferes with the natural processes that produce resilient bee populations. Such selective breeding and management of other livestock (sheep, cattle etc) has made these animals unable to cope with natural conditions and it is not surprising that similar interferfence is also damaging bee populations.
Bees have been bred for their honey production capabilities, not for pollination. If we can get bee keeping back to where it was 30 years ago the honey production would drop off but pollination might be restored.
If European bees are not up to the job, then add African beens. Sure they are less productive, aggressive and sting like bastards, but they are hard workers and won't get pushed around by other organisms.
I guess the IT angle is that they're going to insert RFID on all the bees to track them or something?
(yeah yeah, I know it's a bootnote. Big deal. Should still have a vague link to IT. Really.)
@ AJ Stiles
I don't know how you can say, "but there is nothing inherently wrong with genetically-modified organisms" when there are in fact many things wrong with the practice. I agree, the concept might actually be OK. However, the modifying stake holders are after specific "qualities", you know, stuff that looks perfect and weighs more. They don't give a flying f*ck whether it's edible or not.
If the bugs can't eat it, maybe you shouldn't be eating it either !
Honestly, when was the last time you really enjoyed the flavour of an apple or tomato or potato that wasn't organic ?
Oh yeah, the price is right but lets face it, GM foods taste like shit and in any case often rot within a few days of purchase.
IT angle = Just in time delivery stinks and a public database of all the GMed foodstuff please.
But how this'll help the bees ?
Maybe we should ask Wacky Jacky for her scientific solution, or get Jack Straw to divert some of his expenses or the money for the new dead folks database to the Bee peeps needs.
"I don't know how you can say, "but there is nothing inherently wrong with genetically-modified organisms""
Uh ... because everything you eat, and I mean EVERYTHING, is genetically modified.
"when there are in fact many things wrong with the practice."
That is true, however it does NOT mean everything is wrong with the practice.
"I agree, the concept might actually be OK.
I hope so. You know that bacon sarnie you washed down with a pint at lunch? Everything in it, from the wheat, yeast & olive oil in the bread, to the mustard seeds and vinegar, to the pork and whatever spices, to the butter, to the yeast & barley & hops in the beer were GM ... Humans have been genetically modifying food for over 10,000 years. I won't go into the drastic modification of the potatos in that bag of chips ... Much less the canola oil they were fried in.
"However, the modifying stake holders are after specific "qualities", you know, stuff that looks perfect and weighs more. They don't give a flying f*ck whether it's edible or not."
That is a whole 'nother issue. Vote with your wallet if it's crap.
"If the bugs can't eat it, maybe you shouldn't be eating it either !"
The bugs CAN eat it ... That's why they use insecticides in the fields.
"Honestly, when was the last time you really enjoyed the flavour of an apple or tomato or potato that wasn't organic ?"
Uh ... would you believe today, for all three? Purchased locally, no "organic" labels noticed (or indeed looked for). But then I live in California ... Land of fresh everything. And I don't purchase crap food. Nor do I spend extra for "organic" labels. Waste of money.
My food bills are literally an order of magnitude lower than my brothers & sister ... Two of whom are strictly "stupid American", diet-wise ... the other is a caricature of "green and granola Californian" ... All three waste food, buy preprepared food (frozen, organic pizza? WTF???), don't make their own stock & tomato sauce, can't/won't can extra fruit&veggies (and that lovely 750lb bluefin I caught last year ... Most went to a local sushi restaurant, but I still have 40 quarts, half in water & half in a really good olive oil). They also never make their own bread, beer, wine or cheese, etc.
Gawd/ess. I sound like a hippie ... I'm not. I'm pragmatic. I grew up logging & commercial fishing. I used to hunt, now I take road-kill instead. I have fast cars, faster bikes, and fuel guzzling trucks. I keep my house at exactly 70F 24/7 (the computers are acting as heaters this chilly evening, but I expect the HVAC to kick in before morning). I use pesticides and insecticides, and eventually the dog and I WILL kill off all the fucking ground-squirrels trying to undermine the back road into the property ...
For the record, my wife & I are a good deal healthier than my siblings, their spouses & sprog. Whatever. I suspect that "everything in moderation" is the only valid answer.
Side-note: my bees are fine (22 hives). Not certain why I haven't been affected.
re: "But then I live in California ... Land of fresh everything"
What a crock of sh!te.
We went to sunny california some years ago and stopped on a farm shop in a farming area close to Sanger on the way out from Sequoia np.
The apples tasted like cardboard.
Probably fresh cardboard, but I'm not familiar with the difference in taste from old cardboard.
US food sucks.
"We went to sunny california some years ago and stopped on a farm shop in a farming area close to Sanger on the way out from Sequoia np."
Off Hwy 180? I know that fruit stand ... It's there to separate tourists from their money. The locals shop elsewhere. Hint: Ask a local next time. PleasAndThankYou[tm] help immensely. This little tip works everywhere I've ever been ... Six continents, and I hope to get to Antarctica eventually.
"The apples tasted like cardboard."
Next time, smell the flower end before purchasing. If it doesn't smell like apples, don't buy it. But then, common sense is neither.
"US food sucks."
Sez an AC tourist, based on a single incident.
swatting up on technology
I read something about Mobile Phone radiation interfering with Bee's radar and hence the increase in that technology has increased the number of Bees who get 'lost' and don't find their way back to the hives.
I was also told by a beekeeper that within three years of the bee population dying almost all vegetation on the planet would be dead.
From that point of view it is more than a problem of feeding the masses.
Import them from Australia
US agriculture relies on billions of Australian bees supplied annually, as their own ecology has been rendered terminally bee-hostile. I'm sure we could oblige for a consideration.