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There was an article a while ago in a druid group, about how we didn’t really need to save the bees at all in the first place because lo their numbers were starting to recover.

It was an article with very general raw statistics, very little meat on the bones. It was pretty much argued that because the bees weren’t all already gone that it was an unnecessary fuss to bother with testing pesticides etc.   I didn’t keep the link to the original.  But my reply stands without it.  My answer slightly tweaked follows:

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Honey Bee

There are three main points: first the evidence is weak; secondly the evidence is inaccurate, thirdly even if the evidence turns out to be relevant it does not prove that their was a problem so much that the problem is reversing, which might be expected since we have been making significant efforts to do exactly that.

 

Sure the loss of bees currently is less bad than the worst doomsayers feared it might be by now some years back, BUT such generic unclear statistics don’t tell much of a story at all and I’d certainly be very very wary of reading into that much either way without more information one way or the other.

I’d like to see a breakdown of which of those bees being counted are commercially farmed mixed variety bees; how many are the african bees known to attack local bee populations and actually make the problems worse; and how the local native bees are doing in comparison. Is there still the biodiversity, and are they native species or are these farmed bees being shipped half way round the world to replace all the colony collapses which are still happening on a larger scale than they used to (local bee keepers who have got out of the games have shared anecdotal evidence which I trust at least as much as I big agri businesses stats). As I understand it there is a problem in America with non-native bees proving to be aggressive.

As an aside I’ve also since seen articles refuting that African bees are aggressive, saying africans manage to live along side them fine.  The main complaint of aggression as I understood it is that they are aggressive towards european bees, and can therefore make problems worse,  not that they are dangerous to people.  This has got mixed up with american tales of Africanised Bees, (note the -ised it’s a specific Name) which are a hybrid engineered by people trying to make more honey to increase profits, which accidentally escaped and is one of the most invasive species we have known, it is noted for being more aggressive in defense of it’s hive.   The horrific killer bee attack is mostly very rare with any bees and the product of hollywood.

In a sense the argument that the worldwide total bee population is on average stable is similar to saying we needn’t protect the red squirrels any more because the world wide squirrel population is growing. Which it is; but there’s still an issue with red squirrel welfare.  Or we could say that Scotland is full of various moggies, some of whom are feral,  so there’s no concern for the scottish wild cat. They really aren’t the same thing and counting them all together doesn’t win the argument.

Maybe it means we don’t have to panic about never having fertilised fruits for food again at all if there are some others bees which are growing, great but at least it got everyones attention and helped them understand how much we owe to the bee, it was a great image to start the discussion, and is still valid, after all even the imported bees often die after one season so its not like it’s not possible still;  maybe that scary image was  just the potential worst case scenario from a concerned speculator.
It seems ridiculous to have to point out (but it seems I did have to) that it is of course possible that the increase in bee populations reported was a direct result of the awareness that was raised by the campaigning and protesting, the goal of the changes implemented.

There are a number of reasons those bare statistics might be as they are and none of them mean there wasn’t/isn’t a problem.

1) Stats are up because of the increase in the business of raising bees to ship around the world to farmers who no longer have local bee populations (happens more and more) where often the imported bees have to be reimported the next year not being native they don’t always survive.  If these bees are counted as bee population, no wonder it’s growing they’re being farmed as a commodity and sold as a tool.  They are not by any measure STABLE bee colonies but disposable supplies for industry.

2) The increases in population are at least in part, if not largely a result of the campaigning to support the bees which have been in place for the last 8 years.    Since 2007 and before people have been campaigning for changes, (in the article in question which used statistics just from Canada, the numbers do a dive just before 2007 and then pick up since)

Since then especially in the UK, which was one of the places with a big problem loosing the native wild bees, which we still have, just things have been done to support them.
Many people have changed planting; there have been billions of free seeds which are good for bees for food given out to households; there have been awareness drives; most people are vaguely aware of it being a good part of a garden to have bee food in it;  it must have changed as garden centres now mark plants as bee friendly or not responding to public demand.

This is 8 years of work.

Saying the been populations have improved doesn’t mean that work wasn’t needed in the first place – it means it is quite possibly helping the bees massively and was anything but wasted, may even have been exactly what they needed.  After all an increase in bee population and improved stability was exactly the aim of all the activities people have been working on for the last 8 years isn’t it.

Neither of those reasons mean that there was anything untrue in all the concerns that many of us campaigned about.   They actually potentially validate the campaigning and are something we should celebrate – that it’s working. (just not enough yet).

But again with so few details in the article in question it’s not really much information at all, it doesn’t tell us if the wild bee populations are in decline or not, or if they are extinct in even more places now.

The campaign wasn’t primarily about managed hives and farmed bees, which this includes.   It was for ALL bees.

Loose statistics with no same measure before and after is not proof of much if you don’t know accurate details.  It becomes something people can read into it what they will and I personally would think it more likely and reasonable to see it that the effort is working, and it’s worth carrying on planting more bee freindly plants and avoiding pesticides, rather than the effort was never needed in the first place.   It was after all the hoped for result.

The fact that big-agri-business can now ship us crates of bees from the other side of the planet as a regular business practice, and only some of them die on the way, and most of them live long enough to pollinate that years crops really isn’t that much of a reassurance.

Sure it gives us food security of a sort, but that is only one part of why it’d be good to keep the bees and not have all the native european bees die and be replaced with a narrower genetic mix of african variants, not used to our climate or ecosystems. (and which our eco systems are not used to either).   We have a track record of buggering things up rather grandly when we start shuffling species around the planet for our convenience.  Ask the Aussies about rabbits, or the British about importing elm tree (or now ash and oak) .

 

The combination of the campaign working, and the farming of bees as product, seems the more logical reason for any changes, since an increase in populations was the effect that was aimed for with all the bee support campaign and we know that business is increasing the numbers because more farms are having to buy in bees because there just aren’t the local ones around.

 

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