22 May 2012

Plight of the Honeybee

Written by Published in Food

It's not exactly news that bee colonies have been in steady decline worldwide over the past several decades. With intensive farming being cited as one of the main causes we take a brief look at the other possible reasons for what is commonly known as colony collapse disorder. Whilst it may seem easy to point the finger at pesticides and intensive farming – which no doubt play a part – many scientists are now looking for other possible reasons to explain their dramatic and worrying downfall

In the US commercial beekeeping has all but vanished and in its place we see investment in 'industrial-scale' hives, a practice which sees colonies of bees trucked around to farms and fields in an effort to pollinate crops. It is widely known that over 70 of the 100 crop species which provide most of the world's food is pollinated by bees. Should there be a complete colony collapse (a reality we could very well be facing) the worlds food supply hangs in the balance only further highlighting how crucial the honeybee is to human existence.

It is no exaggeration to say we are heavily reliant on the honeybee for our food and yet we somewhat blindly feed on their own food supply, the one thing which is crucial to their survival.

Honey may seem like a harmless product to purchase but with it comes a weight of responsibility. Without realising it, we are partaking in a series of catastrophes that will invariably leave a hive deprived of something which protects them from disease (the same diseases they are susceptible to through pesticides). In place of this vital food source the bees are instead left with a simple sugar solution, ultimately relinquishing them malnourished and vulnerable - thus resulting in the colony to collapse. It's a simple cause and effect chain of events scenario.

So, that's the bad news, but what can we do on a local level to help prevent any further decline?

Well here in the UK we have many organizations on the case such as the National Trust who have been promoting awareness for quite a while now. They encourage people to source honey from independent responsible bee keepers who understand the importance of leaving enough honey for the bees protect themselves. So when buying honey, be a conscious consumer and choose wisely.

Get planting! You can find some bee friendly plants here that can bee (sorry!) delivered to your door – how easy is that?!

Use alternative sweeteners. There are so many amazing natural sweeteners on the market now, so you are certainly spoilt for choice when it comes to omitting honey from your diet. Why not try agave nectar, date, brown rice or maple syrup or even newbie to the block, the gloriously gooey Sweet Freedom – fantastic on porridge and as a baking ingredient.

The plight of the honeybee may be on going but fear not because we can have a hugely positive effect by making some small but significant changes. We play an instrumental role in the outcome of this story and it remains each of our responsibility to ensure the future for these precious colonies is a bright one.

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