This blog documents the story of the Bee Limerick Group and their quest to introduce honey bees back into the city centre of Limerick. Bee Limerick along with its partners are also involved in planting native Irish flowers, shrubs and trees to create a resilient urban ecology.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Vanishing of the Bees

Vanishing of the Bees

In the UK, around 1/5 of honeybee hives were lost in the winter of 2008/2009. Bees pollinate 1/3 of the food we eat, and contribute £ 200,000 annually to the UK economy. This is known in apiary science as CCD or ‘colony collapse disorder’, a phenomenon in which worker bees from a beehive or European honey bee colony abruptly disappear. Not only do bees abandon their hives, but the queen and the brood as well. Even the predators that usually raid the hives for honey stay far away. Bees are disappearing all over the planet and no one knows why.

This phenomenon has brought beekeepers to crisis in an industry responsible for producing apples, broccoli, watermelon, onions, cherries and a hundred other fruits and vegetables. Commercial honeybee operations pollinate crops that make up one out of every three bites of food on our tables.

So why are the bees dying? This question merits a lengthy and well thought out response which covers massive differences of opinion among scientists, farmers, bee keepers and government agencies. The film ‘Vanishing of the Bees’ looks at CCD from the view point of the beekeeper as well as from the perspective of hard science while keeping in mind the mystic spirit of the honeybee. The film follows commercial beekeepers David Hackenberg and Dave Mendes as they strive to keep their bees healthy and fulfill pollination contracts across the U.S. The film explores the struggles they face as the two friends plead their case on Capital Hill and travel across the Pacific Ocean in the quest to protect their honeybees.

Filming across the US, in Europe, Australia and Asia, this documentary examines the alarming disappearance of honeybees and the greater meaning it holds about the relationship between mankind and mother earth. As scientists puzzle over the cause, organic beekeepers indicate alternative reasons for this tragic loss. Conflicting options abound and after years of research, a definitive answer has not been found to this harrowing mystery.

However, on a more positive note - with this crisis comes an opportunity for growth and change. As the bees die, there’s much more awareness now of the importance of pollinators and how many of our food crops are dependent on honeybees specifically.  Some people are exacting more sustainable approaches to living. Biodynamic agriculture and organic farming are on the rise and a host of alternative bee keeping methods are coming into fruition.  Even laws are being changed to accommodate urban beekeeping. Beekeeping became legal in New York City in March, much to the delight of the hundreds of residents who had been keeping bees in violation of the city’s health code.

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