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Michael Hughes from the Beekeepers Society of Ireland delivered three magnificent hives of bees to our farm a week ago.
Myself Joe (2) Ella (6) and Hannah (8) went down the farm to visit the newly arrived bees last Tuesday. It was an amazing evening, the sun was shining, it was warm and it just felt good to be alive. The bees were in flying form (ha, ha) and were buzzing around like crazy. Joe and I took a little video and this is what we saw, you could watch these fantastic creatures for hours on end, they are truly amazing.
It beggars belief that the continued use of pesticides such as the neonicotinoids (currently on a temporary ban in the EU, thank you EU) is allowed even though there is irrefutable scientific evidence linking them to the decline in bee populations.
Here are a couple of basic facts:
However a study published in the journal Insects last year has shown that fungicides may well do damage to bees, by weakening their immune system and making them more vulnerable to parasites.
And a more recent study just published shows they may also damage our own nervous system.
Modern fungicides and in particular the strobilurins that are sprayed on fruit and vegetables have come under fresh scrutiny after scientists found they caused genetic changes in mouse neurons similar to those seen in autism and Alzheimer’s disease.
Since these fungicides arrived on the market, they have been sprayed in increasing quantities to protect crops such as cabbages, spinach, lettuce, kale, tomatoes, apples, pears and grapes.
The most recent study published in Nature Communications shows according to author Mark Zylka “Evidence that these chemicals are bad for neurons. They turn the same genes on or off that you see not only in autism brains, but also in neurodegeneration.
Prior to starting the project, Zylka said he did not pay much attention to whether he was buying organic or conventionally grown food. But over the course of the study, his perspective changed. “These fungicides are bad news for neurons. So I now purchase organic whenever possible, and especially for my young kids. I would prefer not to be exposed to chemicals like this, especially after seeing what they do to neurons,” he said.
The global market for fungicides is predicted to be worth $19 billion by 2019. The global value market for pesticides stood at $54.8 billion in 2014. Bees contribute over $29 billion to European agriculture alone, but I guess the bees don’t get paid, unlike the players in the booming global agribusiness sector.
It is the scale of use of these chemicals that is alarming. As I looked and watched the bees the thoughts of how we can let our food be produced in this way whirled around in my head. As human beings we can choose to avoid the exposure to these chemicals. It is the unsuspecting wild birds and bees that do not have any choice. I think we have a responsibility to choose wisely, to be aware that our choices have a definite impact on the environement and it is our responsibility to change.
When you get close to the bees and you observe them doing their work, it is then that you question the madness of how conventional food is produced. The bottom line is always the same, we get what we pay for and somebody or something, somewhere always pays.
So as Joe and I pondered (well I pondered, I think Joe was too tired to do much pondering), Hannah and Ella were engaged in the serious work of using a stick to measure the depth of a nearby muddy puddle, a very important job indeed and the bees did what bees do completely oblivious to our presence.
So thanks again for your support.