The deadly consequences of silencing the buzz

By Roger Poole

Few articles have had such a profound effect on me, as Dr Gerhard Verdoorn’s “The victim of irresponsible pesticide use” in Farmer’s Weekly. A day that had been set aside for the TIPWG newsletter was suddenly lost as I pondered life without honey, candles, make-up, most crops, fruits and wild flowers – otherwise known as a life without bees.

Initially, I was left deeply saddened by the global plight of our pollinating pals and angry about how the mass deaths in the Western Cape, as a result of unlawful pesticide use, could possibly occur with all the label restrictions that govern pesticide use in South Africa.

Once my anger and upset abated, which did take a while, I was left with one question: “What can we (as TIPWG) do?

It’s a challenge posed to the farming and forestry communities by Gerhard, and CropLife SA, in the article. CropLife SA has taken the bold decision to tackle the challenge head on and we would like to be standing beside them while they do it.

So, what will this involve?

At the very minimum, we expect all FSA members to read labels prior to applying pesticides to ensure our sector does not make the same deadly mistake as our agricultural neighbours.

However, we feel that as a sector we should be doing more.  Especially as Eucalyptus, or blue gums, is such an important over-winter pollen source for bees.

One commitment we plan to make is the production of a bee SOP, stipulating the “do’s and don’ts” to ensure your pesticide application is beneficial to the bees.

We also want to challenge all foresters to bring the buzz back into to their plantation, by opening them up to local beekeepers. There are a number of members already doing this, as well as some who have their own honey harvesting initiatives. We applaud them and challenge the rest. Wouldn’t it be great if this became a sector-wide initiative?

A brighter future?

With September being Arbor Month, perhaps it’s time we planted more than just trees? Why not this year sow some indigenous wild flowers too?

A town in the UK took up the challenge, sowing kilometres of wild flowers along road verges. The results have been spectacular, boosting pollinator numbers, as well as the visual appeal of what is a very industrial town.

How about as an industry we do the same? Deliberately setting aside areas for pollinators between our plantations and sowing wild flowers around buildings and in our gardens? If you want to know what to plant, check the amazing planting for bees infographics on the Medicinal Gardens website.

Small changes can make a great difference, and like Einstein said, “If the bee disappeared off the face of the Earth, man would only have four years left to live.” I don’t know how realistic this is, but personally I wouldn’t play Russian roulette with the words of Einstein!

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