A common mantra of many amateur bee clubs is, “Treat and feed.”
I hear this all the time, and I think that new research is showing that the ‘you must treat your bee’s’ camp, is out of touch with modern beekeeping, evolution, and nature in general (see previous posts for references). Here’s a new paper I hadn’t seen until today from frontiers in microbiology showing that common chemical mite treatments modify the gut bacteria of honeybees:
Previous research has shown that sub-lethal pesticide exposure results in increased nosema levels:
There is increasing evidence that the ‘you must feed your bee’s’ camp may not be far behind…
The following two recent articles from Bee Culture drive the point home that Marla Spivak made so well in her ted talk (https://www.ted.com/talks/marla_spivak_why_bees_are_disappearing).
PL A N T M O R E F L O W E R S .
This short easy article tells me, I need to make sure I have plenty of sunflowers in the already diverse flower mix that’s now taking up nearly all of my back yard:
And this one, a little heavier on the science, presents something of a ‘review’ of many studies, seems to me to indicate that by feeding our bees, we may actually be short circuiting their natural ability to raise off spring capable of surviving limited forage conditions:
At least one of the studies referenced shows that larvae that didn’t get enough to eat, resulted in adult bees that were better able to survive in a forage poor environment.
This makes me wonder if feeding our colonies in times of dearth might actually be exacerbating the problem, by preventing them from raising adult bees tuned to the current environmental condition–ready to survive when food is scarce…
Our (human’s) natural desire to “DO SOMETHING” can sometimes really get in the way of nature–especially insects so well evolved that they’ve managed to make it on their own for millions of years:
Something of an aside, but related to feeding bees sugar water:
Although I knew pre-harvest glyphosate sprays were common for many food crops (flowering and non-flowering):
and for a less ‘sciency’ article:
and that the use of pre-harvest roundup on wheat shows a direct correlation with the increase in many health problems including thyroid cancer (just glance at the graphs in this study):
It wasn’t until recently that I learned this pre-harvest ‘ripening’ herbicide application practice was being performed with Sugarcane as well…a google search for ‘sugarcane glyphosate’ gives you all manner of research on the practice dating back more than 10 years.
I’ve not been able to pinpoint when glyphosate ‘ripening’ sprays started being used for sugar cane, but most of the earlier research publications I’ve found date between 2004 and 2008 (whereas, wheat/soy/etc…started getting the pre-harvest sprays in the 1990’s).
CCD was first reported in the US in 2006 (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Colony_collapse_disorder)…could there be a correlation between wide spread commercial application of glyphosate pre-harvest for sugar cane and CCD? … or for that matter the increasing child development and obesity epidemic we’re seeing at present?
While there’s still debate about glyphosate’s acute toxicity for honey bees (just like there’s still debate that cigarettes might not give you lung cancer) there is no question that it’s use is devastating pollinator habitat, and as a result, their health:
Do we really want to be feeding our bees sugar syrup made from cane sprayed with roundup? Do we want to be feeding our bees at all if it’s going to short circuit their natural defenses against dearth where undernourished larvae naturally develop into adults better able to survive low forage conditions?
I don’t have any answers or piratical apiary experience with this, but I will next year as this new (to me) information has pushed me to decide to run not only a chemical free apiary, but one with, at least for this year, no supplemental feeding as well.
If anyone knows of research or hands on experience with chemical free, food supplement free apiaries, please share!