There is general community awareness about the threats to the well-being and survival of bees.
The question is frequently asked, ‘What's happened to our bees?’
Most people are also mindful that our food supply and thus our very existence depends on them.
Beekeepers know only too well about it as the July issue of the beekeepers' journal, ‘The Australasian Beekeeper’, had three detailed articles devoted to the effects of widespread use of pesticides.
Many are taking direct action by joining amateur beekeeper groups and getting their own beehives.
The Amateur Beekeepers Association of NSW has grown rapidly in the last few years with now 20 branches from Bega to Northern Rivers and more than 1,000 members.
Not everyone is so motivated or able to go as far as this. Nevertheless, there is a lot that one can do without getting so actively involved.
Avoid needlessly killing bees by modifying the use of insecticides.
In farming, it is the wide use of systemic neonicotinoid varieties which are deemed to be most dangerous to bees. These chemicals pervade the whole plant, finding their way into the nectar and pollen.
The foraging bee may not suck up enough to be lethal, but small doses have a profound effect, interfering with flight and navigation so the bee may not make it home.
Her immune system is damaged rendering her vulnerable to other fatal diseases which she would otherwise resist.
Since it is the older bees which go out to forage, this accounts for the phenomenon called Colony Collapse Disorder, where bees die out despite having an active queen producing young bees.
In town, carefully consider the use of household and garden pesticides. Think twice before spraying in and around the house for spiders because this also kills native bees. There are more than 1500 species of these little creatures.
If you must spray, don't do it when bees are around or plants and shrubs are actively flowering.
Plant bee-friendly flowers and shrubs in the garden. Bees are colour blind to reds and love blues and purples.
- Jim Wright is a life member of the Hunter Valley branch of the Amateur Beekeepers' Association of NSW.