Heidi Herrmann will speak about the new 'culture of the Bee' emerging in response to the need for the cultivation of compassionate action on behalf of the bees and the greater ecosystems of which they, and we, are part. What does the growing perception of honeybees as artificially bred agricultural animals, particularly in conservation circles, ask of us? 'Learning from the bees' implies that we consider deeply the role we play in shaping the bee narrative and serving as stewards of the natural world.
Thomas Seeley will review the current state of research about the reasons why honeybees living wild in the woods around Ithaca are thriving. He will extrapolate from these findings what beekeepers may deduce from the example of bees living freely, as well as offer his views about the desirability of beekeepers learning from the wild bees in the pursuit of bee resilience and vitality.
Major losses of managed honey bee colonies, Apis mellifera, across the Northern hemisphere have resulted in global research efforts to understand the underlying mechanisms. Many factors acting singly and/or in combination have been identified, ranging from pests and pathogens, over nutrition to pesticides. However, the role of beekeeping in limiting natural selection has largely been ignored although bees are more exposed to environmental stressors compared to other life stock.
Here, I will briefly review those beekeeping aspects that influence bee health and most likely interfere with natural selection. This offers a broad range of feasible field applications for beekeepers, which will take advantage of and promote natural selection instead of limiting it.
Despite intense bee breeding over decades or even centuries, natural selection seems to be much more relevant for the health of managed honey bee colonies than previously thought. I conclude that sustainable solutions for beekeeping can only be achieved by taking advantage of natural selection.
The Bee itself must become stronger. Of course it will help enormously if beekeepers start heeding the principles of natural selection, I totally agree. But I believe that bees will become stronger when they get a greater variety of good food to eat. 80% of the bees in the world get sugar during food scarcity, which can never be healthy. Bees deserve better than that, of this I am certain, and this is why the Honey Highway initiative was born. Lots of farmland and roadsides are protein-rich grasslands; the roadsides and dykes are nothing but green deserts. A Honey Highway consists of regional organic wild flowers. Honey Highway is a long lasting bee paradise along roadsides of motorways, railways and waterways. And the communication that invariably happens around such honey highways indicate that this model of forage creation for pollinators is also effective in giving direction to the sustainability agenda of businesses - through informing people in villages and towns that the sea of flowers is for the bees ….by involving primary school children in sowing. By having students do research into the soil, and flowers that are originally grown and sown with their help. I am happy to point to the success of flowering paradises alongside motorways, ,railways and waterways throughout the whole country. Besides these communal projects more and more landowners and project developers are making their land available to enable us to transform the forage of our bees and pollinators.