01 Dec

Bayer sponsors Honeybee Forage Program

Bayer sponsors honeybee forage program

The traditional family farm in many instances has become a desert for pollinating insects as farmers come under increasing pressure to increase their returns. The past 100 years has seen millions of hectares of native vegetation destroyed to make way for large-scale agriculture crops. The desert has also increasly become toxic as spraying has become the first response to control the enemies of the agriculture crop.

It really is a desert out there....

Programs like this are a welcome focus from industry players in restoring the habitats and foraging environments for honeybees and other native pollinating insects.  As a beekeeper, we become very attuned to what the environment has to offer and equally, the hazards that threaten the survival of our honeybees. As we seek out the floral resources required to sustain our honeybees and our beekeeping businesses, we increasingly need to transport our honeybees’ larger distances and relocate them more often. It is rare that we find the nirvana where our honeybees have access to a smorgasbord (balanced diet) of pollens and nectars especially when we are operating in the farm belts of Australia. Most commercial beekeepers will relocate their bees several times each season to achieve a profitable honey crop. A typcially honey season in NSW Australia would commence in August for the almond pollination. They would then spend September and into October on Canola crops, followed by a visit to orchards crops like prunes and citrus or gound flora's like Pattersons Curse and thistle.

While clearing of land has dramatically slowed in Australia, there was a period of time where mass clearing of native vegetation occurred on a monumental scale. As a result, what was once a diverse and complex ecosystem of flora and fauna has become a desert for the insects that once thrived in these environments.  The Mallee scrub is an example of a diverse and complex vegetation that has made way for large expanses of grain crops with the only Mallee trees left standing being those growing on road verges.  The point is, all of these crops are considered a monoculture from the honeybee's perspective, especially in drought years where there is an absence of forragable floral resources. Imagine if you were forced to eat the same food three times a day, every day and for several weeks. I suspect your health would suffer as a result of the lack of variety and nutrition in your diet. It should be no surprise that our honeybees are suffering from these man made monocultures.

Bring Back the Hedgerow

It is pleasing to see many of the large cropping and grazing properties bringing back the hedge row.  That is, there is an increasing percentage of farmers who are on a mission to achieve a more sustainable balance between harvest and fostering a diverse ecosystem of native flora, fauna, insects and wildlife on their properties. Fencing off, revegitating and quarantining strategic corridors of land creates important habitats for a raft of native plant, mammal, bird and insect species.