Save the Bees

It was in May 2023, we have noticed one of our customers Tanya Saran has started doing beehive farming in her garden to teach her son Leo social responsibility, he was now a teenager. Leo has become Fine Food’s champion in one of popularity competitions when he was little.

We loved the idea because it was addressing 3 important things at the same time:

1. How to help our planet:

2. How to keep our teenagers engaged with world issues and raise them as good citizens

3. How to incorporate these 2 at the same time in our daily lives

In Ontario the bylaws require placing our beehives 30 meter away from your fence with your neighbor. But if you can get their permission apparently you are fine.

Section 19 of the Ontario Bees Act, enacted in 1990, prohibits placement of hives within 30 metres of property lines where the adjacent property is used for a dwelling, community centre, public park, “or other place of public assembly or recreation”. About personal homes you will need to make sure your neighbors are not allergic and won’t complain of you. Each beehive need to be registered in Ontario and if you want to sell honey you will need an apiary permit.

Pollinators are key to reproduction of wild plants in our fragmented global landscape. Without them, existing populations of plants would decline, even if soil, air, nutrients, and other life-sustaining elements were available, says US department of Forestry.(7)

Bees can fly as far as 5 miles for food, however an average distance would be less than a mile from the hive.(8)

This means doing beehive farming in the city does not help to solve world issues directly or immediately, we actually need to place our beehives in farms that grow crops dependent on pollination.Not in the potato farms for example because they are self pollinating. (9)

Here are some self pollinating vegetables and fruits:Cherries, pears, plums, peaches, apricots, figs, citrus, quince, tomato, cucumber, lettuce, potato, eggplant, cauliflower, cabbage, okra, brussel sprouts (9,10).

Our purpose in Step 1 to support teaching teenagers beekeeping at home. Once we see we can get this going we aim to assist pollination in Ontario at large to assist agriculture where we are needed.

How else we can help bees? Ohio State University has prepared this list (11)

1. Eat bee-friendly: it means eat only organic because they don’t use pesticides, that is the number 1 killer of the bees

2.Provide a honey bee-friendly habitat in your yard or other outdoor spaces: Because the types of ornamental flowers that are commonly planted in yards do not produce enough nectar for bees, opt for bee-attractive blooms like crocus, sweet alyssum, sunflowers, coneflower, butterfly weed, geranium, bee balm, poppies, black-eyed susan, clover or apple trees. Here is the list of flowers that give the most nectar to the bees  (12)

3.Avoid the use of insecticides on your lawn

4.Don’t kill bees. Just walk away

Where in the world the bees are disappearing faster?

Greenpeace reports in Europe, Asia and South America, the annual bee die-off lags behind the U.S. decline, but the trend is clear and the response has been more appropriate. In Europe, Rabobank reported that annual European die-offs have reached 30-35 percent and that the colonies-per-hectare count is down 25 percent.(13)

in 2021 Ontario had 100 thousand bee colonies (14). In April 2022 Ontario bee keepers reported 40% loss in their colonies, 60% in Quebec (15). 2023 Canadian statistics data has not been announced yet. Let’s not wait for it.

More Information

Without pollinators, the human race and all of earth’s terrestrial ecosystems would not be the same. Of the 1,400 crop plants grown around the world, i.e., those that produce all of our food and plant-based industrial products, almost 80% require pollination by animals

Why are bees endangered? Bees are at risk of extinction largely due to human activities: large-scale changes in land use, industrialised agricultural practices, like monocultures, and the detrimental use of pesticides have all contributed to destroying their habitats and reducing their available food sources

Average bee hive densities (hives per acre) recommended for crops grown in the USA range from 1-7. Most crops that benefit from honey bees require 2-3.

Honey bees alone pollinate 80 percent of all flowering plants, including more than 130 types of fruits and vegetables (1). Non-bee pollinators include flies, beetles, moths, butterflies, wasps, ants, birds, and bats, among others

This agricultural benefit of honey bees is estimated to be between 10 and 20 times the total value of honey and beeswax. In fact, bee pollination accounts for about $15 billion in added crop value in USA alone.(2)

They are critical pollinators: they pollinate 70 of the around 100 crop species that feed 90% of the world. Honey bees are responsible for $30 billion a year in crops.(3) Without bees we may lose all the plants that bees pollinate, all of the animals that eat those plants and so on up the food chain. Which means a world without bees could struggle to sustain the global human population of 7 billion. Our supermarkets would have half the amount of fruit and vegetables. (3)

Honey bees are indispensable to agriculture, yet their future and the future of the dependent agricultural economies are perilous. (2)

If all of the world’s bees died off, there would be major rippling effects throughout ecosystems. A number of plants, such as many of the bee orchids, are pollinated exclusively by specific bees, and they would die off without human intervention. This would alter the composition of their habitats and affect the food webs they are part of and would likely trigger additional extinctions or declines of dependent organisms. Other plants may utilize a variety of pollinators, but many are most successfully pollinated by bees. Without bees, they would set fewer seeds and would have lower reproductive success. This too would alter ecosystems. Beyond plants, many animals, would lose their prey in the event of a die-off, and this would also impact natural systems and food webs. (4)

In terms of agriculture, the loss of bees would dramatically alter human food systems but would not likely lead to famine. The majority of human calories still come from cereal grains, which are wind-pollinated and are therefore unaffected by bee populations. Many fruits and vegetables, however, are insect-pollinated and could not be grown at such a large scale, or so cheaply, without bees. Blueberries and cherries, for example, rely on honeybees for up to 90 percent of their pollination. Although hand-pollination is a possibility for most fruit and vegetable crops, it is incredibly labor-intensive and expensive. Tiny robotic pollinator drones have been developed in Japan but remain prohibitively expensive for entire orchards or fields of time-sensitive flowers. Without bees, the availability and diversity of fresh produce would decline substantially, and human nutrition would likely suffer. Crops that would not be cost-effective to hand- or robot-pollinate would likely be lost or persist only with the dedication of human hobbyists.(4)

The most thorough and informative study came back in 2007, when an international team of agricultural scholars reviewed the importance of animal pollinators, including bees, to farming. Their results could encourage both the alarmists and the minimizers in the world of bee observation. The group found that 87 crops worldwide employ animal pollinators, compared to only 28 that can survive without such assistance. Since honeybees are by consensus the most important animal pollinators, those are scary numbers.(5, 6)

Approximately 60 percent of the total volume of food grown worldwide does not require animal pollination. Many staple foods, such as wheat, rice, and corn, are among those 28 crops that require no help from bees. They either self-pollinate or get help from the wind. Those foods make up a tremendous proportion of human calorie intake worldwide.(5)

If honeybees did disappear for good, humans would probably not go extinct (at least not solely for that reason). But our diets would still suffer tremendously. The variety of foods available would diminish, and the cost of certain products would surge. (5)