Dairy and bees.

A Case study in progress

Five + plus years ago Eagle creek farms had a growing operation. Raising Nucs queens, harvesting honey and other hive product's. More importantly providing a core of hive for bee mentoring and research.

With 130 to 140 thriving hives all sustainability managed. Things suddenly changed Hive losses went from 10%/20% to 30%/40%. Colony collapse began to take its toll. Soon the loss of revenue reach the point were the ability to replace hive and sell disappeared. Last Year the annual spring swarms that numbered 5 or 6 each year disappeared. The spring of 2014 saw the 15 strong hive in February turned into one. Into one strong spring hive.

What went wrong? Was it mites? Was it hive management? Both used by the agricultural industry to shift attention to the real cause.

To find out one need to look at the know causes of CCD Primarily it's the a pefect storm of conditions. In one word stress. Here are the main ones.

  • Chemical stress: Key here is neonicitoids but all chems in the hive are stressful to the bees.
  • Malnutrition: Huge issue with bees both from the point of view of the destruction of bio diversity and also quality of existing sources caused by soil destruction and chemical blockage of nutrients into both the plant source and the bee gut.
  • Mites, disease and other stress. Due to the above stresses these become more of an issue.
  • Beekeeping practises. Migitory beekeeping, over/under manipulations, poor quality queens, cell size

How dose this apply to the ECF situation

The problems of the operations began with the change in the dairy industry in the area. These conditions were a result of health boards preventing registrants from selling butter and promoting margarine. This meant that the dairies operations lost considerable demand for fat in the butter in fact were docked for fat in the milk. This lead to the cutting of alfalfa at flower instead of 10% 20% which was the norm. eliminating all pastures in the driest time of the year in the area. Nectar production dropped eliminating nectar harvest.

At the same time all milking cows were removed from pasture. Pasture land disappeared to corn. At the same time the use of larger equipment to harvest alfalfa happened. What used to be done with small equipment is now done done with one mega harvester. Now the alfalfa that used to take a week to harvest now is done in one day. Thus eliminating the previous situation of at least one field in full nectar production all summer long is gone.

This lead to having no nectar production from Jully 15 or so until august 15 when the rains start again. This leaves the only large protein source to feed the larvae with was corn pollen. The corn is treated with neonicitoids that has been link with CCD since around 2007 or so. Now the beekeepers in Ontario have raised suet against the producers. The data released in the trial has lead Ontario to draft legislation to ban them in Ontario.

This perfect storm of malnutrition and chemical contamination has lead ECF to move all colonies out. They are now in areas that have NO gmo corn and alfalfa is harvested at more realistic times. Proper harvest of alfalfa is essential for the live of the plant and all pollinators in the area. Alfalfa has deep roots which draw water up from deep in the ground ensuring nectar flows in the dry times of the year.

Current dairy practices are bad for both the dairymen and the beekeeping industry. Both labour under the added cost of reduced crop life. Chemical cost. Reduced nutritional value of GMO crops and blocked absorption of nutrients and the animals. The devitalized and contaminated food leads to increases supplements and disease management cost.

Who gains from this? The chemical companies that sell the chemicals, drugs and hospitals that profit from the maintenance of the diseases caused by the current agriculture model.

what can we do so we all prosper?

we need an plan that deals with all members of the community.

Last Update June 18, 2015