It’s very trendy to dine at the latest finger-on-the pulse chow house and be served their own roof top honey. And it is all well and good that folk are helping keep the busy European bee busy and at the same time keeping them safe from harms way.
But the spectre of the anticipated influx of the biosecurity-busting Varroa mite is still very real. They are the harbinger of death to a bee hive that could bring the collapse of wild bee colonies. In a previous White Stuff post I had said that: “it will be down to the beekeepers to increase the number of their hives and strategically employ their charges for effective nationwide pollination. Already the boffins in Canberra have initiated Operation Pollination to develop an emergency plan.”
Roof top honey with its nectar gathered from urban polluted pollen makes for good menu provenance narrative to give the dining punter a warm feeling. But it’s not about the honey. Honey is the sweet reward of a much bigger and teeteringly uncertain picture. It goes like this.
The first honeybees arrived from England in 1822, aboard the ship the “Isabella” and adapted to Australian conditions. Later, honeybees arrived from Italy, Yugoslavia, and North America.
The basis of our diet is one that is symbiotic with the European honeybee…the food we eat is based on fruit vegetables and livestock that has been adapted to this wide brown land but is not indigenous to Terra Australis. It all thrives on the willing help of the European honey bees
The pollination process is a critical but simple one.
When bees gather nectar their bodies becomes dusted with pollen and as they moves from flower to flower, the pollen passes from male flowers to female flowers and cross-pollination takes place.
Without the bee, the blossoms may not bear fruit and without the floral sources there could be no honey – it is a perfect partnership.
That pollination process has been reported as worth up to $1.2 billion per annum to the Australian horticultural industry.
That is the REAL BIG picture – but it is a picture that has not hit home …
“The only reason for making a buzzing-noise that I know of is because you’re a bee…
If you tell the man in the street that the honey bee is under threat – they would shrug – and murmur about importing honey …or indeed the pots of hand-knitted, macramed roof top honey.
That ill informed and naive thinking smacks of AA Milne and Winnie the Pooh
“The only reason for making a buzzing-noise that I know of is because you’re a bee…The only reason for being a bee that I know of is making honey….and the only reason for making honey is so I can eat it. “
~ Winnie the Pooh in A.A. Milne’s ‘The House at Pooh Corner’
But then by Winnie the Pooh’s own admission: he was a bear of very little brain …and long words bothered him. And doubtless more than simple concepts did too. The issue facing the honey bee is NOT a wholesome and simple bed time story.
The silent crisis threatening two thirds of Australia’s food supply to which the wider food industry is largely oblivious. Of Australia’s food supply, 65% relies to varying degrees on managed European honeybees for their pollination: fruit, vegetables, nuts and seeds.
But it doesn’t stop there. Beef and dairy rely on lucerne and clover pollinated by honey bees.
Even the 19th century US poet Emily Dickinson waxed lyrical on that score: “To make a prairie it takes a clover and one bee, One clover, and a bee…”