What about honeybees dying

Wild bees

  • “So many bees are dying now, you can hear. Why is that? (Question from a visitor to a wild bee nesting wall) "
  • “I'm looking for an interview with a wild bee expert for a documentary about bee deaths. I am interested in how much the Varroa mite, which was introduced in 1977, reduced wild bee populations. "
  • “How do you assess the fact that professional beekeepers are getting older and therefore fewer. And what would an extinction of the honey bee mean for us? "
  • “I have a wild bee hotel on my balcony (perforated block of wood). There was a lot of activity there this spring, but it has been quiet for several weeks, I only notice that since the honey bees have disappeared, wild bees have stopped flying. "

"Bee death" sounds dramatically like death and loss and danger to human nutrition - and therefore an ideal topic for the media. When the public speaks of "bee deaths", however, two different phenomena are meant, and even honey bees are often confused with wild bees: Our media report overwhelmingly about losses among beekeepers' honey bee colonies and produce terms such as "bee epidemic", " "Bee deaths", "bee colonies" etc. give the impression that all types of bees are affected by bee deaths or that there are only honey bees at all. On the other hand, the precarious situation of wild bees is rarely mentioned explicitly. A local newspaper (Solinger Tageblatt) z. B. wrote on May 19, 2008 about a beekeeping festival: "Interested parties learned that all types of bees except wild bees produce honey [...]." In Europe, however, there was and still is only one type of honeybees, namely Apis mellifera, while in Germany alone (!) over 550 species of wild bees still live.

Former distribution of the dark honey bee (Apis m. Mellifera). The nominate form living in forests was in the north German lowlands [:::] and hardly represented in tree-poor regions of neighboring countries.

1. Honey bee deaths [ Wild bee deaths]

It is not uncommon in nature for individual honey bee colonies to die, and since humans have been beeing beekeepers, they too have been among the causes of this death. For a long time, however, the dairy and the subsequent beekeeping were halfway compatible with nature and harmed the local honeybees (Apis mellifera mellifera = Nominate form) hardly - nature was able to quickly compensate for losses among honey bee colonies caused by humans, bears, parasites and unfavorable weather. That has changed dramatically in the meantime - an overview:

  • Archaeological finds revealed that the Vikings kept honeybees during a warm period until the end of the 12th century. These disappeared in the colder centuries that followed and were not reintroduced into Norway until around 1750. So that was what caused the honeybees to die back then climate or nature itself. The following mass extinctions were or are man made:
  • Honey bee mortality, which can still be felt today, has been observed by the Beekeepers operated: First, in 1843, the Italian honeybee, Apis mellifera ligustica, introduced to Switzerland and ten years later to Upper Silesia, then to France and England in 1859; the reasons were the pretty coloring and the supposed greater peacefulness, the result was the hybridization of the native dark honeybees, Apis mellifera mellifera. The import of Italian honey bees to the detriment of the local population declined at the beginning of the 20th century, but after World War II, beekeepers increasingly imported Carniolan bees from Austria and Slovenia, Apis mellifera carnica. In order not to allow them to be bastardized with the predominantly already hybridized dark honey bees, their remaining populations were purebred by the carnica-Race and persecution of wild peoples ousted and finally completely destroyed in Germany. These extermination the domestic honeybee is the real scandal - and it continues: Even in the 21st century there is still or again hostility against owners of the domestic honeybees Apis mellifera mellifera and vandalism on their honey apiaries. The dark honey bees, which have been introduced and kept by some alternative beekeepers since the end of the 20th century, unfortunately come from different regions of Europe, i.e. from different sub-races; What would be necessary would be a state-coordinated reintroduction of the original subspecies or nominate form that had been displaced from Germany and was enforced against criminal resistance.
  • Also mentioned again and again by beekeepers and the media Varroa mite(Varroa destructor) is not a bad trick by nature, but by humans: In 1977 scientists from the Oberursel Bee Institute brought Asian honey bees for research purposes (Apis cerana) to Germany - and with them the Varroa mite in their luggage. The approximately 1.6 millimeter large mite only develops in the capped cells of the honeybees and in the winter months, when the bee brood is missing, it bites into adult honeybees. European honey bee races are at the mercy of this mite infestation, as they have not been able to develop any protective mechanisms against "varroosis" in just a few decades. Without beekeeping's greed for new breeds and breeds to optimize honey yield, this problem would not exist ...
  • Another honeybee parasite introduced by humans (and occasionally mentioned in the press) is the small one, native to southern Africa Hive beetle(Aethina tumida) from the gloss beetle family (Nitidulidae). The beetle lays its eggs preferably in honey bee colonies, where its larvae eat honey, pollen and bee brood and destroy the honeycombs. While African honeybee races successfully defend themselves against the parasite, the North American peoples of the western honeybees - by the way naturalized there - are not able to do so. The hive beetle appeared in southeastern North America in 1996 and has since spread across the United States. He has been in Canada since 2002, registered in Egypt since 2000, in Australia since 2002 and in Portugal since 2004. And in Germany? Globalization makes him expect there too.
  • Another contagious disease of the honey bee is that Nosemosis. As a unicellular pathogen was initially only Nosema apis known, which, as a long-lived spore, is relatively insensitive to temperature and dehydration when it is at rest. In 1996, a similar microsporidium was found in Asia as a parasite of the Eastern honeybees (Apis cerana) discovered: Nosema ceranae. In 2005 it became more aggressive Nosema-Variant proven in Spain. Since the losses among honey bee colonies have been significantly more frequent and greater since then, there is a transmission of Nosema ceranae discussed by the introduced Varroa mite.
    Other well-known diseases such as foulbrood, lime brood or bag brood have been known for a long time and have not reached the extent of the aforementioned mass deaths and have not reached the same level of press coverage.
  • Since winter 2006/2007 the Colony Collapse Disorder(CCD) Headlines. Typical of this dramatic mass extinction is the fact that the colonies fly empty: the forager bees do not return to the hive, consequently the young bees that are not supplied with the queen and the brood die. The causes have not yet been fully clarified, but the pathogens found in the honeybees' intestines suggest a complex phenomenon: honeybees in the USA are exposed to considerable stress even more than in Europe: artificial keeping conditions (economically optimized interior design of the styrofoam hives, one-sided feeding), constant change of location when the colonies are driven to the plantations, monocultures (i.e. one-sided nutrition), pesticide contamination of crops, lack of unpolluted wild flora, etc.
    One virus that is dangerous for honey bees is that discovered in Israel in 2004 Israel Acute Paralysis Virus (IAPV); it was probably introduced into the USA in honey bees from Australia and is apparently fatal to colonies weakened by Varoa infestation and other stress factors.
  • The recent mass losses have been due to highly toxic Pesticides causes: At the beginning of the 21st century, hundreds of thousands of honey bee colonies perished in France. A government investigation report, carried out by the universities of Caen and Metz and the Pasteur Institute, demonstrated a causal connection between the Bayer pesticide Gaucho (Active ingredient Imidacloprid) and honey bee deaths, and the French approval authority AFSSA refused approval. In Germany, however, it was granted.
    In 2008 the nerve poison became Clothianidin Bayer CropScience used it to protect the maize seeds against the maize rootworm - a goal that could have been achieved without toxic by changing crops, i.e. by alternately growing maize and another crop. When the seeds treated with this pesticide were applied in spring, a few gusts of wind were enough to blow a little abrasion on the flowers and leaves in the area and destroy all the insects there: in addition to honey bees, all locally occurring wild bees and the other hymenoptera, flies, butterflies and others who are dependent on nectar for their self-sufficiency. The mass extinction only became known because beekeepers registered it on their pets and farm animals, the honey bees, and sounded the alarm.
  • As diverse and sometimes massive as the "honey bee deaths" registered by beekeepers may have been (was): the domesticated honey bee was closed despite the varroa mite and pesticides none At this point in time their entire population is endangered, as long as there are beekeepers, they are not expected to die out. From die out but that is threatened domestic Dark European honey bee (Apis mellifera mellifera), as their remaining stocks are endangered by interbreeding with domesticated breeds and their diseases. The wild or nominate form of the honey bee is like the last wild horses and wild asses, wild camels and wild cattle: They are also known to be acutely endangered and threatened with extinction due to habitat loss, (hardly avoidable) crossing with breeding breeds and their diseases.
  • The possible or probable Consequences honey bee deaths are usually misrepresented:
    • The Nature does not suffer under the dying of foreign, domesticated honey bee colonies: It is due to the extermination of the native wild honey bee (Apis mellifera mellifera) already damaged, and their (often unrestrained and deliberately exaggerated) pollination performance on wild plants must by no means - and should not - be provided by high-breeding honeybees as a substitute, but rather by the reintroduced wild form of honeybees in the areas in which they originally occurred. Since there is apparently no wild plant that depends on pollination by honey bees, this can also be provided by bumblebees, social furrow bees and the many solitary bees, of which there are well over 500 species in Germany alone. Little is known about the fact that in America before the European colonization there were no honey bees at all, so wild plants were only pollinated there by (mostly solitary) wild bees, which apparently do this job well.
      In addition: Even if an endangered wild plant population depends on insect pollination, it will by no means die out without honey or wild bees: In addition to various types of bees, wasps, flies, beetles and butterflies also visit nectar-forming flowers, and some seeds survive in the soil and only germinate in one the next few years. Damage to nature (plants and insects) is caused by the toxins that kill honey bees.
    • In contrast to wild plants, wild bees can only skip a breeding season in exceptional cases - namely as so-called overhangers - they usually immediately die out locally if their foraging plants are mowed too early or poisoned or are gathered by too many honey bees. Especially oligolectic Solitary bees are therefore even in some (!) areas relievedif the honeybee was previously kept there in high population density and this mass production suddenly ceases: The pollen of a flower can only be collected once: by honeybees or unrivaled by wild bees.
    • The share of domestic beekeeping in the Honey production decreases in favor of further cheap imports from abroad. These may be problematic for some consumers for health reasons, namely allergological reasons, but are also not really necessary: ​​We can live or survive well even without honey ...
    • Parts of industrialized agriculture would, however Problems get: Some plant species can only be found on huge monoculture industrially cultivated fields in cleared landscapes through a multitude of Honey bee coloniespollinatethat are set up there at the right time so that the honeybees can reach all areas. (If one wanted to achieve the same pollination performance by wild bees - i.e. solitary bees and bumblebees - one would have to convert a considerable part of these cultivated areas into nesting habitats with appropriate natural nesting structures, i.e. sunny slopes with little vegetation, dead wood, etc.)
      Really important, and in some cases even indispensable, is the mass production of honeybees in industrial agriculture alone - the USA is the best example of this. However, the question must be allowed as to whether we really want and need the agricultural industry with its gigantic use of technology and chemicals; Organic farming benefits from traditional, more species-appropriate honey beekeeping as well as the wild bee populations that can be found in every richly structured landscape.

2. Wild bee deaths

The "Kanitzkorb": traditional "prey" for the dark honey bee, Apis mellifera mellifera

While the supposed or dramatized death of honeybees by beekeeping associations is repeatedly the topic of media and political announcements, there is another or that actual bee deaths hardly a mention: that of the Wild bees. This is all the more incomprehensible as these not only die individually, but as species regional and national die out. If you look at the extensive lists of bee species that the taxonomists of the 18th and 19th centuries compiled, you will no longer find many of the species collected and described at the time in today's mapping reports: The wild honey bee, which was deliberately exterminated in Germany was quickly followed by many other wild bees, most of them solitary bees (hermit bees), the females of which each take care of their own offspring, i.e. without workers. In the meantime (2014) 52% of Germany's wild bees fill the hazard categories of the Red Lists of threatened animal species.
Even more noticeable than the number of species, which the layman can hardly assess, is the decline in the number of individuals: in earlier times wild bees appeared in the thousands in the countryside and in the villages, they simply belonged to everyday life and, unfortunately, also to the dirt layer the windshield; Nowadays people of civilization panic when a few bees in the lawn, in the sandpit or in the Nesting Ikea shelf. The reasons for the mass extinction or the extermination of wild bees are not only economic egoism but also stupidity, unreflected fear and perverted "love of order".

  • The first Extermination campaign concerned the wild form of the honeybees and began rather harmlessly: medieval honeybeeing took away the honeycombs of the wild honeybees nesting in hollow trees in order to steal wax and honey. The colony was destroyed as a unit, but the bees were able to "bed down" with other colonies, so their populations did not threaten to die out. The keeping of honeybees in log hives, beehives, etc. did not endanger the species or regional subspecies, as the honeybees kept did not differ from the wild honeybees. From the middle of the 19th century, however, one led foreign (South & Southeast European) Honey bees one, began with performance breeding and completely eradicated the native wild form in Germany around the middle of the 20th century. The reasons were and are above all economic: The aim was to achieve high-performance breeding breeds, which today, as standard, "deliver" about five times the amount of honey that was previously available.
  • Climatic fluctuations or.Extreme weather has always led to the death and even local extinction of wild bees: During the flight time of a bee species in spring and early summer, longer, wet and cold weather periods lead to starvation of the females and fungal growth of the brood. Even extremely dry summers can cause losses. Wild bees can compensate for such losses in a few years without interference from humans, i.e. if the necessary nesting sites and foraging plants are available. The consequences of global warming are broadly foreseeable: On the one hand, heat-loving species such as the wooden bees are spreading (Xylocopa violacea) further and further north, on the other hand, periods with frequent, storm-like precipitation as well as longer dry periods will damage our wild bee populations.
  • The main reason wild bees go extinct is that destruction of their Habitats, and thus not least yours Nesting sites Meant: Many (and mostly rare) species are dependent on extensive drifting sand fields and inland dunes, salt lakes, open clay, sand and gravel pits, ruderal areas, embankments, undisturbed forest and field edges, gravel paths, crumbling and rotten dead wood, hollow and medullary stems etc. All of these nesting possibilities existed in great extent and number in earlier times, but since the 18th century have been viewed as unprofitable or simply "ugly" and consequently "greened", filled in, paved and paved, burned, composted. The work of extermination is carried out on a large and small scale:
    • Agriculture: The romantic image of agriculture conveyed in children's picture books has long been history, anyone who today still wants to experience narrow country lanes through small fields with colorful field flora has to travel far. Huge arable land without trees and bushes and gigantic harvesting machines characterize the picture, mineral fertilizers and liquid manure increase yields, wild bees find neither nesting places nor food here. In most cases, land consolidation caused damage that could no longer be repaired: The main goal was and is the reorganization of rural property in order to increase productivity, i.e. the merging of smaller production areas into larger ones that can be managed better. The expected consequence was the destruction of countless small and unproductive field trees and hedges, fallow land and open ground, hollow paths and roadsides, embankments and eruptions, ditches and ponds; all of these landscape elements are or were valuable nesting sites. The alleged secondary goal of preserving the uniqueness of the landscape and biological diversity was achieved in the rarest of cases.
    • forestry: As is well known, not all forests are the same, the species of bees that are bound to the forest need near-natural forests with fringing biotopes (sunny clearings and outer edges) and old wood, only there they find their nesting structures. For this reason, species-poor economic forests, afforestation of even the smallest areas, the removal of dead wood and the mowing of the succulent vegetation along the forest paths are harmful to bees and other living beings.
    • Streets & traffic: "Is the area paved or graveled for roads so large that it can damage nature?" This often heard question is wrongly asked, the important thing is: Where and how are roads built and paths paved? Nest aggregations often arise on and even on dirt roads. If these are then "paved" by asphalt or gravel, no one pays attention to bees' nests, no authority has replacement areas prepared the year before and then waits to build the road until the bees hatch in spring or summer. Even road traffic can cause considerable losses among wild bees, especially among bumblebees: On roads that lead through forests or over dams, bumblebee queens in particular suffer high losses in spring, so that many bumblebee colonies do not even emerge.
    • Recreational use: In the search for leisure and sports areas, unused areas are available for years: Finally, a "sensible use" has been found for a heather area, a fallow field of drifting sand, a former military area, a bank, etc., and before the terrain is completely "overgrown" , a park, a playground, a sports facility in a "natural" environment is created as a kind of salvation ... Many people - especially politicians and authorities - have problems with the idea that an area is not used by people, but simply by nature is left to. The value of such areas is usually still completely underestimated - even and especially when they are not designated as a nature reserve or natural monument.
    • Cityscape: Quite a few local politicians and planning bureaucrats believe that they are serving the common good if they remove an alleged "eyesore" or an allegedly imminent danger. What is meant are mostly very small unused, consequently "overgrown" areas, which offend the eye that has been used to nature and possibly even pose a danger to children playing ("poisonous plants" etc.). If such areas are then "cleaned" and "greened", nesting sites in the ground as well as in plant stems and dead wood are lost for aesthetic reasons - and so are important food plants for insects. The goal, which is still anchored in many people's minds, "Our village [or district, etc.] should become more beautiful" is a recipe for pseudo nature, for species poverty, hostility to life and monotony.
    • Garden design: All private gardens together represent a gigantic area that could ensure the survival of a number of species. The reality, however, is often shaped by garden owners who have enough time and money to level every square meter, to level out every difference in level with a small wall, to "green" every patch of open ground with topsoil, seeds and fertilizer and to "tidy" every path Edging curbs, and who in no way want to give themselves to their neighbors the nakedness of a dead and rotting fruit tree. This means that nesting areas with little vegetation, even the smallest cracks in the earth, the narrowest roadsides and dead wood are lost. The extended living room in front of the front door may be intended as a publicly presented green piece of jewelery - in any case, it is a space hostile to nature. A change can only be expected when we see happiness not in a human order imposed by nature, but in nature itself: in a natural garden.
  • It is now just as important as the nesting offer and unfortunately just as sparse Food supply, especially that of the pollen-producing wild plants. Industrially managed huge monocultures, if they are not poisoned, can only be used by a few species of bees, even the edges of fields are often plowed under - even if it is forbidden. Since the yield is reduced by "weeds", herbicides are used that destroy precisely those plants in which a number of species of bees have specialized. But there is no need for an "agricultural necessity" to destroy wild plants: every summer, the municipal gardening authorities go into the field again against the blooming nature, and if a "traffic safety obligation" extending up to two meters into the field is not enough as a pretext, then it is simply the work plan: How are the servants supposed to do all the work in the short time after the bloom? So you start mowing "in time" and wipe out one or the other bee population here and there.
    The garden owners are not inferior to this either, for many a garden is only a garden if, instead of the native wild forest ("weeds"), it shows the envious neighborhood the foreign and cultivated plant diversity of the regional garden center - fountains, garden gnomes and further bells and whistles included.
  • The food supply for wild bees is also impaired by a special type of agriculture: the beekeeping. With the question of how and to what extent the breeding breeds of the domesticated Honey bee affecting the populations of our wild bees, the concerns next page.
  • Of Diseases Wild bees are apparently only affected to a limited extent: the one common and feared by beekeepers Varroa-Mite only attacks honey bees - but therefore also the wild form originally native to Germany, the dark honey bee (Apis mellifera mellifera): If one were to spread this again in Central Europe, it would also be attacked by the well-known honey bee parasites, even if it would probably get along a little better with them, as it is a little more robust than the cultivated form; Nature-loving beekeepers in Scotland or Brittany (l'abeille noire, l'île de Ouessant) provide proof. However, it has been proven that other social bees, namely bumblebee workers, are infected by honey bees: with the "cripple wing virus" (DWV = Deformed Wing Virus) and the parasitic fungus Nosema ceranae.
  • As is well known, industrially managed huge monocultures require an equally huge one Biocide-Use, i.e. herbicides and pesticides. What the chemical industry and its subordinate ministers and bureaucrats sell to us as "plant protection" is really an orgy against all (also "useful") insects and endangered wild plants. All bees are legally protected, but when "proper agriculture" registers their needs, that is only on paper. In any case, nobody records and investigates the mass death of bumblebees and solitary bees - one suspects it at best when honey bees are affected and their owners, the beekeepers, register a protest.
  • Believe it or not, bees will too directly (and mostly illegal) tracked: Quite a few garden owners feel "annoyed" by the fact that bees build their nests for three weeks on their not-so-dense lawn and store provisions: Children are then in acute "mortal danger", even cats and dogs are allegedly stung, and all that "Hum" is powerful and more on your nerves than the traffic noise next door. Other contemporaries seriously fear that their tunneled path or terrace slabs could collapse or their garden furniture could be gnawed to pieces. Some homeowners even see the structure of their home endangered by bees, which only bring in nectar and clay. Often enough the distressed person then reaches for the spade and digs up the meadow or takes other lethal measures to put an (illegal) end to the "ghost". For the authorities, these are usually petty offenses ...
  • The extinction of wild bees can hardly be prevented by the subjective perception Entomological laypersons judge: Of course, the statement of a pensioner who remembers many more wild bees in his youth in the country or in the garden is true - the sheer number of bees has undoubtedly decreased greatly. However, very few people know the many different types of bees, and consequently they cannot make any reliable statements about their decline. And the subjective impression that "wild bees no longer fly either" can quickly turn into the opposite in other places, in better weather or during the flight time (which lasts only a few weeks) of a still common type of bee.

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