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article imageReview: ‘What's Killing Our Bees?’ Special

By Alexander Baron     Aug 3, 2013 in Environment
The bee is one of the most important creatures on the face of this planet. For some time bees have been dying in droves, and if they die, so do we.
If you don't know about this crisis, perhaps you should spend less time reading non-stories about non-issues, and concentrate on what is really important. Check out the Vanishing Bees website, or some of the analysis on this one by microbiologist Tim Sandle.
This Horizon special What's Killing Our Bees? is presented by talking head Bill Turnbull, who certainly knows what he is talking about because he is arguably Britain's most famous bee-keeper, and wrote the Foreword to Bee Manual: The Complete Step-by-step Guide to Keeping Bees.
Between 1985 and 2005, the number of honey bee hives fell by about 50%, and that is far from the worst news. To demonstrate how important are these tiny creatures to human survival, Turnbull produced a breakfast for the BBC Breakfast news programme using only food that was not produced by bees. That meal consisted of dried toast made from brown and white bread, and tea without milk. That was it.
So what is killing our bees: the weather; a parasite (the varroa mite) - which has been here since 1992; the viruses that accompany the varroa; pesticides; or something else, like the nature of agriculture?
At the Rothamsted Research Institute, Turnbull meets a scientist with the unbelievable name of Dr Stephan Wolf (Born To BEE Wild) who shows him some fascinating research in tracking bees.
There is a lot to this programme, and a lot of that is apparent anomalies. Why is it that bee colonies in the centres of Birmingham and Paris are thriving, and their honey among the finest of this wonderful nectar?
So what is the solution, or is there more than one? One proposed solution is genetically modified plants - that will go down well with the anti-Monsanto crowd. Not.
Although he provides no definitive answers, Turnbull - who was clearly the originator of this programme - has made an invaluable contribution to one of the real and most pressing problems of these interesting times, because if the bees die, we die with them.
The man in white is celebrity bee-keeper Bill Turnbull; here he is not engaged in his hobby but in s...
The man in white is celebrity bee-keeper Bill Turnbull; here he is not engaged in his hobby but in some serious research for a BBC "Horizon" programme.
More about Bill Turnbull, Bees, Honey
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