By HEATHER WALTERS
Chances are you’ve seen or met John Rundle at the Norfolk County Fair over the years displaying a “bee hive” and answering questions posed by the curious public.
To ‘ Find the Queen Bee in the Hive’ is always a popular challenge for fair-goers. John Rundle has been a local beekeeper for nearly two decades. He is a member of the local chapter of Haldimand Norfolk Beekeepers Association and tends four hives of his own on the edge of Port Dover.
David Bowen, a local business man, admits he is a newbie on the bee scene. He met John Rundle at the Fair a couple of years ago and took an immediate interest in both beekeeping and bee conservation.
He found John to be a wealth of valuable information and together they began two new hives on Dave’s property near Hay Creek.
While Dave admits he is a novice in the bee industry, he is no stranger to the business of technological education and computer generated teaching and has begun to work with the Haldimand Norfolk Beekeepers Association putting together an informative website (just google www. Halnor Beekeepers.com) designed to inform people about local bees.
The website also has links to sign up for beekeeping courses and location of meetings and offers ways to get involved in the bee industry. There is also a direct link to a “tech transfer team” part of the educational arm of the Beekeepers Association located at Guelph University, a complete resource for anyone already keeping bees or those interested in getting involved in other capacities.
Rundle and Bowen, mentor and student, have joined forces to educate the public regarding the very serious health issues that are affecting all bees. Bees are dying in vast numbers. Many theories have been put forward in the last decade as to why the bees are dying – from cell phone interference to mite infestations.
This summer alone, most local beekeepers have reported a loss of 50% — half of their bees are not surviving to reproduce. Since 35% of our food production relies directly and the rest indirectly on pollination, this is a very real concern, particularly in a largely rural economy.
The most widely accepted theory, and one that is fully endorsed by both these beekeepers, is the theory that the pesticide “neonicotinoid” is part of a cocktail mix of chemicals used to spray feeds (ie. corn) and is proving to be toxic to bees. Neonicotinoid is already banned in Europe for this reason.
The message from both these conservationists is clear. “We need to consciously protect our bee population in order to protect our farming industry. Until research on this product (neonicotinoid) is completed in Canada, we need to stop using this pesticide” says David Bowen.
“We should follow Europe’s example and take a look at their findings. The Ontario Beekeepers Association is strongly behind this conclusion – that neonicotinoid is a major contributor to bee population decline. It is a rural problem, not found in cities. City bees are relatively healthy. It is a problem here in the country because we use neonicoinoid to kill bugs in plants and that is affecting the bee’s DNA, making changes at a molecular level.” Bowen equated this situation with that of the DDT issue that affected the eagle population decline a generation ago. “We learned what the DDT was doing to breeding pairs of eagles, we banned DDT, and luckily the eagles have been able to make a strong comeback. We need to do the same for our bees.”
Part of the website David has been working on contains a link to the Ontario Beekeepers Association on-line petition asking our government to do just that – ban the use of neonicotinoid until further research is done. He is hoping his website will educate and inspire local people to get involved by signing the petition, by learning more about bee care and by respecting these very important creatures that are such an important part of food production. Look for the beekeepers display at the fair.