Saturday, February 6, 2010

The first Tuesday of every month is our local bee club meeting. Did I mention I'm in our local bee club? Right, because I'm about to be a real live beekeeper. Did I mention I'm about to be a beekeeper? Yes? Good.

Tuesday night's club meeting was both eye-opening and slightly migraine-inducing. You see, we have speakers at our monthly bee club meetings, and this week's topic was pests, fungucides and pesticides used in blueberries. A man who works with the provincial government came in and gave us a talk - he works with blueberry farmers, but his information was helpful for our bees, as well - because most of what the government recommends to blueberry farmers to deal with the pests they encounter will kill our bees. Like 80% of it.

Synchronistically, earlier the same day I'd read a post about Bayer killing bees on one of my new bee blog haunts. Interestingly, I cannot find the exact article, but I did find this and this and this and this and if you Google "Bayer Kills Bees" yourself, you'll find enough reading to fill the rest of your day and night. So you get the picture. And here was our own provincial government using the fear tactics they always use and telling us why the blueberry farmers NEED to use Bayer products to...um, kill our bees. And shoot themselves in the foot in the process. Because no bees = no pollinators = no crops = no money = no farm = no home for farmers. Mind you, the pesticides are meant for aphids and caterpillars and leafworms and such, but there's that "unpleasant" and "unavoidable" side effect of killing the bees, as well.

What I learned from that talk solidified what I already knew, which I will share with you, my reader. Ha! see what I did there? Me reader. Because there can be only one.

Ahem. Anyway, my knowledge:

~ Mother Nature loves diversity. Look around you - do you EVER see anything growing by itself in the wild? EVER? NO. She is designed to have several plants growing together, complimenting each other, helping each other to thrive but not get all too out of control.

~ When too much of one crop (monocropping) is grown in one place, Mother Nature takes note and sends in what humans call "pests" to take care of things and restore natural order. You see, "pests" are naturally attracted to these crops, and since there are no natural repellents like other protective plants growing around, it's an all-you-can-eat buffet out there. These pests can create viruses or just eat the crops or rot the roots - they're very industrious and creative.

~ Many of these "pests" are not native pests, just like many of our monocrops aren't. They're shipped in on fruit from other countries like the US and Japan. California, I'm looking at you.*

* California has found natural solutions to these pests, however, which I will go into in a minute. We cannot be bothered to take such drastic and ridiculous action, however. It might take effort.

~ One of the newest "pests" that has everyone all freaked out is the Spotted Wing Drosophila. Here's some more of that action if you're interested. Lovely, no? This guy is basically a mutated fruit fly, so behaves as such, only the difference here is that the female of the species (cure freaky music) has a serrated ovis. What this means is that she can saw the flesh of soft fruits (including all berries, tomatoes and even grapes) and then lay her eggs inside. And did you catch the 'fly' part of fruit fly? That means that those eggs turn into - you guessed it - maggots. And in this country, there aren't many folks who would find a maggot-infested piece of fruit appetizing. Some of my friends might shrug and call it B12 or protein, but most folks - most folks aren't so keen on the maggots. And since we LOVE to export food, particularly blueberries, around these parts, that's not such good news for the farmers.

The solution around here is to BLAST those little bastards with fungucides and pesticides and lots of them, because we all know that tolerances can develop and if we use too much of the same kind of chemicals, the fly will just become immune. Oh, and guess what else? They need to be blasted every two days while the fruit is ripe. That means layers and layers of different pesticides and fungucides on permeable fruit like blueberries.....GAH! my head is going to explode just thinking about it.

Where was I besides consumed by my own disgust and rage? Oh, right - "solutions".

Interestingly, Japan has employed the solution of keeping the bush completely shrouded in a sheet/covering while the fruit ripens, in order to keep out the SWD. In addition, any ripened fruit having fallen on the ground is cleaned up - nothing is left to rot .Because anyone who has had regular fruit flies knows what they love - ripe or rotting and fermenting fruit.

California has also had success with using just hygiene - keeping the ground clear of fruit when it falls.

But here, we use machines to harvest. and here, taking the time to do things like clean up the fruit would just be too much trouble - who can be bothered? Instead, we prefer to use toxic, expensive chemicals to blast the pests away.

I just don't understand this. I just don't. Years of research and development are put into creating these products. Millions of dollars. Wouldn't a more sustainable, a kinder, gentler solution be to just train more farmers in permaculture and end monocropping? Wouldn't another solution be to just stop importing fruit from other countries, so we also stop importing these "pests"? We don't need imported fruit - we don't need oranges or avocadoes in Ferbruary for Goddesses sake. These things are luxuries, not necessities. We could learn to live without them just like Cuba learned to live without the US. And we could be healthier for it - we'd be self-reliant.

And I know - I get it. I know it's about politics and money and big business and more succinctly, agri-business. I know. But even so, I cannot get my head around it. When I am sitting in a room full of these commercial beekeepers, these are good people. These people are just trying to make a living. In the bee club, we share information - everyone is there to offer a helping hand to people like me, the novice beekeeper. The blueberry farmers, they are just doing what they're told to do. It's just...what if they were being told to be sustainable? What if beekeepers refused to work with any farmer who used sprays and wasn't using permaculture? What if our provincial government refused to endorse agri-business products and focused its research on sustainable farming practices and what it would be to live in harmony with nature rather than fighting her?

I feel saddened that people are so disconnected from their true nature that they would do such things to themselves, to the planet. There is a reason that it is called a food chain. Each link is a part of it. Each link is necessary to its strength and tenacity. If you kill the bees, you kill the pollinators. Without the pollinators, the plants cannot reproduce. Without plants, there is no food. Without food, there is no life - it is so simple!

And yet in ways, it is so complicated.

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