gabriola garden

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Buzzing bees, ringing cell phones, pollination void

Those that are dazzled by the advances in our communication technologies would do well to read a new German study linking the proliferation of cell phones with the disappearance of the honeybees.

In parts of North America and Europe, honeybees are vanishing in great numbers from their hives. According to another study, the total disappearance of the honeybee would cost the New Zealand economy two billion dollars per annum in lost agricultural revenues. One can only surmise how these numbers would rise transposed to the United States and Canada.

Sara and I noticed last summer how our bean garden had many, many flowers, but comparatively few bean pods. There was a noticeable drop in bean production from the year before. Coincidentally, we noticed fewer honeybees buzzing around our bamboo bean house, than in previous years.

Professor Jochen Kuhn of Landau University in Germany announced the results of a small study that suggests that radiation from widespread cell phone use may interfere with the bees’ homing abilities. In other words, they are unable to find their way back to the hive after pollinating your flowers.

More specifically, it seems that cell phone radiation interferes with the bees’ neurological mechanisms that govern learning and memory. It also hinders the insects’ ability to communicate with each other.

Beekeeper acknowledge that high frequency radiation from cell phones could be a factor in the disappearance of a large percentage of bees in the past few years, but they also say that other causes, such as climate change, cannot be discounted.

The Canadian Honey Council’s website lists 10,000 beekeepers overseeing 600,000 honeybee colonies in Canada, with the majority being commercial operations in Alberta, Saskatchewan, and Manitoba. They produce 154 million kilograms of honey each year.

Of Ontario’s 76,000 bee-hives, 23,000 have been lost recently, due to severe winter weather—and cell phone use, if the German study is to be believed. Since each hive houses 60,000 bees at the height of summer weather, the loss amounts to $5-million in honey producing insects.

But the loss to agricultural production is harder to quantify. No studies have been done on the partial disappearance of honeybees, as far as I know, and what this costs the average farmer in Canada—and the United States, for that matter.

The way pollination works is that inside the petals of each flower are the stamens, or the male parts of the plant. Each stamen consists of a stem called the filament and at the top of the filament is the anther, which contains the pollen that the plant manufactures.

Within the ring of stamens is the central column called a pistil—shaped sort of like an oriental vase—and on top of the pistil is the stigma. The pistil and the stigma are the female parts of the plant. When the sticky powder called pollen is rubbed on the stigma by the honeybees, pollination occurs.

Pollination is extremely important. Without it, the flower is unable to produce fruit, thus no crop to harvest. Vegetables like tomatoes or peppers or beans are actually the fruit of the tomato, pepper, and bean plants. What gives birth to the edible vegetables is pollination.

But it’s not just vegetables that we would be deprived of without the pollination process. More importantly, we wouldn’t have any seeds. Without seeds, the continuity of each of the plant species that Sara and I are growing in our garden, would be interrupted.

Now imagine no pollination all across North America because the bees might disappear completely, then where would we be? Yes, some plants could be propagated by other means—for instance by cloning—but you can only stretch the life of each species so far without seeds to rejuvenate the gene pool.

That’s why it’s important not to use chemical pesticides on our plants. I spray our roses with Scorpion Juice, in order to impart induced systemic resistance against most pathogens and pests, and we mix Barricade into our nutrient solution each week to make sure that the potassium silicate is making the cell walls of our flowers and vegetables really strong.

These strong cell walls keep sap-sucking insects from being able to tap the vital liquids that keep our plants healthy, and also make sure that bacterial, viral, and fungal infections are kept at bay.

We saw some small signs of life in our butterfly bush this past week, so we’re hoping that this plant with its fragrant blooms will revive and attract some butterflies. It’s not only honeybees that pollinate plants, butterflies help as well. Also, there are other kinds of bees, other than honeybees.

Sara has been watering her flower garden with Iguana Juice Grow, and I’m wondering whether or not to add Iguana Juice Bloom to the mix, after all her garden is filled with flowers. Not only are the Tulips in full bloom now, but also some Daffodils are still vibrant, lots of Hyacinths are still fragrant, and the English Daisies and Primroses that Sara planted are flourishing from the outstanding plant food and supplements we give them.

Hedgehog selected small flowers for her very special barrel and the Delphiniums and Monk’s Hood are springing up and spreading like gangbusters. The Melva and other container plants on the back steps are slow in coming around. Perhaps the deep freeze of February took its toll and the containers were not able to protect the slumbering perennials inside.

I think I will add some Iguana Juice Bloom to our nutrient mix, after all those using Advanced Nutrients synthetics always mix in a little Bloom with their Grow and Micro, even during the vegetative stage. Organic B is also very important at this stage, since only by removing the stress are we able to grow the most beautiful flowers and eventually, the best vegetables possible.

Sara reminded me that we have to construct our bamboo bean house this coming weekend and since May is around the corner, the germination of the bean seeds is not too far away. We gathered some more driftwood last weekend, and Sara was able to raise the level of some of the flowerbeds, by adding more compost.

I added Grandma Enggy’s Humic Acid and Fulvic Acid to the composted soil, in order to recreate that rich, black, humus like organic layer that grew all those robust flowers and vegetables for our forebears. Then I said a little prayer for the return of the honeybees.

posted by Tim at 9:39 PM


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