What’s the Buzz with ATTTA 200th Blog Post!

Thursday 2 May 2024

A milestone is being celebrated by the Atlantic Tech

 Transfer Team for Apiculture with our 200th post of

   “What’s the Buzz with ATTTA”!

Thanks to all of you who following our Blog! Enjoy #200 below

As beekeepers, we are supportive of any initiative which will help either managed or native pollinators.  This support is seemingly reflected in the general population as evidenced by the increasing concern for the environment, broadly, and pollinators specifically.  Therefore, over the past number of years, the awareness of the plight of insects, especially pollinators, has increased.  If this widespread concern over bees had a starting point, that would be the honey bee Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD) crisis which began in 2006.  A syndrome was identified which showed as mysterious high losses of colonies, the reason for which could not be identified.  With reported cases of CCD beginning in Europe, the entire northern hemisphere perceived a bee crisis.  From this point there started a global initiative to…

… Save the Bees!

Spring in Atlantic Canada comes with long awaited warmer temperatures, flowers blooming, bees buzzing!  Attention then turns to the natural environment and a resurgence of the message “save the bees”.  Although most people naturally think of honey bees when hearing this message, it is misdirected to amalgamate all bees together. Firstly, a clear distinction between managed livestock (e.g. honey bees) and wild animals (native bees) must be made.  Both may be worth saving with mutually beneficial practices, but it needs to be recognized that in North America there are over 4000 species of bee1.  So, although bees are important, the general term is unclear considering the many species to which it refers.

Dandelions are a crucial source of early season nectar and pollen for all pollinating insects!

Managed insect pollinators, of which honey bees are one example, are necessary for efficient and successful pollination of 75% of all crops2.  Pollination services directly contributes one in three mouthfuls of all the food humans consume3.  Honey bees, used for pollination, alone, contribute over $7 billion in revenue to Canadian agriculture through increasing yields4.  Globally, it is estimated that nearly ½ million lives are lost annually due to inadequate pollination resulting in decreased food availability5.  Currently in eastern Canada the demand for pollination exceeds the supply resulting in losses of revenue for farmers and direct, negative economic impacts.  These examples highlight a dependency on, and need for, managed pollinators.

Native bees need a separate consideration. The Anthropocene epoch marks the largely negative impact of human activities on all aspects of the planet.  Insects, including bees, are not exempted from this and it has been recognized there is a general decline in many species of bee, moth, wasps6.  Examples of the drivers of this decline are lost and fragmented habitats, direct competition, climate change and pollution.  Some of these challenges of native bees are shared with managed insects, particularly climate change and pollution.  These broad ranging, mainly anthropogenic, challenges have no simple solution but highlight the importance of working towards an improved outcome.

High profile campaigns, like “No Mow May”, are successful in raising awareness of the need to support bees and pollinators (managed and native alike!).  These public movements are also reflected in current, progressive activities of beekeeping and related industries.   As an example, work to protect pollinators and create additional supportive habitat are being undertaken in the Maritime region by beekeepers, wild blueberry producers* and through government funded programs**. Having direct benefit to both managed and native pollinators, these types of programs are an obvious step in the right direction and evidence of a shift towards resilient, sustainable practices.

When it comes to populist style environmental campaigns, cynics and critics put forward suggestions of corporate and industry “greenwashing”, which may often be indistinguishable from authentic Corporate Social Responsibility initiatives.  These same critics may condemn other “save the bees” campaigns as having insincere or naïve motives. Also, the annual news cycle has an appetite for stories which drive traffic to their online platforms by promoting phrases like, “dandelions are junk food for bees” in reference to the May anti-mowing campaign. Although, this statement is an obvious and deliberate misalignment of anthropomorphic terminology and more about headline grabbing than scientific veracity, it should not distract from the big picture. Motivation or authenticity behind the actions is secondary to the message and any campaign which raises awareness of the importance of bees, both to the environment and human wellbeing, is working towards a correct common goal.   Observable and impactful actions, like a lawn full of brightly colored dandelions, although questionable in its actual measurable impact, is still excellent for raising the profile of the problem. So even with dubious motivation, actions can still have a positive result. Sometimes it is necessary to decouple the motivation from the actions which lead to the desired outcome!

A honey bee on a dandelion: a reassuring indicator that bees are able to sustain themselves after a long winter. 

There are no livestock producers more connected to and enthusiastic about supporting the environment than beekeepers.  Honey bees are an important sentinel and, as the most researched and understood insect on the planet, provide insight into broader conservation issues.  Honey bees support food production and therefore have a direct economic and human health impact. They are also necessary for modern, sustainable agriculture.  Native pollinators, which are currently at risk, support the entire ecosystem.  Decreases in population and species of insects, generally, will create trophic cascades which could collapse terrestrial food webs leading to loss of global biodiversity.  So, without question bees are worth saving and a first step in that direction is increased awareness.  All efforts towards a positive common goal are worthwhile and should be encouraged.  Casting light on the challenges faced by pollinators from agrochemicals, loss of habitat, a changing climate, is required.  So let everyone fly the yellow flag of NO MOW MAY as a symbol of support for all native and managed pollinators!


*see guide “Protecting Pollinators from Pesticides – wild blueberry” https://www.perennia.ca/wp-content/uploads/2024/03/P2C_WildBlueberry_Guide_ENG-FINAL.pdf

** E.g. Resilient Agriculture Landscape Program



      1.      Winter, K., Adams, L., Thorp, R., Inouye, D., Day, L., Ascher, J. and Buchmann, S., 2006. Importation of non-native bumble bees into North America: potential consequences of using Bombus terrestris and other non-native bumble bees for greenhouse crop pollination in Canada, Mexico, and the United States.

     2.      Hristov, P., Neov, B., Shumkova, R. and Palova, N., 2020. Significance of apoidea as main pollinators. ecological and economic impact and implications for human nutrition. Diversity, 12(7), p.280.

     3.      Glover, B.J., 2023. Elephants, rainbows, flowers and bees: Interdisciplinary research driven by botanic garden collections. Plants, People, Planet, 5(2), pp.169-177.

    4.      Statistical Overview of the Canadian Honey and Bee Industry and the Economic Contribution of Honey Bee Pollination, 2021, Stats Canada   

     5.      Smith, M.R., Mueller, N.D., Springmann, M., Sulser, T.B., Garibaldi, L.A., Gerber, J., Wiebe, K. and Myers, S.S., 2022. Pollinator Deficits, Food Consumption, and Consequences for Human Health: A Modeling Study. Environmental Health Perspectives, 130(12), p.127003.

     6.      Wagner, D.L., 2020. Insect declines in the Anthropocene. Annual review of entomology, 65, pp.457-480.

Connecting with ATTTA Specialists

If you’d like to connect with ATTTA specialists or learn more about our program, you can:

visit our website at https://www.perennia.ca/portfolio-items/honey-bees/

Email abyers@perennia.ca