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Save the Bees to Secure Our Food Supply
(Our Stand on Predation)
Around the world nature is out of whack. We have lost the balance. Our food supply is in danger.
We have been losing our bees to Colony Collapse Disorder or CCD, a worldwide phenomenon, since 2006. Since the experts are not agreed on CCD's causes, we went full blast to erase our carbon footprint.
We planted thousands of rare, indigenous fruit and timber trees. We are planting wild flowers continuously to host thousands of wild pollinators that have made Ilog Maria their home. We planted a hundreds of mulberry and "tagisi" trees for the increasing bird population that seeks sanctuary in our farm. We are planting thousands more. We now run our farm on 85% renewable fuels and energy: biodiesel from used frying oil, E10, solar thermal, solar photovoltaic, windmill water pump, wind turbines & and piko-hydro water turbines.
We threw 30+ years of beekeeping experience in the wastebasket and started from scratch. Apparently the newer, more natural methods worked. We were able to multiply our bees once more after 3 ½ hard years. Needless to say, our livelihood survived only by the grace of God.
Then, the birds came by the thousands – Blue-tailed Bee-eaters. Each bird eats up to several hundred bees daily. These birds are carnivorous predators and not on any endangered list.
We have experimented with everything to control bird predation: fireworks, shiny tin foil, shiny tape, balloons with gigantic eyes printed on them, nets, even a plastic owl with glowing eyes – to no avail. In previous years, we let these birds eat our bees for a few weeks. Having tried everything and failed, we quietly regarded this as our contribution to mother nature.
We needed to save our bees fast. In a few days, there were no foraging bees; our colonies were starting to starve. In a few more days, colonies started absconding, a sure sign of starvation. Before we knew it, our queens stopped laying. This meant that with no new baby bees, bee populations would start to decline until not one bee was left. The speed and severity of this year's vicious predatory attacks forced us to take emergency action.
For the fourth straight year, we are losing our honeybees. We have lost dozens of bee colonies. The other half of our colonies that is left is struggling to survive. A bird watchers paradise has turned our bee yard into a graveyard.
Fellow beekeepers have observed that this year's bird attacks have been the worst ever. The birds have come earlier, they are more numerous and they are staying longer. Many smaller beekeepers have been wiped out, all their foraging bees eaten by these birds; millions of eggs, larvae and baby bees dying of starvation – their queens rendered sterile due to lack of nutrition.
This may mean that the birds' natural prey, wild flying insects – mostly pollinators, has been depleted. They will stay and continue to eat our bees until the rains come. The soft wet ground will enable cicadas to rise out of their 17-year dormancy to mate. The birds favor these slower flying, larger preys.
Our honeybees, together with what remains of all the world's honeybees are the endangered species.
Herbivorous birds are natural plant propagators, distributing seeds they have eaten across wide areas.
Bees help by making sure the seeds are viable or that they sprout easily. Seeds from under-pollinated flowers do not readily sprout and when they do, oftentimes the plants are stunted, deformed and do not bear fruit. Flowers that are not pollinated have no seeds at all.
When bees are over 21 days of age, they become foragers, looking for nectar, pollen, propolis and water. They forage over a radius of 3 to 5 kilometers, pollinating all the flowers they visit. They bring all this food into the beehive to nourish future generations of bees.
Bee pollination increases fruit, nut and seed production in neighboring farms about 2,800 to 7,800 hectares around us. This means that the production of coffee, coconuts, mangoes, citrus, fruits, vegetables, timber trees and perfume trees increases. This also means that wild vines, bushes, grasses and trees also increase in number.
Native grains also benefit from bee pollination. Native corn, monggo, upland rice and other grains experience increases in production and seed viability.
Conversely, when our bees are eaten while flying and pollination of neighboring farms ceases, food production in 2,800 to 7,800 hectares around us suffers.
When herbivorous birds eat bee-pollinated seeds, they propagate plants over very wide areas. This ensures the diversity and robustness of our ecosystems.
North America has better data. The scientists there have concluded that their nation is facing a food shortage. Because pesticides have decimated wild pollinating insects, Americans have relied more on domesticated honeybees for fruit, nut and vegetable pollination. CCD is decreasing colony numbers at an alarming rate: of the 1,000,000+ beehives migrated to the 2009 almond bloom, only about 200,000 survived. Increases in food production due to bee pollination, eclipses the income derived from honey production.
People in China and Japan are now hand pollinating pears and apples at prohibitive cost. They have lost both native and domesticated pollinators. North American agriculture is now spending millions of dollars to import package bees from Australia to save their US$ 2 billion almond industry. Dutch and Israeli companies now supply greenhouses with bumblebees to pollinate tomatoes, strawberries and other high value greenhouse crops. Cultured mason and leafcutter bees have joined the fore pollinating cherries, blueberries and alfalfa.
Bees increase harvests of fruits, vegetables and wild grains. Some plants will not even produce crops without pollination. It is estimated that 50% of the food we eat relies on bee pollination.
Indiscriminate and prevalent herbicide and pesticide use has also wreaked havoc on the Philippines' wild pollinator population. This may be the reason behind the more vicious bird attacks. In the preceding 4 years, Davao had small harvests of mangosteen; Camiguin had almost no lanzones harvests; Silang had no coffee; Calatagan no mangoes. We may very soon have to rely on domesticated honeybees for pollination of our basic and high value crops.
We are thankful that this issue brings to the limelight the pivotal role honeybees play in producing our food.
What is critical is food production for human beings. Seen in this larger light, WE are the endangered species. If the bee disappears from the surface of the earth, we are in danger of losing our food supply. This is especially true for those who live far from food producing areas.
We will not dignify any attacks on our integrity. People who have visited our farm see ample proof of our commitment to our natural lifestyle.
Observant and sensitive souls can actually feel and smell the love and care with which we have conserved our farm. Butterflies and other winged insects abound on our wildflowers and flowering trees. Snakes, monitor lizards and the occasional turtle emerge from our bamboo forests if one is still enough. Cicadas, toads and frogs herald the onset of the rains.
Each time land around us is sold, trees are cut down for lumber and the remaining vegetation decimated by firewood gatherers. All that land's wildlife runs to Ilog Maria for sanctuary.
Every so often, we hear a new song of another bird that has made Ilog Maria its home. Birdcalls now fill the air the entire day, not only during sunrise or sunset. We have pairs of civet and bobcats roaming our farm. Hawks have nested in our tall trees. We were requested to extract wild pukyutan from nearby resorts and schools and brought their nests here. We are also conserving stingless bees and "laywan" from rampant honey hunting. Several owls feast on field rats and baby snakes here. Numerous "tibig" or wild fig trees feed our growing bat population.
For those who have never visited us, Please read "Natural Living". We have not done all these things to increase our profits. We invest whatever we earn on improving the biodiversity of our farm and ecological sustainability of our chosen lifestyle. We
enjoy doing this. This is who we are.
We think this is a right way to live, but we do not impose this on anyone.
We have become very private, having lived in isolation for about 30 years. We have written this narrative with an air of hesitation. However, we feel that we owe our friends a clear understanding of our position just this once.
We will defend our farm from any un-balanced and under-informed predation, especially from those who do not know what it is like to live and eke out a living on a farm in the Philippines.
So future generations can also enjoy Ilog Maria - our sanctuary.