News Stories

Where Have Hawkesbury's Bees Gone?

Source: Jacqueline Ball
Archived 22 Jan 2019 - Posted: 24 Nov 2018
Hawkesbury's sparkling waters and lush greenery have made it a popular spot for eco-tourism, attracting nature lovers around the world. The delicate ecosystem surrounding the Hawkesbury River is in trouble, though.

Since around 2013, Australian beekeepers and entomologists have noticed that local populations are in decline. As a major pollinator, this could have far-reaching consequences far beyond just a few missing hives of bees. Human intervention is needed to stop the spread of this phenomenon and help restore bee colonies around Hawkesbury and the rest of New South Wales.

Bees Around Hawkesbury

New South Wales is home to just about every Australian bee species, from the carpenter bees to the leafcutter. It's also warm enough for the stingless native bee to survive. This bee is only found in New South Wales as well as Queensland and Western Australia, and it is the only species to produce honey. These bees are also the only type to be kept, propagated, and sold by beekeepers to be used for both honey production and commercial crop pollination.

The Rise of Colony Collapse Disorder

The recent decline in bee numbers is primarily due to a strange phenomenon that is known as "colony collapse disorder." Instead of bees dying off slowly over time, as with most other diseases, the onset of colony collapse is sudden. The worker bees disappear suddenly, leaving their queen and her offspring to fend for herself. Inevitably, they die of starvation, and thus the entire hive collapses. While there's no definitive answer as to what's been causing colonies to collapse, researchers have several theories:

  • Parasitic diseases causing changes in behaviour
  • Pesticide poisoning
  • Stress from travel for commercial pollinators
  • Changes in environment

Fighting Colony Collapse

According to Sir David Attenborough, "If bees were to disappear from the face of the earth, humans would have just four years left to live." He, like many other conservationists, strongly feel that it's our duty as humans to take steps to preserve our bee populations. Without bees, many plant species that rely on them for pollination would fail to reproduce, leading to widespread food shortages and the collapse of entire ecosystems.

Luckily, there's plenty that we as a society can do to save the bees. Homeowners and farmers can stop using pesticides that harm bee populations and instead switch to more eco-friendly methods of pest control. Families can also grow more flowering plants in their gardens. Not only will this help to bring the backyard to life, but it will also encourage the growth of more bee colonies. 

Over the past few years, colony collapse disorder has ravaged the bee populations in and around Hawkesbury. Even the honey-producing stingless bee has seen a decline in numbers. With intervention, however, we can hope to see these crucial pollinators rebound in population and continue to play their role in the New South Wales ecosystem.

This article archived 22 Jan 2019

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