Honey bees play an important role in helping us put food on our table.
One-third of the food we eat relies on bee pollination for growth. That makes the fact Vancouver Island loses 40 to 90 per cent of its bee population annually a serious concern, says Victoria-based beekeeper Dan Del Villano.
The decline of honey bees is a global problem which is affecting local beekeepers, agriculture and consumers, he said.
“If honeybees go extinct, food prices will soar.”
Each year he’s watched his bee population dwindle.
“The impacts are mostly on agriculture,” he said. “Farmers find it hard to get bees to pollinate their crops, so yields are lower and crops aren’t as healthy. Gardeners also feel the lack of pollination.”
Lower yields and unhealthier crops translates into higher food prices for the consumer, Del Villano said.
“There are a lot of theories about what is causing the collapse of bee populations. I believe it is a combination of the varroa mite, which weakens the hive, along with several diseases. Pesticides, pollutants and monoculture probably have a role as well. If a new disease arrives in northern California during the almond pollination in February, it will be throughout the U.S. by the end of the summer and all along the Canadian and Mexican borders,” he said.
The real crunch will come if the situation doesn’t turn around.
“It is expensive to keep replacing lost bees. Each hive is worth between $100 and $200,” Del Villano said. “Beekeepers are bearing a heavy cost (paying for) miticides and other medication. Managing the pests takes a huge amount of time.
“There is also the emotional cost. You get attached to your bees. Losing them is heartbreaking.”
For the consumer, the problem means food must be imported from other countries, which doesn’t support the concept of buying local – having the freshest food available and cutting down on transportation costs. Food will be more expensive.
To shed light on the bee problem, Land Trust Alliance British Columbia is hosting screenings this week of Queen of the Sun: What are the bees telling us?
The film continues at the University of Victoria’s Cinecenta tonight (July 11) through Thursday at 7:15 and 9 p.m.
“Viewers will gain a better understanding of how important bees are to agriculture, the economy and our everyday lives,” said Alliance executive director Paul McNair. “Most people will not even realize the impact of bees. When we hear about it, it makes total sense, but we don’t often think about this kind of impact on a daily basis until it is brought to our attention. I think the film does an excellent job of capturing how bees work their way into your heart.”
Del Villano said, “I think the film balances the serious questions with the magic, the lure of bees and beekeeping. It’s uplifting. That’s a refreshing change.”
Tickets for the early shows are $7.75 each or $5.60 for UVic students, seniors, children 12-under and Cinecenta members. All tickets for the late show are $2.75.
Film synopsis: Queen of the Sun: What are the bees telling us? is a profound, alternative look at the bee crisis and a journey through the catastrophic disappearance of honey bees and the mysterious world of the beehive.
This alarming and ultimately uplifting film weaves together an unusual and dramatic story of the heart-felt struggles of beekeepers, scientists and philosophers from around the world.