A journey inside the beehive!
Many of you already know that, for us, Wordbee is not just a name nor a simple metaphorical hint at collaboration and efficiency, which are indeed the core values behind our software solution. We have a heartfelt commitment to the well-being of honeybees, which is why we have adopted a bee hive and spread awareness of the bee cause at every presentation we take part into.
However, times are not the brightest for bees. Climate change is causing ever more devastating effects to colonies, hence the bee population is rapidly decreasing and bee keepers must make an increasingly harder effort to keep their production alive and kicking.
To learn more about the current challenges bees and bee keepers are facing, we have interviewed Lorenzo Colussi, a bee keeper from Casarsa della Delizia, a small town in north-eastern Italy.
Find below what he has to say!
Q: Hello Lorenzo. First of all, could you tell us a little more about your bee keeping history?
A: Well, the activity has been going on for generations now, well before I was born. My grandfather had some colonies, but did bee keeping only as a leisure endeavour. It was my father’s decision to expand it and turn it into a real family business, and let’s hope I’ll be the one to make it grow further!
We used to have more than 200 families until a few years ago, but unfortunately we only have about 100 right now. Let’s just hope the situation improves!
Q: so, coming to the core of the matter, we know that climate is having devastating effects for bee colonies, and that this is significantly impacting the business of bee keepers. Could you please describe what these problems are in more detail?
A: Well, bees are subject to very specific seasonal phases. They spend the whole of spring and summer gathering supplies to endure the harsh winter season. If, just like in recent years, the summer / spring period is characterised by strong perturbation, the entire production cycle is affected. Indeed, bees produce everything they can to feed themselves during summer and spring: if they are unable to satisfy their nutritional needs by then, they will not make it through winter and die before it ends.
If the temperature drops from 20 to minus 2 degrees in one day, for example due to low pressure or strong meteorological disturbance, the abrupt temperature shift causes the bees to completely lose their orientation, strongly affecting their production cycle.
There is an even bigger problem related to flowers, which are negatively affected by very rainy climates: indeed, excessive rainfall does not allow them to properly complete the flowering cycle, and too often do we see trees with none of their flowers having been able to reach the flowering stage.
This lack of useable flowers is a huge burden for bee keepers, who have to manually feed their bee families, which translates into very high economic costs. If during winter families are generally not very populated, in summer they can well reach 90,000 members, quite a number of mouths to feed!
To make it brief, the lack of a stable seasonal cycle, to which bee keepers from just the last century were very used, does not allow our bees to follow a regular production pattern, and the problems faced by flowers due to rainfall make the whole picture even worse.
Q: thanks for the very detailed explanation! Do you believe other problems, apart from the climate related ones, hinder the well-being of bees and the bee keeping business?
A: another important issue is the ever increasing challenge posed by varoa, a parasite which has a very easy time proliferating when it finds weak and hungry families. There are very invasive treatments against it, but their cost is very high, both in terms of money and work hours required.
This is often unbearable especially for small bee keepers, who often cannot afford the costs to fight this parasite properly; since bees are continuously moving animals, one single infected colony may potentially lead to the infestation of a considerable area.
Finally, the ever increasing number of crop fields causes a decrease in the number of fruit plants, which produce a considerable amount of nectar; moreover, crops require an ever increasing amount of phytosanitary treatments every year. Unfortunately, these treatments not only kill the insects who are responsible for damaging crops, but also disorient, sicken and kill entire bee families.
Well, thank you very much Lorenzo for your time and precious information. We will sure be in touch in the future, and who knows, one day we might be promoting your honey as well!