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Save the bees: colony collapse disorder

In 2017 the United Nations warned that 40% of pollinator species are at risk of global extinction. Pollination is vital to life on this planet as it is essential to the production of many plants. Bees play a vital role in this.

While bees are not the world’s only pollinators, the reason they are so important is they are perfectly adapted to pollinate. They love variation in their food and unlike other pollinators who gather to feed themselves, bees gather the pollen to carry back to their hives. Because of this they visit many different plants and flowers carrying the pollen between them which makes them hugely productive in this role.


A happy bumblebee in the wildflowers on our Ligurian grove.
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Bee pollination is specifically important for humans as the majority of plants we rely on for food, those which are rich in micro-nutrients, rely on pollination to produce. While we may survive without bees, our diets would become very dull and would lack the nutrition and diversity we need. Further, it is not only the plants we eat that need pollination, but also the plants we use to feed our agricultural herds. In short, bees are crucial to us.


Quick buzz on why bees are so important

  • The majority of our farmed crops rely on pollinators and bees are the most important
  • This means they are vital to both diversity in our food and the fight against world hunger
  • Ensuring their survival along with other pollinators is crucial to help build resilience in our ecosystems to adapt to climate change

There are several factors that are contributing to the threat on bees this including loss of habitat, urbanisation and climate change. But the one that is particularly concerning to us is "colony collapse disorder".

what is colony collapse disorder?

The phenomenon called "colony collapse disorder" has devastated bee populations with some hives losing 90% of their bees.

It first appeared in 2016 when beekeepers started reporting unusually high losses of their bees. Half of the affected colonies were showing symptoms inconsistent with any known cause of bee die-off at the time - it wasn’t simply that they were dying, they were completely disappearing from the hives and often all at once, leaving behind the queen with high honey and pollen reserves. The reason it is called “colony collapse disorder” is that although the food stores remained, a hive cannot survive without the worker bees bringing back new food. And so, the colony collapses.

There are various contributors to colony collapse disorder, but the leading one is neonicotinoid pesticides. 

WHAT ARE NEONICOTINOID PESTICIDES?

Since their introduction in the early 1900's neonicotinoid pesticides have become the most widely used pesticide to protect cultivated crops which flower including cereal, beets, and fruit trees. 

There was denial in the industry about their impact on bees at first, with things such as mites and mould in the hives being blamed for bee die off, but these harmful chemical pesticides are now known to be a key cause. In fact, while climate change and urbanisation are also impacting on bee populations, neonicotinoid pesticides are now widely believed to be the leading cause of colony collapse disorder.

Why are neonicotinoid pesticides so destructive to bees?

What neonicotinoid pesticides do to bees is scramble their memory so they can't find their way back to their hives. They also cut sperm count, dropping reproduction numbers worldwide. Further, disturbingly they have shown to be highly addictive to bees. Neonicotinoid pesticides have a similar chemical structure as nicotine and research has shown that the addictive nature is causing the bees to return to the harmful areas again and again, repeating the damage over and over.


Three facts that will sting

  • 23 pollinator species in the UK have already gone extinct
  • Over 700 North American bee species are heading towards extinction
  • Pollination-dependent crops are five times more valuable to us than those that do not need pollination.

what is being done about this?

There are fivneonicotinoid pesticides that have been identified as specifically linked to bee die off and colony collapse disorder: 

Clothianidin, imidacloprid, thiamethoxam, thiacloprid and acetamiprid. 

In a move to save the bees in Europe, the first three have been banned in all farming practices under EU law. France has now taken it a step further and also banned the last two from all their farming. Let's hope that all countries follow suit in banning all five of these harmful neonicotinoid pesticides.


  • The 5 neonicotinoid pesticides linked to bee die off: 
    Clothianidin, imidacloprid, thiamethoxam, thiacloprid and acetamiprid. 
  • The 3 banned by the EU: Clothianidin, imidacloprid, and thiamethoxam
  • France has also banned: thiacloprid and acetamiprid. 
  • Nudo uses: zero.

what is nudo doing?

We do not and have never used neonicotinoid pesticides on our olive groves. We believe that non chemical pesticides are the way forward for protecting our land and environment for the future. We use sustainable and organic methods on our groves because we believe it is the right thing to do for all of us now and for future generations.

Also, we are also simply quite fond of bees and love seeing them happy and healthy, buzzing around our groves! 75% of wildflower populations are pollinated by bees, so without them our landscape would be far more dull - we would certainly notice this on our olive groves.

Wildflowers on Feudo Marchesa olive grove, Sicily
Wildflowers on Feudo Marchesa olive grove, Sicily

Several of our olive groves also have beehives on them to help maintain and grow the healthy bee population. These are the hives at Nonno Tato olive grove in Sicily where the bees enjoy the citrus blossom in the grapefruit grove next door and all the wild flowers on the olive grove. It's a good place to be a bee. 


Beehives on between Nonno Tato and neighbouring grapefruit grove in Sicily
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Find out more about our organic and sustainable farming methods here.

WHAT YOU CAN DO?

  • Know your food source. The single most important thing is to know where and who your food is coming from. With industrialisation as well as fraud and misleading labelling becoming more commonplace, it’s more crucial than ever to know your food source.
  • Go organic. Organic certification will guarantee that no harmful chemicals are used as it is within the regulations. However, not being certified organic doesn't mean that the producer is not using organic practices in their farming methods. Certification is expensive so it can price out some small producers, so knowing and trusting your food source can be more valuable than certification.
  • Support sustainable & ethical practices. Understand what your values are around food and production and be sure to follow them. This means more work in reading labels and researching producers, however you will know that you are part of a positive change. Plus, by the simple nature of the sustainable and ethical methods used vs industrial methods, the quality and taste of food is often much, much better.
  • Speak up. Sign petitions, share articles, and talk to people. The more we shine a light on this issue, the more action we will see.

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