..if the bees took their destiny in hand …

… too much is too much …

I take the step …and I invite all beekeepers to do the same…

(translation using Google translate of the post “prenaient leur destin en main“)

Swiss beekeepers have been warning about the death of bees in Switzerland for about 20 years…

These appeals were heard, widely relayed in the media and transmitted to the various national and regional authorities… Measures have been announced, taken and are being implemented. But do they meet the expectations of beekeepers? Do they meet the needs of domestic or wild bees? In our view, this is far from being the case. Beekeepers and their bees are confronted with two main problems: the Varroa parasite which decimates colonies and spreads many diseases pesticides spilled on crops that poison bees and deposit insidiously residues in wax and honey and other hive products.

After all these years, the Swiss Confederation has put in place a “bee plan” and a “phytosanitary products plan” which do not offer a true answer to these two problems. On the contrary, additional constraints are introduced in the form of reinforced sanitary controls, without offering real prospects for solving the crisis the bees are facing. A recent publication confirms that domestic and wild honey bees bring the equivalent of CHF 350 million to Swiss agriculture free of charge and without any return for bees and beekeepers. On the contrary, the Swiss Confederation is introducing timely measures to reduce pesticides on crops, with a chimeric objective of 30% reduction in ten years, while the measures envisaged will achieve at best a reduction of 12%.

Faced with this deplorable fact, it is clear that beekeepers and domestic and wild bees are left to their own devices. All that is left to the profession is to take control of its destiny. If the Varroa problem still requires important research to be curbed, the insidious poisoning of bees and hive products can be avoided today. For my part, my decision is taken, I remove my bees from the zones where they can be inxicated, to implant them in organic farms who will pledge not to poison them and to whom I am ready to offer my services and those of my bees for free, to concentrate on the issue of varroa. This leaves me with only a beekeeping problem, my products will be of better quality and the production of organic products will only be better.

Here is a critical review of the measures taken in Switzerland in recent years:

Comedy (or tragedy?) in eight acts

  1. … 2004: “The Motion Gadient”  (Motion 04.3733 of 16.12.2004), entitled “Promoting beekeeping in Switzerland”, is deposit
    Brigitta Gadient, deputee at the Swiss Parliament

    ed with the Federal Council, co-signed by 101 deputies. The motion calls for the promotion of beekeeping to be included in the law on agriculture, that a working group be set up and that means be made available to beekeeping.

  2. 2005: The motion is rejected by the Federal Council with the following arguments: “this is not the responsibility of the Confederation” and “sufficient means are already available”.
  3. 2007: The government is disowned by the parliament and the motion is adopted by the federal chambers, in 2006 by the National Council and in 2007 by the Council of States.
  4. 2008: A 47-page report entitled “Strategy for the promotion of Swiss beekeeping” was published on 19 June 2008 by a working group led by the Office for Agriculture. This report gives an overview of beekeeping in Switzerland, which on page 17 reveals the first axis of this strategy: training. This will become a leitmotif in the future: beekeepers are amateurs without training … The second axis of this strategy is to set up a series of measures of control of beekeepers, skills, marking of apiaries, control of the health status of colonies , limitations of movement in the case of fire blight. This last point reveals the spirit of the working group: it recognizes the role of beekeeping and wild bees in the pollination of crops, but beekeeping remains a means of serving agriculture . Of the death of the bees, it does not really care
  5. 2014: the Federal Council publishes a report entitled “National Measures for Bees” resulting from a new 47-page expert report “Expertenbericht- Vorschläge für Massnahmen zur Förderung der Gesudheit der Bienen”. Published in May 2014, this report is available only in German and was prepared in response to the motion of the Committee on the Environment, Spatial Planning and Energy (CEATE) of 6 May 2013 (13.3372). There are of course repeated the elements of control and training of beekeepers. The national plan lists the “colossal” means already available, ie CHF 300’000.- per year for health services from 2012, CHF 482’000.- support for 4 research projects since 2007, CHF 350’000 the FOEN for wild bees and an unspecified contribution from the Confederation to the Vinetum Foundation (5 million over 10 years) for the financing of a veterinary chair at the University of Bern. Alongside these crumbs for research and health of bees, the Federal Council mentions 307 million direct payments to farmers for the promotion of biodiversity in 2014, which is expected to reach 352 million by 2017. Here is highlighted the promotion of flowered bands to offer better conditions to domestic and wild bees. The report also refers to CSEC motion 13.3367 requesting the Federal Council “to take a series of measures aimed at the sustainable use of plant protection products”.
  6. 2016: In December, the Federal Council publishes a “Report on the implementation of the national plan of action for health of bees” of 37 pages making an initial assessment of the measures implemented in 2014. The report makes an assessment losses of bee colonies, the status of wild bees, and decreases in colonies and beekeepers over the past decades. The main role of pollinators is recognized (p.13): “Globally, 75% of the main crops and 35% of the world’s yield depends on pollination (…) estimated at 153 billion euros.” For Switzerland, the main crops that depend on pollination are rapeseed (22,000 ha), sunflower and peas (ca 4,000 ha each) and fruit crops (31,000 ha) 61,000 ha of crops dependent on bee pollination in Switzerland. The rest is only an apology for the flower band and other measures in fashion “greenwashing”. An analysis of the distribution of bees, however, suspects that the death of bees could really cost Swiss agriculture a lot.
  7. 2017: September 12: Agroscope, the new name of the national agricultural research institution, publishes a press release entitled “Pollination by bees equally important for arable crops”. We are proudly told that for the first time we are able to estimate the economic contribution of wild and domestic bees to agriculture in sound and staggering numbers. This contribution is estimated at 350 million CHF, which only confirms what has been known for more than 20 years (cf the post … and if the bees contributed to the prosperity of the country ... in this blog) and which was already covered by the Gadient motion in 2004. The article gives a detailed map of the main agricultural crops dependent on pollination
  8. 2017: 6 September The Federal Council publishes its “Action Plan for Risk Reduction and Sustainable Use plant protection products”, in the form of an 81-page report, and a press release and a press conference by Doris Leuthard, President of the Swiss Confederation. The eight objectives of the action plan are described in Chapter 5 (pp. 20-22). We will only analyze here the first of these objectives described below, namely to reduce the use of pesticides by 30% until 2027.
  • Reduction of PPh use and emissions (PPh = Products phytosanitary) Objective The risks associated with PPHs are halved by reducing and limiting applications and reducing emissions.
  • Intermediate objective 1 The use of PPh with a particular risk potential7 is reduced by 2027 by 30% 8 compared to the period 2012-2015. Intermediate objective 2 PPh emissions from remaining applications will be reduced by 25% by 2027 compared to the period 2012-2015. Notes 6 , 7, 8 are reproduced below, because they are not trivial and allow a margin of interpretation almost without limit.
  • Emissions are considered as the quantities of PPh which, by volatilization, d bank, leaching or runoff when using PPh (preparation, application, cleaning apparatus, disposal of wastes), fail on the target surface and is spread apart from the target surface.
  • PPh substances likely to present a particular hazard are listed in Annex 9.1.
  • The potential that can be exploited in the next ten years to reduce all PPh applications is estimated at 12% based on the measures set out in ch. 6.1.1 and specialist estimates. However, PPHs present different risks; it is mainly to restrict products with risks intives. It is for this purpose that the reduction target has been raised to 30% for these products. Critical evaluation of these measures: The results of the “Bee Plan” suggest that the problems encountered in beekeeping are , largely at least, related to incompetence and the state of unpreparedness of beekeepers. The plan takes the form of new sanitary controls, measures to train the inspectors needed to carry out these checks, and the establishment of new administrative structures that absorb the limited financial resources available for beekeeping. The plan does not aim at solving the main problems encountered in today’s beekeeping, namely: effective estimation of colony extinctions, research on methods of controlling varroa without chemicals, elimination of the main suspected pesticides to harm bees
  • The eight measures implemented under the “PPh Plan” are not intended to identify substances that could harm bees or their targeted ban, but to reduce the overall load of PPh . How was the 30% target set? Note 8 of the report (see above) makes it clear that the planned measures will best achieve a 12% reduction in PPhs. “It is for this purpose that the reduction target has been revised upwards and set at 30% for these products (sic)”. It is therefore a chimerical objective, as there are no appropriate measures to achieve it. This is at least a strange policy …
  • What does 30% mean? It is nowhere specified in the report of the Federal Council what 30% means. Is this a quantitative goal? Expressed in tons of PPh? or a qualitative objective? Expressed as a percentage of the list of products, ie for example 30% of the products on the list will no longer be used at all and banned in the future. If we start from the idea that it is a quantitative objective, can we quantify that objective? No information is contained in this report.
  • There are apparently no official data on the quantities of plant protection products currently used. An RTS TJ issue of 16 May 2016 estimates it to be 2,000 tonnes per year. On this basis, it can be estimated that the 30% reduction target corresponds to the discharge of (only?) 1’400 tonnes of PPh in 2027. If this objective is achieved on the basis of a regular reduction over the
    Map of Swiss crops depending on bee pollination

    years, it can also be estimated that a total of 17,000 tonnes of PPh will be dumped into our crops over the next 10 years as shown in the table below.

  • The PPh report lists a list of 57 active substances “considered for substitution”. It does not mention glyphosate, which is one of the most controversial products in the world, and is likely to continue to be dumped in uncontrolled amounts in our crops. Will the measures advocated, in particular support for “flowering bands”, aid of CHF 350 million in the form of direct payments to farmers, protect bees? No, on the contrary! These flowering bands will serve only to support and attract bees that will be intoxicated in adjacent fields.
  • Simulated table of PPh reduction measures over the next 10 years (30% quantitative reduction target per year) Annual Cumulative .
Annual Cumulative
2018 2 000 2 000
2019 1 933 3 933
2020 1 867 5 800
2021 1 800 7 600
2022 1 733 9 333
2023 1 667 11 000
2024 1 600 12 600
2025 1 533 14 133
2026 1 467 15 600
2027 1 400 17 000

Francis Saucy

Francis Saucy, Docteur ès sciences, biologiste, diplômé des universités de Genève et Neuchâtel, est spécialisé dans le domaine du comportement animal et de l'écologie des populations. Employé à l’Office fédéral de la statistique, Franci Saucy est également apiculteur amateur et passionné, et il contribue par ses recherches et ses écrits à l'approfondissement des connaissances sur les abeilles et à leur vulgarisation dans le monde apicole et le public en général. Franci Saucy fut également élu PS à l'exécutif de la Commune de Marsens, dans le canton de Fribourg de 2008 à 2011 et de 2016 à 2018. Depuis mars 2019, Franci Saucy est rédacteur de la Revue suisse d'apiculture et depuis le 15 septembre 2020 Président de la Société romande d'apiculture et membre du comité central d'apisuisse Blog privé: www.bee-api.net

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