Sunday, 3 October 2010

The locust, the bee and the farmer: another contribution to our environmental history - what consequences?


In the last few days, I have posted here and here about the so-called locust plague and Eris O'Brien's viewpoint. The Stateline story is now up on their website.  You can look at it - and particularly note Eris O'Brien's thoughtful presentation - here.

My interest began with my friend Denis over at The Nature of Robertson who has done quite a number of posts on the locust situation which you will find by going here.  Denis's postings are quite extensive and explicit and I won't attempt to comment - but please read his posts.  They are important.

I do want to say that it is about time that we of the human species woke up to ourselves.  Who/what is the greatest threat to our wildlife, our food and water sources, our environment?  It is us.  Not the locusts.  Us.  We are a plague to our planet.  And we are not considering wiping ourselves out are we?  What we do have to do, though, is ask ourselves a few questions about what we are doing and what direction we are taking.  And we have to learn from the mistakes of our past.  And the most eloquent voice in all this was Rachel Carson.  Perhaps Carson was not the first.  However, in our times her voice has been the most significant, far-reaching and followed.

Australians, in particular, need to look at their own track record.  Point me in the right direction, Networkers, if I am wrong but I think we could take the cake for the biggest environmental vandals on the planet.

We are up there with extinctions.  We are brilliant at land clearing.  We have a penchant for importing animals which become feral: the rabbit, the fox, the cane toad, etc.  They are the highly visible ones.  Go here for more information on our toxic importations.  Australians' use of pesticides, particularly in our food chain, continues with only limited abatement.  You might like to have a look at the article below, Networkers.

Over at The Nature of Robertson, Denis asks:
I have a view about this which might not be popular, but if the Victorian Government told their electors that they were going to spray vast areas of the State with many different chemicals, nearly all of which are highly toxic to bees - what would the reaction be?


Finally, I would like, Networkers, to draw your attention to the bee.

The blue-banded native bee with a tomato blossom

Much is made of the European honey bee and the fact that Australia is now the only country in which there is a wild population. In fact, Networkers, did you know that European honeybees collect 90% of available nectar and pollen but pollinate only about 5% of our plants?  In short, European honeybees are bludgers, free-loaders.  They can take their food without doing anything useful in return - like pollination.  The really hard yakka in the bee world in Australia is done by our very own native bees.  

One of the things we might all consider, Networkers, is our gardens and how our small urban and suburban patches can make a positive contribution to Australia's ecology. Here I would like to put in a word for that great native bee attractor, the Native Frangipani.  When I lived in tropical North Queensland in the shadow of the World Heritage listed rainforest, I grew a beautiful specimen.  My neighbours were busy planting foreign palm species - and had to ask what my huge and beautiful (yes it did get to be huge) tree was.  I believe it can be grown in quite diverse regions - besides the tropics.  Its beautiful, tiny, fragrant blossom attract those little black native bees well - like bees to a honeypot.  




I would ask, Networkers, that you have one more look at the Stateline program.  Look and listen and analyse what is being told to you in images and words in this locust segment.  It begins with Victoria's premier, John Brumby.  He doesn't say much - but it is clear that his presence gives this segment his imprimatur and adds to its stature.  Because of Brumby's presence, this gives status and stature to the locust story.  But how detailed is the information provided by the proponents of spraying?  I would say insufficiently detailed.  Insufficiently describing and circumscribing safety.  This contrasts with the detailed argument put forward by Eris O'Brien.

Related reading:
Australian Bee Lore and Bee Culture: Including the Influence of Bees on Crops and the Colour of Flowers and Its Influence on Bee Life [ 1912 ]




Commercial honey bees (Apis mellifera) reduce the fecundity of an Australian native bee (Hylaeus alcyoneus) [An article from: Biological Conservation]








Further reading:

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