The “honey bee mass disappearance” has been a hot topic since it landed in South Korea last year. Let’s take a closer look at the case, which first occurred in the United States in 2006 and is still a mystery.
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“As of March, we surveyed 8,000 farms belonging to the association, and 60.9 percent of the hives had died. Normally, 15,000 to 20,000 bees overwinter in a hive, so that’s a lot of dead.”
Yoon Hwa-hyun, president of the Korea Beekeeping Association, said over the phone on June 6. With two-thirds of the hives unusable, it’s a big deal, and the statistics that make headlines like “tens of billions of bees gone” are usually based on the KBA’s estimates.
The Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs, on the other hand, has taken a different view of the bee disappearance. The Rural Development Administration, which is part of the Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs, held a press briefing on the 25th of last month to explain the ecology of bees and the beekeeping industry. It was a kind of ‘education course’, and I learned a lot of things I didn’t know about bees. At the event, the Rural Development Administration announced the results of the interim survey on the status of acacia honey production this year.
The government reported that the bee population has increased by 3.3 times.
Acacia trees bloom in May. Bees collect nectar from the tree and store it in their hives, and humans sneak it away (without paying them!). Acacia honey is the core of the beekeeping industry, accounting for more than 70% of domestic honey production.
On that day, Han Sang-mi, head of the Beekeeping Ecology Division at the National Institute of Agricultural Sciences, said.
“We surveyed the southern part of the country on May 3, and the average Akashi honey production is 8.3 kilograms per hive for one filling. Considering the average of three to four fillings, it is likely to be above normal production. The bee population has also increased by 3.3 times.”
The results were quite different from the Korea Beekeepers Association. One says two-thirds of the bees are gone, while the other says, “No abnormalities in (bee) work!”
Ten days later, on the seventh day, I called Han Sang-mi, who seemed to have concluded the production survey.
“So far this year, the honey production is lower than last year, but I think it will be around the normal level, because last year’s production was so good. We will announce the comprehensive analysis results next week.”
By “normal year,” he means 2017, which yielded 17.7 kilograms of honey per hive. Honey production is so jagged that it’s very difficult to average.
Graphic_Na Seong-sook Video Social Team * Click image to enlarge메이저놀이터.
Let’s look at the production year by year. It’s 17.7 kilograms in 2017, then it plummets to 4.3 kilograms in 2018. It soars to 43.8 kilograms in 2019, then drops to 9 kilograms in 2020, 11.5 kilograms in 2021, 32.1 kilograms in 2022… If you plot the graph, you get a “trigonometric graph” that is so twisted that averaging it is meaningless.
Being a ‘bee-nerd’ (a journalist who doesn’t know much about bees), I plucked up the courage to ask.
“Why is the honey production so jagged?”
“Well, the flowers bloom for a week or two, and if it rains in that short period of time, the bees can’t go out and collect nectar, can they? Or if it’s windy, they might not be able to get back.”
I see! Insects can’t fly when it rains!
The weather over the next few days can make a huge difference in the amount of honey produced in a year.
■ Bees are livestock?
Still, the gap between the Korean Beekeepers Association and the government’s analysis seemed too wide.
Upon further reflection, the key to the answer lies in the methodology: there is no agreed-upon methodology for assessing the number of bees or the amount of honey produced.
First of all, the Korea Beekeepers Association surveyed 8,000 farmers, so it was hardly a precise survey based on a scientific methodology. The social atmosphere in which the media is constantly reporting that ‘bees have disappeared,’ citing billions of people, may also have affected the farmers surveyed.
“Even if there are 10 to 20 percent of bees left in a hive, it’s impossible to maintain a colony, so the entire hive must be considered dead,” said Yoon Hwa-hyun, head of the Beekeeping Association.
However, it’s also important to consider that bees dwindle over the winter, when they go into a long dormant period. When you open the hive in the spring, it’s natural to see a decline in the population.
The government survey, on the other hand, involves surveying 38 farms in the same area each year. While the sample size changes slightly from year to year, most things remain the same (there are too many variables, such as weather and technology, to keep track of), the government’s survey is limited to honey production from “hives where the bees are alive and able to produce” rather than “hives where the bees are dead”.
“They don’t lay eggs in the winter, so the number of bees will decrease after the winter is over,” said Han. “Also, farmers often combine hives, so we need to take that into account.” Farmers often combine hives when the number of bees in a hive decreases, or they bring in bees from other places to create new colonies.
Members of the Seoul Environmental Coalition hold a press conference in front of the Seoul City Hall on May 16 to call for an end to the use of neonicotinoid-based pesticides, which are deadly to bees, in public green spaces ahead of World Bee Day (May 20). Yonhap
And here’s something you shouldn’t forget. That bees are “livestock,” which means they’re under human control, although they’re a little different from other livestock in that they live deep within natural ecosystems and interact with other plants and animals.
“There are some people who are concerned that bees are going to run out of bees at some point, like 100 will die this year, then 50, then eventually zero. It’s true that beekeepers are feeling the decline. However, when a hive dwindles, it can be reintroduced to increase production.