BEES AND OUR ECOSYSTEM
Are bees endangered?
According to a report by the Intergovernmental Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES), more than a third of all insect species on the planet are endangered. According to a study published in the journal Science, bees are one of the worst affected groups. There are some 20,000 species of wild bees in the world, of which around 2,500 are found in Europe.
What does this mean for the environment and for us humans?
It can be said that bees are the ‘guardians’ of food security. Their role in our ecosystem is paramount. Bees are the most active of all the pollinators, meaning they are essential to the natural process by which flowers are fertilized. This in turn provides us with seeds and fruits. According to Greenpeace, 70% of crops in Spain depend on the activity of bees. However, across Europe 37% of bee populations are now in decline, which severely limits our sources of food.
The disappearance of insects, especially bees, would be catastrophic. Insects are the food source for thousands of species of small mammals, which in turn are eaten by other mammals. If they are removed from the food chain, the entire system risks collapse.
The reasons for the decline include climate change, pesticides, intensive farming practices and the cutting back of vegetation. More generally, changes in our way of life mean that other pollinators, such as bats and hummingbirds, as well as bees, are being displaced from their habitats. This, along with other factors such as disease, is causing the population to decline at an alarming rate.
What are we doing in Ibiza?
At Ibiza Produce we have financed a pilot project in Finca Can Moreno, a farm that has been regenerated by Rosalina and Toni and was certified organic in 2012. Since then, they have planted more than 250 types of fruit trees, among them several traditional Balearic varieties. They have also recovered and continue to maintain the farm’s original trees. In all, 3000 m2 of orchard and vegetable gardens have been planted, following the “Parades en Crestall” model of the Mallorcan native Gaspar Caballero de Segovia Sanchez. This no-till farming method is completely manual, with no machinery or tractors.
For the bee project, Ibiza Produce financed the purchase of seeds and seedlings of flowering shrubs that bloom in summer. This is because, in the very hot and dry Ibiza summers, there are almost no wildflowers to feed the bees. The shrubs have already been planted at Can Moreno and will grow to their optimal size in the next 2 to 3 years.
A local beekeeper was also contracted to manage the hives – in this case Hans Salewski from Salewski Mel.
What can be done to stop the decline?
“We have observed first-hand that our bee population is getting smaller and that honey production has decreased. In July 2019, due to the salinity of the water from the irrigation well, many crops were lost (carrot, cucumber, courgette, beans, tomato, etc.) and this affected the “gastronomic offer” for our bees,” comments Rosalina.
There is no single reason for the decline, and this makes it more difficult to find a solution – but we have to start somewhere. Projects like this can be carried out on a smaller scale on many other farms on the island by setting aside an area in the garden for the exclusive cultivation of shrubs and herbaceous plants for use by bees – particularly those that flower in summer, when the insects struggle to find food naturally.
Another important step is to stop using toxic products that directly affect bees and to go back to organic farming methods. In this way, we can help these precious “guardians” of our ecosystem to carry on performing their most vital role.