Protecting Beehives Without Pesticides

Verging on the "advertorial", this summary of an interview about a new technology for protecting beehives was part of a campaign on Radio France showcasing the work of Bertrand Piccard's Solar Impulse Foundation in promoting ecological entrepreneurship. It is a perfect example of how elements of "native advertising" have been integrated into the French media's reporting on issues of biodiversity.

Article source: "Le billet vert. Protéger les abeilles sans pesticide, c’est possible !" (Bertrand Piccard interviewed by Gérard Feldzer), franceinfo, 18/07/2020.

Following on from the success of the first solar aeroplane flight, the Solar Impulse Foundation is embarking on a new phase of activity: a programme recognised by the United Nations which promises to select 1000 cost-effective solutions to protect the environment. Today, we look at Honey Bees: a hyperthermal process that protects beehives from pests.

Pesticides and Parasites

Bees play an essential role in feeding humankind. 75% of global food production depends on pollinating insects.

Bertrand Piccard told franceinfo: "If there are no more bees, flowers will have to be pollinated by hand… With the pesticides we are putting on other crops, we are reducing the number of bees, and pests are attacking the bees too. With this system of environmental interference, as ever, it’s human beings who will suffer in the end."

Today one of the biggest dangers to bees is varroosis, a parasitic disease caused by the varroa destructor. This mite, which is thought to be responsible for 60% of the decline in bee colonies, is the root cause of the majority of the problems facing beekeeping.

The chemicals used to fight against varroosis are not without risk for the bees. They can lead to queen bees dying, the interruption of egg-laying and damage to broods, weakening the colonies. Furthermore, these treatments take a long time to implemement and, beekeepers must take the weather and the honey production period into account, since the pesticide can contaminate the honey.

An Innovative Solution

Honey Bees is a heating coil created by Vatorex, which does not use chemical pesticides and can therefore be used all year round. It is set up in April to operate automatically until October. The temperature generated by the system, between 39° and 42°C, prevents the development of varroa mites, without any effect on the bees. With this system, beekeepers can stop treating with formic acid in the summer and, in most cases, can also do without any winter treatments.

Tests have also shown that bee populations treated thermically thrive considerably more. Since they are stronger in winter, they yield more honey throughout the year. 

"This system kills 95% of pests in a single treatment. That means colony sizes grow by 31%, and for beekeepers that means a 41% rise in profits. That’s huge. All this via a smart system which, by cutting down on chemicals, also saves on CO2 in the manufacture of insecticides."

This solves part of the problem. Bees are still threatened by pesticides, the Asian Hornet and a scarcity of food sources, which can lead to hive starvation. Pollination of bees reportedly costs society $150 billion, including $3 billion in France alone. Such cost-effective solutions are therefore welcome: another solution that is undeniably good for the environment, for health, and for the budget.

Finally, let’s point out that bees have to visit 5 million flowers to produce 1 kilo of honey. As aviators, Bertrand Piccard, you and I can only admire their folding wings, which beat 200 times per second, and their tiny brains of a single cubic millimetre, which can find the right flower better than the most sophisticated GPS.

 

Translated by Bethany Hine and Naomi Gnana

Editing by Sam Trainor

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