The threatened future of bees is about much More Than Honey
22 October 2013
The deaths of millions of honeybee colonies each year and its grave ramifications will be examined in a free screening of a globally acclaimed documentary, followed by a panel discussion, on the importance of bees, at the University of Sydney this week.
The global value of honeybees' pollination services is an estimated $220 billion dollars a year and $4-6 billion dollars in Australia.
"Globally the threat to honey bees comes from a multitude of causes, in particular changes in agricultural practice (including pesticide use), loss of natural forage and the introduction of a parasitic mite that also transmits diseases to the bees," said Professor Madeleine Beekman, from the University's School of Biological Sciences and a speaker on the panel.
This threat has implications far beyond decreasing the availability of honey.
On 24 October the University of Sydney's Sydney Ideas program will host a free screening of the celebrated film More Than Honey followed by a panel discussion with leading bee researchers from the University of Sydney on bees and their likely future.
More Than Honey has received numerous prestigious awards since being made in 2012.
The documentary is an intimate look at honeybee colonies and their keepers around the world.Among those we meet in the film are bee researchers in Australia, a pollen dealer in China, a neuroscientist investigating bee brains in Berlin and a Swiss mountain beekeeper. Amazing footage allows us to meet bees 'face-to-face' and experience their life up close in a hive.
The film will be followed by a panel discussion featuring Professor Madeleine Beekman, Professor Ben Oldroyd and Associate Professor Nathan Lo from the University's School of Biological Sciences. Their bee expertise and research interests include conflict and its resolution, social interactions, genetic improvement, disease management and the problem of feral bees.
"We anticipate a lively discussion about the causes of the reduction in bee numbers and bee diversity because it is not only the honeybee that is under threat," said Professor Beekman.
Australian honeybee keepers are currently struggling with the likelihood of a low honey yield because many bees have been badly affected by dry weather.
But so far Australia does not suffer the losses experienced by beekeepers in the United States and Europe.
"This is mainly due to the different way we keep our bees and the absence of the parasitic Varroa mite. Australia is the only country that does not have the parasitic mite and we should do everything we can to keep it that way," said Professor Beekman.
"There are steps that can be taken to help the bees. Since the European Union has changed its agricultural practice, bee numbers and bee diversity has increased."
The panel will also include bee experts Dr Barbara Baer-Imhoof and her husband Professor Boris Baer. The couple, the daughter and son-in-law of More Than Honey's director, initiated the documentary and provided scientific advice during its production and feature in the film. They are currently located at the University of Western Australia's Centre for Integrative Bee Research, of which Professor Baer is the Director.
This event's panel discussion will be chaired by Professor Roland Stocker, from the University of Sydney's Medical School and Vice-President of the Swiss Australian Academic Network (SAAN).
The event is co-presented with the Consulate General of Switzerland, Sydney, and the School of Biological Sciences at the University of Sydney.
When: Thursday, 24 October at 6pm
Where: Law School LT 101, Eastern Avenue at the University of Sydney
Cost: Free with registration requested.
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