Since landing in South Korea last year, the “honeybee mass disappearance” has been a hot topic. Let’s take a closer look at the case, which first occurred in the United States in 2006 and is still a mystery. Editor’s Note
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“As of March, we surveyed 8,000 farms belonging to the association, and 60.9 percent of the hives were dead. 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.
On the other hand, the Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs 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 production status of acacia honey this year.
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 bee farmers and beekeeping industry, which accounts for more than 70% of domestic honey production.
On this day, Han Sang-mi, head of the Beekeeping Ecology Division at the National Institute of Livestock Science, 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 that the average is three to four fillings, it is likely to exceed normal production. The bee population has also increased by 3.3 times.”
The results were quite different from those of the Korea Beekeepers Association. One said that two-thirds of the bees had disappeared, while the other said, “No abnormalities in (bee) work!”
Joo Ho-young, then leader of the Future Unity Party, collects honey during a honey harvesting event at the National Assembly in May 2020. Yonhap
Ten days later, on the seventh, I called Han Sang-mi, the head of the honey production department.
“This year’s Akashi honey production is lower than last year’s, but I think it will be around the average, because last year’s production was so good. We will announce the results of the comprehensive analysis next week.”
And by normal, I mean 2017, when we had 17.7 kilograms of honey per hive. It’s very difficult to average honey production because it’s so jagged.
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 spikes back up 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 a graph, you get a “trigonometric graph” that’s so warped that it doesn’t make sense to average it.
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 in those few days can make a huge difference in the amount of honey produced in a year.
Graphic by Na Seong-sook Video Social Team * Tap image to enlarge.
■ Bees are livestock?
Still, the gap between the Korean Beekeepers Association and the government’s analysis seemed too large.
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.
The beekeeping association surveyed 8,000 farmers, so it’s hardly a precise survey based on a scientific methodology. The social atmosphere in which the media is constantly reporting that “bees have disappeared,” citing billion-dollar numbers, may also have affected the farmers surveyed. “Even if there are 10 to 20 percent of bees left in a hive, it can’t maintain a colony스포츠토토, 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 find that the population is down.
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 from “hives where the bees are dead”.
“In winter, they don’t lay eggs, so the number of bees will decrease after the wintering season is over,” said Han. “Also, farmers often combine hives, so we have to take that into account.” Farmers often combine hives when the number of bees in a hive decreases, or they bring in hives from elsewhere 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. Beekeepers feel the decline in bees too