Expert sounds the alarm on the health of bees in Switzerland
In an interview given to Watson, Switzerland's own "bee professor" has sounded the alarm regarding the plight of the critters in the alpine nation. Peter Neumann from the Institute of Bee Health in Bern warned that if nothing is done, the entire honey bee population will be wiped out in two years.
Swiss honey bee colonies face extinction in two years
In the interview, Neumann said that “the colony losses of honey bees are far too high and their health is worrying…Many wild bees in Switzerland are also in decline or even threatened with extinction.” He confirmed that “all honey bee colonies in Switzerland are chronically ill, And if the beekeepers don't do anything about it, all the colonies will be dead in one to two years. Period.”
As of 2021, Switzerland has around 200.000 beehives, with between 20.000 to 80.000 bees per hive. Given their essential role in pollinating crops and other plants, their absence would be devastating for both farmers and the environment at large.
Neumann: More needs to be done to save bees in Switzerland
The professor explained that the biggest problem facing bees across Swiss cities and cantons is the Varroa mite. The parasitic mite - aptly also known as the Varroa destructor - attaches to the body of honey bees and weakens them by feeding off their fat reserves. Originating from Asia, the mite was first identified in Switzerland in 1984 and has become widespread across the world.
During the mite's feeding process, the Varroa also becomes a vector for many deadly bee viruses, with scientists noting that infection usually leads to the total death of the colony if left untreated. What's more, while treatments do exist, many of them also impact the health of the bees themselves and some mites have already built up a resistance to the compounds used.
Alongside combatting the mite, Neumann called for more action to counter the effects climate change, pesticides, pollution, habitat loss and lack of nutrition have on bee populations. While he praised recent efforts by the government to try and highlight the issues bees have, he said that more information needs to be given to beekeepers regarding the Varroa mite and more sustainable solutions need to be found to treat it.
How can you help bees in Switzerland?
In terms of what the general public can do to help bees in Switzerland, Neumann said that “sowing flowering plants and setting up insect hotels can be done, even in the smallest of spaces.” He explained that these measures help support wildlife by giving them both food and habitat.
He added that the government, businesses and universities can also do more by implementing more pro-bee policies. “Why don't flowers grow on the bus and tram shelters?! Or there is a large meadow on the square in front of our university - why can't half of it be full of flowers? Why only three-millimetre turf always and everywhere?” he concluded.