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BEES

Bad weather leads to ‘catastrophic’ honey harvest for French beekeepers

Alarmed French beekeepers and farming groups warned on Tuesday of a "catastrophic" honey harvest this year due to adverse weather.

Bad weather leads to 'catastrophic' honey harvest for French beekeepers
French beekeepers have harvested very little honey so far this year. Photo: AFP
“For honey producers the season risks being catastrophic. Bees are collecting nothing!” French farming union MODEF said in a statement. 
   
“In the hives, there is nothing to eat, beekeepers are having to feed them with syrup because they risk dying from hunger,” added the union, which represents many small farms in honey-producing regions.
 
Henri Clement, secretary-general for the National Union of French Beekeepers (UNAF), said that by June his members had normally harvested 40-50 percent of their annual output, but they had collected very little so far.
   
He blamed the weather after a highly changeable winter which saw frost in many regions damage acacia trees, which bees like, followed by a rainy spring.
 
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Photo: AFP
   
“We've had catastrophic weather conditions,” Clement said. “We've been alarmed for a while now about the impact of climate change which is having a major impact on production.”
   
The onset of intense summer heat in France, which could lead to record temperatures being set this week for the month of June, is another source of worry.
   
“We're waiting to see because the season could recover, but the heatwave that is coming could really hit harvests,” Clement added.
   
In recent years, bee populations around the world have been dying off from “colony collapse disorder”, a mysterious scourge blamed on mites, pesticides, virus, fungus, or some combination of these factors.
   
The insects are vital for growing the world's food as they help fertilise crops by transferring pollen from male to female flowers.
   
The European Union is gradually restricting the use of pesticides that are known to be harmful to bees and France introduced even stricter rules in August last year, leading to complaints from some farmers' groups.
   
The pesticides, known as neonicotinoids, are based on the chemical structure of nicotine, and attack the central nervous system of insects.
 
Bees make honey by sucking out nectar from flowers which they then transfer by mouth to other bees inside the hive.
   
The sugary golden liquid is used as a food store by the colony. 

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ENVIRONMENT

France stops sales of two US pesticides over threat to bees

A French court on Friday halted sales of two pesticides made by US chemicals giant Dow after an environmental group raised fears that the substances could be harmful to bees.

France stops sales of two US pesticides over threat to bees
Photo: AFP
The two products, Transform and Closer, are authorised for sale in 41 countries including the United States, Canada and South Africa, according to Dow.
   
French health authorities gave the pesticides the green light in September, but this has been suspended following the decision Friday by a court in the southern city of Nice pending a further ruling on their legality.
   
Fears have been growing globally in recent years over the health of bees, which help pollinate 90 percent of major crops.
 
Large numbers are dying from “colony collapse disorder”, a mysterious scourge blamed on mites, pesticides, virus, fungus, or some combination of these factors.
 
READ ALSO:

Paris: Rooftop hives on the rise amid efforts to preserve honeybee populationPhoto: AFP

The United Nations warned last year that 40 percent of invertebrate pollinators — particularly bees and butterflies — risk global extinction.
   
Both Dow and French health agency ANSES which approved the pesticides, have two weeks to appeal Friday's decision.
   
Designed for agricultural use, the sprays are intended to kill aphids and other bugs that attack plants.
   
But French environmental group Generations Futures charged that the active ingredient, sulfoxaflor, was a type of neonicotinoid — a pesticide that has been partially banned in the EU since 2013.
   
A study published in the journal Science in October found that 75 percent of the world's honey contained traces of neonicotinoids, which act as nerve agents on bees.
   
Dow insisted in court that its active ingredient was not a neonicotinoid, insisting the chemical was “more respectful to biodiversity”.
   
But judge Didier Sabroux said it was better to err on the side of caution “while uncertainties remain”, adding farmers might ignore instructions to use it only sparingly.