Various Veins

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My lawn has a lot of Dutch clover growing among the weeds and grasses. A couple of cottontail rabbits pasture on it regularly. They've learned that nobody chases them away as long as they leave flowers and vegetables alone, and so they don't scamper for cover when I walk out by them.

Dutch clover has always attracted honey bees until recent years. I don't hear their musical buzzing any more.

Nope, it's not because I'm deaf, although that does limit the sound. I've looked for bees here and across the street on Doug's gardens and lawn. Nary a bee.

So what, you say. Well, Doug has fruit trees in his garden. This year there is not one apple or pear to be seen. The trees flowered normally, not damaged by frost.

Without bees to pollinate the flowers they do not develop fruit.

I haven't checked the acres of orchards down toward the lake but if they are like the ones across the street the apple growers will be in deep trouble. If the farmers with peas, beans, peppers, cucumbers don't get the service of bees they will be in the same boat, and the supply of food for you and me will shrink.

You may have been following the argument over the use of neonicotinoids to protect crops from insect damage. Some argue these products have little or no effect on the health of bees. There are other known causes of death in the hives. Mites are one such enemy of bees. Apiarists have had to medicate their bees for mites for years. A long cold winter like the immediate past one can kill bees. They rely on honey stored up in the fall to get them to spring alive. Apiarists can help by feeding them sugar if they're paying attention.

Bees help themselves by rotating from the outer parts of the hive to the centre, their body heat preventing death by freezing. In the heat of summer they use the same process to cool their homes.

An article in the London Free Press reports a study done to find out what effect a ban of the use of neonictotinoids would have on farmers. It would come "with a $630 M sting."

That's a lot of sting, but if the pesticide is guilty as charged by many, the loss would be total without a ban. That only deals with the loss for producers. The loss for consumers is a whole other factor.

Remember the photos of desiccated bodies of animals and humans who died during the great drought years of the last century?

National Geographic magazine is running a series of articles this year about food production in the world. The story of an African woman working on her little farm to feed her family, as she has done all her life, and as her ancestors did, is astonishing and heart breaking. She heard a roar and looked up to see a giant tractor plowing right through her farm. She had no warning that the government of the country approved this rape.

The government leaders believe it is the best way to assure an adequate supply of food for the nation. This is the sort of action my late cousin Catherine McDowell battled against in Canada as giant corporations took control of agribusiness.

Some African leaders have adopted a mix of big company farms and the small farms like the one destroyed in the previous case. This would seem to be a humane way as long as the corporations are kept under a tight rein.

Not so long ago farmers used hoes and cultivators to control weeds in their fields. Insects were harder to manage. We picked potato beetles from the plants by hand, dug cutworms out and pinched them if we could find them. Dad used to feed wireworms small potatoes tramped into the dirt between tobacco plants. It gave the plants time to grow robust enough to withstand the yellow critters that ate their way up inside the stem from the roots.

Canadians have as a nation grown to find such labour demeaning. We welcome workers from off shore to do the menial jobs. Leaders like the past premier of Ontario condoned this attitude. He would educate our kids to do important work, but there are limited numbers of jobs of that sort.

We will live and learn, or maybe not.



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