It is not a secret that the beekeeping sector is going through a crisis. Causes are many and each of them deserves attention. This is what has been said during the 40th edition of the annual beekeeping conference taking place on 10th March 2019 in the Italian city of Pordenone. This year the conference was titled “Come salvare le api” (How to save bees). A series of experts dealt with two major aspects linked to this issue; selecting bees for your hive and feeding them.
During the conference speakers also noted how beekeepers in the Italian region Friuli Venezia Giulia have been reporting bees’ dying in the last twenty years. All these bees die because of diseases, man changing the environment and electromagnetic fields. Assuming bees’ crisis was caused by one single factor alone would be reductive. However recent developments in Friuli Venezia Giulia – covered by the press in the last few months – should not be taken lightly.
Methiocarb belongs to the carbamate pesticide class. It is highly toxic for many animals – bees included – and plants. Other similar pesticides have been banned by EU. Not this one though. Its usage is regulated at European level. It cannot be used while bees are pollinating – that means during spring and during the day – for bees go out looking for food in daylight. Treated seeds cannot be planted during windy days, and farmers must plant seeds in the ground using efficient equipment so to ensure pesticides do not spread more than needed.
The methiocarb issue raised in Friuli Venezia Giulia began when a group of beekeepers reported massive death rates in their hives. Udine’s public prosecutor office started investigating on this, so to make sure regulations – such as those explained above – were being respected. As a result, regional forest service confiscated preventively dozens of maize fields in Udine’s province between 5th and 6th March. Also, it will not be possible planting maize treated with substances that are toxic for bees until the end of 2019. The protesting of the farmers in the region did not stop Italian associations Legambiente and Unione Nazionale Associazioni Apicoltori Italiani (National union of Italian beekeepers’ associations) from giving their support to the local authorities and to the work they are doing.
Maize production in Friuli Venezia Giulia
According to 2017 data provided by Italian seed association Assosementi, maize production in Friuli Venezia Giulia is worth 112 million euros, which is about 10% of its value at a national level. Unfortunately, Italian maize production showed a downward trend in the last years.
This is the scenario that surrounds the treatment of maize seeds with chemicals. It helps protecting seeds’ quality and productivity. Also, it is regulated by European laws guaranteeing plants and animals’ safety.
Even though seeds’ production is very important for Italian economy, we cannot forget that supporting bees’ role in preserving biodiversity is a priority too – also, pollinating benefits seeds’ production. This is where the debate in Friuli Venezia Giulia is going. Investigation on the misuse of pesticides does not contrast with local authorities desiring to find some common ground between beekeepers and farmers.