Bee-eater is not to blame for decline in honey bees

October 27, 2015

times of malta

Monday, october 26, 2015

Bee-eater is not to blame for decline in honey bees

Sarah Carabott


The colourful bee-eater bird is gracing the Island in increasingly larger numbers, but despite its name It is not the main cause of a recent decline in the honey bee population.

The biggest klllers of honey bees are in fact pesticides and insecticides, sprayed in the open, according to environmentallst Alfred Baldacctilno. These substances, he said, were not only terminating bees but studies had shown that the affected bees were passing on the chemicals to the honey when they flew back to their beehives.

Mr Baldacchino was speaking to this newspaper followlng complalnts from some beekeepers that this species of bird was increasingly feeding off their bees.

The bee-eater has recently started extending its stay in Malta because although It has always been a protected species, it used to be one of the most sought after. Followlng harsher enforcement and greater awareness, it is no longer hunted, Mr Baldacchlno said.

But he defended the bee-eater, saying it did not just feed on bees but also ate other insects, including the oriental hornet, which recently drew fears in urban areas. And as part of the natural ecological cycle, it actually ate old or weak bees, freeing the colony of this burden.

This was reiterated by ornithologist Natalino Fenech, who said that according to Libyan studies, bee-eaters rendered a service to bees by catching the sick and elderly ones.

The study also showed that bee-eaters went instrumental in limiting the spread of some insect pests as well as reducing the spread of different types of wasps and beewolf.

Mr Fenech acknowledged there had been an increase in the number of bee-eaters spotted in Malta because they were no longer shot at and because populations in Sicily had grown.

He explained that the bee-eater fed on all flying insects – from bees to moths, beetles, butterflies, dragonflies and wasps. Photos taken by wildlife photographer Shuki Chefed this summer in Israel even shows a bee-eater trying to swallow a bat.

The biggest killers of honey bees are

in fact pesticides and insecticides

Still, it was not the only bird that ate bees – sparrows, starlings, several warblers as well as II-Merill, or blue rock thrush, did so too at certain times of the year.

Keepers who are worried about the bee-eaters feeding on some of their bees should avoid queening during peak migrations, from late March till mid-April, and in mid-September, he advised.

They should also avoid putting beehive boxes close to or under trees or overhead cables as bee-eaters like to pounce on flying insects from these perches.

Mr Baldacchino’s concern about pesticides was echoed by Michael Muscat, one of the 200 registered bee-keepers in Malta.

2015.10.26---Bee-eater-is-not-to-blame-for-decline-in-honey-bees---timesofmalta_Page_1Mr Muscat, who currently has about 70 colonies, said: “The biggest enemy of bees is the indiscriminate spraying of insecticides and pesticides, especially in the morning, at the peak of pollination.”

According to studies carried out abroad, pesticide and insecticide are the primary culprits of what is known as the colony collapse disorder, which is when the majority of worker bees in a colony abandon the hive because they get disorientated, leaving behind the brood (bee larvae) and stores.

Studies have also shown that neonicotinoids, a class of insecticide, significantly harms the colonies and is the major contributing factor to CCD.

There are other culprits apart from pesticides, although their contribution to bee decline is smaller.

The varroa destructor is a parasite mite that attacks honey bees. In 1992, its importation destroyed some three quarters of the colonies in Malta and Gozo. The bee-keepers have recovered since then.

Another culprit is the hornet, whose population recently exploded in some areas, Mr Muscat said. One particular colony in the Ta’ Xbiex was so severely depleted of foraging bees, because of the hornets, that the colony collapsed.

As for the bee-eater, Mr Muscat said he could not trace the decline of the bee population in some of his apiaries to the bird but he knew of other keepers who have been hit.

See also:

Bees alert: it’s goodbye honey

il-Qerd in-naħal… u n-naħal


Jay oatmon

To be truthful no one knows the reason for the bee decline – pesticides were not the cause previously (they were not used in the 1880’s or 1920’s) see below: –

http://news.natlonalgeographlc  …

“Today’s pollinator crisis, which has also hit Europe and now parts of Asia, is unprecedented. But honeybees  have done disappearing acts on and off for more than a century. posslbly since humans began domesticating them 4,500 years ago In Egypt.

In the United States, unexplained colony declines in the 1880s, the 1920s, and the 1980 & baffled farrners, and in 1995-1996 Pennsylvania keepers lost more than half of their colonies wtlhout a clear cause. The1980s and 19908 saw various new parasltes that hit bees hard;

Varoa and tracheal miles became major killers, and they continue to plague hives and keep beekeepers up at night.”

Edward Mallia

The fact that “pesticides were not the cause previously” does not meant that they cannot be an Important cause now. The data about the effects of neonicotinoids is pretty clear, clear enough to warrant a strong campaign against their use. This habit of looking for “the [one] reason” for any natural phenomenon has become a fool’s quest, much used by those interested mainly is avoiding any blame. We now know that effects on anlmal and plant communities are seldom single-cause alfalrs. If “pesticides were not the cause previously”, how would one account for the levels of glyphosate levels found in urine of subjects from aromd the EU? My level, from the-pesticide-free pastures of H’Attard, was the second highest found In EU wide samples.

Petar Pan

If the bee eater eats bees, it does not help the bees to multiply for surel

Manual Mangani

Not necessarily. If it subsists mainly on the older, weaker specimens, it could be helping the younger, healthier bees to thrive on more plentiful food sources.

Blinded by a pro-business vision – Alfred Baldacchino

June 21, 2015
 malta-todaySunday, 21 June 2015

Environment policy has been sacrificed in the name of short-sighted greed. Alfred E. Baldacchino, a former assistant director at the Environment Protection Directorate, outlines how this was achieved

interviewed by Raphael Vassallo

Evidence for this was provided by none other than the CEO of the Malta Environment and Planning Authority (MEPA) at a parliamentary committee meeting last Monday: when he candidly admitted that the report authorising the selection of Zonqor Point for this project did not include any input from the environment Protection Directorate (EPD).

Alfred E. Baldacchino was present for that meeting, as he has been present for practically every environmental challenge to face Malta in recent years. I meet the former EPD assistant director at his Attard residence, and find him still re-living the arguments of Monday’s animated meeting.

Before turning to his complaints about the site-selection process, let’s talk a little about the site itself. Zonqor Point. Protestors were indignant to hear the place referred to by defenders of the project as a ‘wasteland’ and ‘dumpsite’. What is the significance of this area for people like Baldacchino?


Alfred E. Baldacchino (Photo: Ray Attard)

“My comments on the use – or rather, abuse – of this area are mainly based on the negative social and environmental aspects of this project. Because you cannot focus only on the social or environmental aspects; they go hand in hand. One might also add commercial aspects… but not on their own. Unfortunately, however, during last Monday’s discussion the project was being looked at just from a commercial point of view. And this is an official view of the project, by the competent authority: MEPA, which is still the authority responsible for the environment. And although the commercial returns, on their own, may be good, one cannot just ignore the social and environmental aspects. Because obviously, such a project will have externalities: hidden costs which eventually society and the environment will have to pay. Both socially, and ecologically…

This “greed”, he adds, has completely eliminated all social and environmental considerations from a decision which was taken almost as an obsession to develop this area.

“I like to base my arguments on the electoral manifesto of ‘the movement’. I won’t call it a ‘party’, because in my opinion, presently, it would be an insult to the Labour Party and to the concept of socialism. This is not a socialist party. It is a movement… in fact, the government never refers to itself as socialist. To use an environmentalist analogy: this is a socialist party genetically modified into a far right, capitalist movement. This is shown by the various decisions being taken, and also by the help it gets from official entities which are supposed to be qualified and responsible for the management of social and environmental matters…”

continued in part 2 on:


Read the full interview in MaltaToday


Żonqor Point which spurred civil society to make an environmental and social point in the national interest.

Il-bexx kimiku, is-saħħa tal-bniedem u tal-ambjent – 1

May 11, 2015


Il-bexx kimiku, is-saħħa tal-bniedem u tal-ambjent – 1

it-Tn ejn, 11 ta’ Mejju, 2015

 Alfred E. Baldacchino

 Il-ħajja tal-bniedem illum hija maħkuma minn bexx bil-kimika li juntuża f’firxa wiesgħa. Wieħed mill-għanijiet ta’ dan il-bexx huwa biex jeqred ħxejjex u animali li l-bniedem iħoss li ma għandux bżonnhom, jew, li nkella jarahom li qed ifixkluh u jikkompetu miegħu għall-qligħ tal-flus. Waħda mill-kimika l-aktar li tintuża hija l-glyphosate u din ma toqgħodx tagħżel il-pjanti li sejra toqtol imma toqtol dawk li tolqot.

pic 5

Il-kimika glyphosate tinxtorob mill-weraq tal-pjanta u xi ftit mill-għeruq, u twassl biex teqred il-pjanta. Din tintuża fl-agrikultura, fl-ortikultura, fit-tkabbir tad-dwieli, u anki fit-tkabbar tas-siġar, kif ukoll fil-ġonna u anki fid-djar biex teqred dawk il-pjanti li jitqiesu bħala ‘ħżiena’. Tintuża wkoll biex tnixxef l-uċuh tar-raba’ qabel il-waqt biex il-ħsad ikun aħjar u hekk il-qligħ ikun akbar. Barra minn hekk din tintbexx mal-ġnub tat-toroq u fuq il-bankini fl-ibliet u anki f’xi mogħdijiet fil-kampanja.

Il-glyphosate hija l-aktar erbiċida li tintuża madwar id-dinja, minħabba li kif jingħad din mhix tossika u ma għandiex impatti negattivi, u anki minħabba li ma tqumx ħafna flus.

Saħanstira l-kumpaniji kbar, bħal Monsanto, illum jagħmlu wkoll organiżmi ġenetikament modifikati (GMOs) biex meta dawn jitbexxu b’din il-kimika, dawn ma jmutux filwaqt li jinqerdu dawk il-pjanti ‘ħżiena’ li jkunu qed jikkompetu magħhom. 70% tal-qmuħ, 78% tal-qoton u 93% tas-sojja, huma modifikati ġenetikament biex jirreżistu din il-kimika li tintbexx fuqhom biex tħarishom minn insetti u minn pjanti oħra.

Wieħed mill-prodotti li jintuża biex jeqred il-pjanti u li fih din il-kimika glyphosate huwa r-Roundup li jitbexx madwar id-dinja kollha. Dan huwa meqjus, minn min jipproduċih mgħandniex xi ngħidu, bħala li kważi ma għandux impatti negattivi fuq il-bniedem. U din id-dikjarazzjoni ġiet milqugħa mill-Awtorità tal-Ħarsien tal-Ambjent Amerikana. Minħabba f’hekk ftit li xejn saru studji fl-Amerika biex jaraw kif din il-kimika qed taffettwa l-bniedem u l-ekosistema. Dan minbarra li kien hemm xi studji li ffalsifikaw ir-riżultalti biex din il-kimika ma tiħux isem ħażin. Ir-Roundup jista’ jinxtara mingħajr ebda xkiel minn fuq kull xkaffa ta’ kull ħanut tal-ġonna.

Tant ir-Roundup jintuża fl-agrikultura, li numru ta’ pjanti li jikbru fis-selvaġġ mgħadhomx jaqgħu vittma u jiġu meqruda għax dawn issaħħu kontra din il-kimika. ħMinbarra hekk, l-użu u l-impatti negattivi ta’ dan il-prodott qed iqajjem tħassib kbir fuq is-saħħa tal-bniedem u tal-ambjent naturali.

L-Agenzija Internazzjonali għar-Riċerka dwar il-Kankru (IARC) tal-Organizzazzjoni Dinjija tas-Saħħa (WHO) qalet li l-glyphosate, kimika ewlenija użata fir-Roundup, taraha bħala aktarx li tikkawża l-kankru fil-bniedem. Dan mill-ewwel ġie miċħud minn Monsanto li qalu li ma jafux kif l-IARC waslet f’din il-konkluzjoni.

Minbarra hekk, studji oħra tal-IARC fuq annimali jorbtu l-użu tal-glyphosate ma’ ‘sinjali mekknaniċi’ bħal ħsara fid-DNA fiċ-ċelloli tal-bniedem meta dan ikun mikxuf għal din il-kimika. Ma għandniex xi ngħidi li dan ukoll ġie miċhud bil-qawwa mill-kumpanija li tuża din il-kimika u li kull sena ddaħħal ’l fuq minn $16bn mill-bejgħ ta’ din il-kimika.

Rapporti tal-WHO jikxfu wkoll li din il-kimika nstabet fl-ikel, fl-ilma, u anki fl-arja wara li tkun ġiet imbexxa.

Numru ta’ pajjiżi Ewropej, bħall-Olanda, id-Danimarka u l-Isvejza, jew waqqfu jew ikkontrollaw sewwa l-użu ta’ din il-kimika minħabba l-periklu ta’ impatti negattivi fuq is-saħħa – u mhux il-kankru biss – problemi fil-kliwi, mard seliak, infjammazzjoni tal-kolon u awtiżmu, u saħansitra ulied immankati. Pariġi, Chicago u Vancouver ukoll ħadu passi simili fl-interess tas-soċjetà tagħhom.

Studju li sar fl-Arġentina jorbot l-użu ta’ din il-kimika ma’ impatti negattivi fuq il-kolonji tan-naħal u nsetti oħra. Fi New York għaqda mhux governattiva qed tifittex lill-Agenzija tal-Ħarsien tal-Ambjent talli mhux qed tieħu passi biex twaqqaf il-ħsara li l-glyphosate qed jagħmel lill-popolazzjoni tal-friefet.

Studju ieħor li sar mill-Università Nazzjonali ta’ Córdoba l-Arġentina, wieħed mill-pajjiżi fejn l-aktar li jkabbru sojja ġenetikament modifikata, jispjega kif 30% tal-imwiet fl-inħawi fejn hemm agrikultura intensiva, huma minħabba l-kankru, meta mqabbel ma’ 20% medja tal-pajjiż kollu. U ż-żieda ta’ dawn l-imwiet minħabba l-kankru hija marbuta mad-data ta’ meta beda jintuża l-glyphosate u kimiċi oħra fl-agrikultura.

Statistika mogħtija mis-Soċjetà Amerikana tal-Kankru turi li l-kankru żdied bi 80% mill-bidu tas-snin 70, is-snin meta l-kimika glyphosate tpoġġiet fuq is-suq.

Fl-2013 l-għaqda mhux governattiva Ewropea Friends of the Earth ħallset għall-studju f’laboratorju indipendenti fil-Ġermanja. Dan wera li fl-awrina ta’ nies minn 18-il pajjiż, medja ta’ 44% tal-kampjun, kellhom traċċi tal-glyphosate.

F’Malta, testijiet li saru mill-Friends of the Earth ta’ Malta, sabu li 90% tal-kampjun tal-awrina kien fiha traċċi tal-glyphosate – 9 minn kull 10 persuna studjati.


bexx ta’ kimika fl-urban f’Malta.

Studji xjentifici li dehru fil-Journal of interdisciplinary toxicology juru li l-glyphosate jista’ jkun il-kaġun ewlieni li jwassal għall-obeżità, u għall-awtiżmu, kif ukoll għall-infertilità, għall-mard u sofferenzi oħra bħall-Alzheimer, Parkinson, depressjoni u kankru.

Iż-żieda qawwija fl-użu ta’ din il-kimika bil-bexx fuq il-qmuħ fl-Amerika mxiet pass pass maż-żieda fil-każijiet ta’ dawk li jbgħatu bil-marda tas-seliak. Il-kawża ewlenija ta’ din il-marda tibda’ bl-ikel ta’ proteini gluten miċ-ċereali.


Monsanto’s Roundup weedkiller, li fih il-glyphosate. Ritratt: Studioshots/Alamy

Dan l-aħħar, studji oħra f’numru ta’ pajjiżi Ewropej, sabu traċċi tal-glyphosate f’firxa wiesgħa fl-ikel. U dan l-istudju sar fuq dawk li jgħixu fl-ibliet li mingħajr dubju ma kinux milquta bil-bexx ta’ din il-kimika, imma jieklu ikel li b’xi mod kellu x’jaqsam ma’ din il-kimika fit-tkabbir jew produzzjoni tiegħu. 44% tal-kampjun tal-awrina tagħhom kien fih ammont  ta’ din il-kimika.

Stima aktar friska tikxef li wieħed minn kull għoxrin persuna fl-Amerika ta’ Fuq u fl-Ewropa isofru mill-marda tas-seliak. Din il-marda qed tiżdied fl-Amerika u anki fl-Ewropa, fejn 5% tal-popolazzjoni isofru minnha.

L-glyphosate żdied ħafna min-ħabba l-użu f’firxa wiesgħa ta’ tipi ta’ Roundup, anki b’rabta ma’ ħxejjex ġenetikament modifikati. Tant li fl-Ewropa l-glyphosate huwa l-aktar kimika popolari li tintuża biex teqred il-pjanti. Ma jistax wieħed ma jinkwetax meta iqis li fl-2007 fl-Istati Uniti biss, l-ammont ta’ din il-kimika ntuża f’ammonti kbar: medja ta’ 83,000 tunnellata fil-qasam agrikolu; 3,000 tunnellati fil-ġonna tad-djar; u 6,500 tunnellata fl-industria, kummerċ u f’attività governattivi.

Id-darba li jmiss nitkellmu fuq l-użu ta’ din il-kimika f’Malta.

Trees and GDP

January 3, 2010

21 June 2009

Trees and GDP


Alfred E. Baldacchino

Some people might think that tree planting is just putting the potted tree into a hole in the ground, and perhaps watering it. Tree planting however involves much more than this and requires a plan of action, unless of course such tree planting is done for convenience rather than conviction. When planting a tree, one has also to take into consideration the economic, ecological and social aspects.

Ecologic aspects

There are trees and trees. Different trees grow in different types of habitats. One would not, for example, plant a tree, which grows along watercourses, such as a poplar or a willow tree, in a salt marsh. Neither should trees be planted on garigue, the richest habitat, as unfortunately happened in both cases. Similarly, no one would plant a salt loving tree, like the tamarix, in a valley. These would jar with the environment, as much as a girl in bikini would be out of place in church. These are but some elementary points with regard to the planting of indigenous tress propagated from local stock.

Imported alien species of trees should be handled with the utmost attention and planning. Some of these imported alien species can, and have, become invasive because of lack of planning. As examples one can mention the eucalyptus, the  acacia, the castor oil tree, the tree-of-heaven and the Brazilian pepper, among others. The application of precautionary principle is of utmost importance when it comes to importing living species, not excluding trees, be they exotic or  indigenous. Such imported species also carry with them the possibility of giving a free ride to other species, which can have a very negative ecological, economical and social impact. The recent introduction of the red palm weevil, the mulberry longhorn beetle, the tomato leaf miner, the citrus white fly, the Geranium Bronze Butterfly, and a number of other species including molluscs, flies, wasps, are all taking a stronger hold and impacting the Maltese ecosystem.

Social aspects

Planting trees without any plan of action can also have a social impact, both if the trees are planted in the wild and also if they are planted in urban areas. As an example, take the number of imported Australian eucalyptus trees planted both in the rural and urban environment. Besides the negative aesthetic impact they have, eucalyptus trees rely heavily on underground water; in fact, they are used to dry marshes. The number of eucalyptus groves growing in rural areas, notably in Gozo, without doubt are affecting the supply of underground water in the island, particularly the surrounding fields, to the extent that farmers have to look for alternative sources of water, either from ‘new’ boreholes, or by obtaining water from other sources. The domino effect of having eucalyptus trees growing next to farmers’ fields, are making it more difficult and problematic for farmers to cultivate their fields, with the result that there is a possible smaller output from the cultivated fields, and more expensive produce. Naturally, the unnecessary waste of this natural resource – ground water – cannot be ignored.

Economic aspect

The more the social and ecologic considerations are ignored, the more negative the economic impacts are. Without a proper plan of action, society is burdened with cost externalities, that is, costs which are not borne by those involved in tree planting – mainly the importers of trees, or landscapers.

As an example, one can refer to the now established invasive alien species, the red palm weevil (RPW), which was imported with palm trees. The RPW is devastating palm trees in the Maltese Islands, be they historic, aesthetic, indigenous, public, or private. Many are spraying living palm trees in the hope of saving them, or cutting and transporting dead trees, naturally personally paying for such unforeseen and unwanted costs. These are some of the externalities being paid by society due to the lack of an official policy and lack of foresight and planning by those who were involved in the introduction, naturally unintentionally, of the RPW, but who, notwithstanding, pocketed the profits from such commercial activities.

Growing indigenous trees locally

The Gross Domestic Product is the monetary value of all the finished goods and services produced within a country’s borders and sold on the market in a specific time period, usually one year. Tree planting can contribute to the GDP of the country, if there is a proper plan of action.

In another section of the press, it was officially stated that seeds from local indigenous trees are being sent to Italy so that they can be propagated there, and then re-imported as potted plants. This is indeed unbelievable in this day and age when Malta is party to a number of international biodiversity conventions, all of which highlight the need to protect indigenous biodiversity. This might also give the impression that Maltese gardeners, who have been handling seeds ever since man set foot on these islands, are today incapable of propagating indigenous trees. It can also give the impression that there is some sort of Midas magic touch in this policy.

A proper plan of action for the planting of indigenous trees, besides contributing to the Maltese GDP, can also contribute to the balance of payments. This can be achieved if indigenous seeds are collected, sown, cared for, distributed, sold, planted and distributed locally. This creates a number of different unlimited green jobs, besides completely eliminating the possibility of importing any IAS, diseases or viruses, which are all possible under the present policy of importing plants and trees, and which has happened in some cases. It would also ensure that the local gene pool of indigenous trees is not polluted. Besides, it contributes to the better balance of payments, less money going overseas for something that can be done much better and more efficiently locally. Furthermore, money, which is being uselessly spent overseas, can have a much needed multiplier effect if it is spent locally. New green jobs for locals will be created, the ecosystem will benefit, and society will not be asked to pay, in cash or in kind, for externalities, as it is doing at present. The value of such goods and services would also be reflected in the local GDP.

An official urgent policy in this field is urgently needed if, IF, what is officially said and written on the protection of biodiversity, is to be taken seriously.

Mr Baldacchino is a Planning and Environmental manager