Professor Phil Lester, head of Biological Sciences at Victoria University of Wellington, has a passion for all six-legged creatures, but especially for bees. He shared this enthusiasm in a recent talk for Friends of Kāpiti district Libraries at Ocean Road Community Centre.
Phil Lester’s first book, The Vulgar Wasp, was about one of the world’s most hated insects. His second, Healthy Bee, Sick Bee, is about just the opposite – the honey bee, arguably one of our best-loved six-legged creatures. People have revered honey bees for centuries. Today we celebrate them with toys, postage stamps and campaigns to raise awareness; we dress up in large bee suits to protest the use of pesticides; we’ve even sent bees into space and watched as they adjusted to microgravity.
Bees are one of the world’s most efficient pollinators. Their work is vital to the success of many food crops, and hence to the world’s economy. So we need to take seriously any threats to their health – including parasites, pathogens, predators and pesticides – and, guided by evidence at every turn, find a way to minimise harm and keep bees thriving. As Healthy Bee, Sick Bee shows, this is no small task.
Phil Lester explores the wonderfully complex and sometimes brutally efficient life history of honey bees, and the problems they face in New Zealand and around the globe. What causes a beehive to collapse? Are pesticides as big a problem as they appear? What can we do to improve the health of our honey bees?