L’Association Selva, founded in 1992, is an environmental organisation which focuses on projects concerned with eco-education and sustainable development. These projects often take place in schools but just as often are outside the school system, with our educational effects directed at both children and adults. While many of our projects have been carried out here in France, we have also implemented our projects internationally, most notably in Senegal.
The creation of school gardens:
•We organise the creation of vegetable and medicinal gardens
•Sensory awakening workshops
Solutions against desertification:
Selva has developed reforestation techniques, in many diverse environments and terrains, but especially in desert regions. This, combined with specifically designed irrigation systems, water economy education and the implementation of renewable energy alternatives to firewood have proved useful tools in our fight against desertification in many parts of the world.
•Educating and inspiring the public about renewable energies
•The fabrication of solar parabolas and solar ovens
•Workshops where people can learn to make and use the ovens and parabolas
The protection of bees and other pollinators:
In 2013 l’Association Selva began a project to protect pollinators: SOS Abeilles. Our work as included the preparation of films and debates and education efforts throughout the region, but also the creation and placement of hive homes for rustic honeybees.
Some Facts and Figures
Species extinction is a naturally occurring phenomenon, happening continually throughout the planet’s history.
However, Human activity has accelerated the extinction rate catastrophically, with some calculating that the current rate of extinction is 1000 times higher than the natural rate.
In 2015 this means, on average, the extinction of 1 species (either vegetable or animal) every 20 minutes. This is caused by human activities such as deforestation, which is responsible for the destruction of 50 football field-sized forests every minute (about 15 million hectares/year) and the over-exploitation of the sea, with the global annual haul being about 154 million tonnes of seafood per year. Alas, the list of human activities that damage the planet is long…
The terrestrial and maritime surfaces of the sea are becoming deserts. At this rate, by 2050, 50%of all species and almost all natural forests will have disappeared from our planet forever.
This current extinction is a major biological crisis, without precedent, in which mankind is both perpetrator and victim.
Out of all the organisms that make up Earth’s biosphere, it is the pollinating insects that suffer most on the frontline of the mad war that man is waging against his own home.
The forced decline in the numbers and health of the pollinating insects has already had a negative effect on both human and animal kingdoms, as food becomes scarcer as pollination becomes increasingly difficult.
Human societies depend on natural functions such as pollination for our basic and most important needs. With man’s assault on nature and the resulting decline in all natural ecosystems, we are likely to witness corresponding damage to human societies. Forced emigration, disease, famine and drought can all be linked back to environmental destruction. With things as they are, these horrors are all too likely to continue.
Project: SOS Abeilles
SOS Abeilles is L’Association Selva’s latest project. It is a project designed as an urgent response to the drastic decline in the numbers of insect pollinators across the globe, with a special focus on bees, and the human activities that are responsible for this disaster. The project has two main goals. One is to educate and inform the public about the problem and the solutions, and the other is to help the bees themselves with a practical and hands-on approach.
The practical aspects of this project consists of the construction and instalment of homes for the bees, homes that Selva has specifically designed to fulfil all a colony’s needs in terms of comfort, security and functionality. These are places where a colony can thrive, and where they will be protected from the dangers that face them elsewhere, including their exploitation as producers of honey. These homes will be placed in specific and separate locations, so as not to put too much pressure on wild pollinators. Here they will act not only as sanctuaries for the bees themselves, but also as an educational tool to inspire the public, for example through the use of cameras placed in the hive.
Selva will then place a colony of bees, previously in danger, into the shelter.
We endeavour to use only indigenous bees for this project. For example, in the south of France where Selva has its HQ, we use the black bee, which is of Mediterranean origin. This particular bee is of one of the wildest and rustic bees domesticated by man. Many beekeepers have abandoned the exploitation of this bee, as it is considered less profitable and even aggressive.
They now favour more docile bees, made weak by centuries of human breeding. On another note, is it not strange to consider a being aggressive if it defends itself against what is effectively assault and theft? Furthermore, “more profitable” means more kilos of honey, which is absurd as honey should be measured by its quality derived from the wild flora harvested to make it. In any case the only being consuming this harvest should by all rights be the bees themselves.
The bee-shelters will be fabricated entirely out of non-treated larch wood, and made to stand the test of time outdoors and in all conditions.
The location of each shelter is dependent on a variety of factors:
•Must be away from areas of human interference
•Free from agricultural pollution
•As far away as possible from high concentration electromagnetic zones
•Far enough from hives belonging to an apicultural exploitations to prevent genetic
•The place must have a sufficiently rich local flora
•Has to be geo-biologically compatible for the bees
By thus improving the bee’s quality of life, we hope we can give them the chance to regain their balance and to protect them from what man has thus far imposed on them.
Obviously there is a system of regular check-ups on the hive once it is in place, to follow the hives progress and to resolve any issues.
The same terrible things happening to bees are the same things happening to all species that make up the Earth’s biosphere. What we are now aware of is that without this biodiversity, life on this planet is unsustainable, even for humans.
A bee’s life (Apis Mellifera)
Apart from the queen and the drones, each individual goes through the different stages of a bee’s life.
From birth the bee cleans the alveoli that make up the hive.
On the third day, the bee becomes a feeder to the larvae, a position it will hold for a three day period.
During the following week the bee becomes a builder, thanks to the development of her wax glands.
From the 13th to the 16th day of her life, the bee receives and stocks the nectar and pollen harvested by the foragers.
The bee then takes up the duties of a guardian and ventilator of the hive, for a period of three days.
Finally, for the remaining three weeks of her life, the bee becomes a forager.
The forager harvests nectar from flowers, which when mixed with other self-produced substances and given to the stockers will become honey.
The bee will also gather pollen from flowers, a substance extremely rich in protein, which is used to feed the larvae.
The pollen is also a central ingredient in the royal jelly which enables the colony to create and feed a queen from any of the ordinary larvae.
The forages also fill themselves with water, which once regurgitated in the hive will be used to regulate the internal temperature.
During the spring, there are a larger number of feeders as the queen is particularly fertile, producing up to 2000 eggs a day, effectively one egg every 20 seconds.
In the summer, the forager population is larger so the colony may stockpile resources for the autumn and winter.
The bees born in the autumn live for six months to see out the winter and keep the colony functioning.
A queen can live for up to five years.
The sum total of nectar harvested by a single worker bee during its entire lifetime, transformed by the stockers, becomes 1 gram of honey. This is the equivalent of 1/8 of a teaspoon.
During the summer, when the bee is a forager, it will fly and harvest for about 12 hours a day, which works out as 250 hours spent foraging in its lifetime. The insect will fly anywhere from 800 up to 1000 kilometres during this period.
To understand the work that goes into producing honey, one must be aware of the following:
1 kilogram of honey is:
•Up to 1000 bees lives
•250,000 flight hours
•800,000 to 1,000,000 km of flight
If a bee is exposed to electromagnetic waves or the chemicals used on farms and in gardens, the insect will fall into apathy, cease foraging, be unable to navigate home and will eventually die. Even if the bee survives, the poisons stay inside her, and will be passed into the food supply, and eventually into the honey. These days it is extremely rare for a colony to live in area free from chemical pollution, and most colonies will already be poisoned in some way.
For a domesticated bee, exploited for their honey, there is suffering in other forms. The smoke used by keepers to stun the bees while the honey is extracted, the breaking open of the hive and the rough treatment this involves, and finally the replacement of the honey by white sugar solutions. These products are poisons for bees, as they are to us. Imagine trying to feed yourself and your family on white sugar.
Some beekeepers will take only a large part of the honey harvest, leaving a portion for the colony to survive on. This is seen as ethical, under the pretext that the bees always produce more than they need.
This is absurd. Bees build, forage and produce food in an extremely calculated manner. They take into account, the mouths to feed, the storage space available, weather conditions, the quality of the local flora, the length of the seasons etc. The amount of honey harvested is the amount of honey the bees need.
In the wild, the bees are extremely fussy when it comes to choosing the place they will build their home. They will not build on fault lines, or in a place under which a subterranean river flows, nor if there is insufficient shade and inclement conditions.
So when beekeepers install hives in places which are geo-biologically incoherent, the bees will swarm and leave. This is one of the many factors behind the famous colony collapse disorder.
If a hive is put in a place that is too hot or too cold, or has a big swing between the two, the colony has to spend a lot of time, energy and resources into keeping the hive at the optimum temperature needed for colony life.
Another mistreatment handed out to bees by their keepers is the transportation and relocation of bees in order to maximise profit. These events, seemingly insignificant to our eyes are in fact catastrophic upheavals for the insects. Honeybees are sedentary creatures. They know the area around the colony intimately, and navigate using precise landmarks. This territory can extend for several kilometres.
Once the demands of the colony outweigh the capacity of the hive, the new queen will be born, who will then form a swarm out of a portion of the colony in order to fly off and begin a new hive.
The pollinizing insects today:
In 2012, it is with great alarm that worldwide we have noticed a 40% disappearance of honey bees (Apis Mellifera).
The majority of studies are focused on this particular species, however obviously the problem concerns all pollinizing insect species.
Remember that honey bees represent only 10% of the population of pollinizing insects, the majority of whom are wild. The disappearance rate of 40% could in fact be much higher for other species.
Furthermore, the fact that honey bees make up such a percentage of the total pollinizing insect population is because for centuries Apis Mellifera has been domesticated, exploited and mistreated for its honey.
This process of exploitation has disastrous effects on all pollinizing insects. When a beekeeper sets up his operation, he will need at least 400 hives to earn a salary of roughly £1200 per month, with approximately 60,000 bees in each hive. This leads to a massive concentration of bees, creating a dangerous system of overpopulation. Other pollinizing insects just cannot compete.
Apis Mellifera can pollinize 80% of flowers. This is obviously interesting for beekeepers as it means higher production. However this proficiency is highly damaging for wild pollinizers, as there isn’t much left for them. These other insects are vital for healthy eco-systems, including our own agricultural systems, but are largely ignored because they are deemed not economically profitable.
Certain species live in small groups or alone, and are dependent on a specific species of flower. These insects are even more vulnerable to the dangers of intensive agriculture, monocultures and the use of toxic products that systematically destroy biodiversity. 80% of the total bee species that live in Europe are solitary bees. These bees lay their own eggs and forage exclusively for themselves and their brood. If the bee becomes contaminated by pollution, it may die or become sterile. In both cases, the insect will not reproduce, accelerating the rate of extinction.
Even though Apis Mellifera suffers from a 50% extinction rate, they are however one of the pollinating insects that are the most resistant to the madness of man. One of the reasons for this is their large colony size, and the fact that the queen never leaves the nest and so is not exposed to contamination.
Furthermore the large number of bees in a honeybee colony means a greater efficiency when foraging. However this has a negative effect on the rest of the pollinating insects, and this is especially true when beekeepers install large numbers of hives in a single zone.
This concentration of honeybees is obviously financially interesting for the apiculturists-but it has a devastating effect on local biodiversity as the other pollinators are vital to the balance of their ecosystems.
On the 29 April 2013, the European commission announced a ban on the sale of neonicotinoid insecticides, products that have devastating effects on all living things, including humans.
This decision was supposed to have been put into action on the 1st of July of 2013. However the has been delayed until the 1st of December 2013, to the great benefit of the companies that produce this poison. In 2015 the ban was overturned.
On top of the toxicity of these products (which has been acknowledged across many different sectors) the insecticides act upon the central nervous system of the insects, destroying their immune systems and leading to degenerative neural diseases that cause death in several days.
Pollinizing insects are the hardest hit.
Another poison, no less harmful, is the replacement used to feed the colonies once we have taken away their honey.
This honey, the fruit of thousands of hours of hard labour at the cost of many bees’ lives, is replaced by white sugar, or other derivatives. This is a veritable biological poison to all those consume it, including humans.
For bees the problem is more serious, as for generations they have been forced to use this poison as their principal food source. This is one of the principal causes of their degeneration, and one that until recently has not even been raised as an issue.
L’Association Selva has created a European project with the aim of informing people about the effects human activities are having on bee populations, and all pollinizing insects.
We propose the construction and installation of hives, built to our specifications. These hives will be then colonized by “free” bee populations. Free in the sense that they will not be interfered with by man in any way. In these hives they will be free to build as they choose and enjoy the fruits of their labour the way they should.
The hives have a built-in system that allows us to treat colonies that suffer from parasitic attacks, notably the Varroa parasite. These treatments will consist of the application of essential oils that are not harmful to the bee population, or a device specifically designed by the association that blocks the varroa from entering the hive.
The hives will be placed in specifically chosen places that are biologically coherent for the colonies.
By optimizing the living conditions of these bees as much as possible, we give them the opportunity to find their natural balance and lessen the damage caused by man’s activities.
Of all the problems humanity faces or will have to confront, the disappearance of the pollinizing insects is one of the more serious. Their continued existence is essential for our food supply, and therefore our own existence. Our fates are inextricably entwined. It was Einstein who said that four years without bees would signal the end of the humanity.
In the public and private sectors, L’Association Selva is seeking logistical and financial help to enlarge the projects range, to spread our high quality hives across the continent.
There is of course a regular follow up on each of the installed hives, to check on the evolution and functioning of the colonies and the state of the hive.
It is our wish to create the largest possible network of support for the bees, so that people and organisations can unite and act together.
What is endured by the bees is a reflection of what mankind has inflicted upon himself and upon all the diverse inhabitants of our planet and all that lets us live.
Let us be responsible, let us be conscientious. For a serene and sustainable future and most of all, let us act now.
Are you interested?
Are you interested in this project which is part of the Agenda 21 programme?
Are you looking to get rid of your bees?
Have you found a colony or swarm in an undesired location?
Do you have any questions, suggestions or advice?
Contact us! firstname.lastname@example.org
For more than 20 years L’Association Selva has been engaged in projects to help the environment and to encourage sustainable development. This has included school gardens, reforestation, renewable energies etc.
The village of Gourdon has been particularly engaged in these projects over the years, and in 2012 the village joined us in the SOS Abeilles campaign. It is in this village that the bee-shelters are made.
If you are interested by this European project, which will be part of the Agenda 21 project, please contact us.
Thank you for your attention.