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Script 50.8

Script

Did you know that most plants can’t produce food without bees?

The bad news is that many of the pesticides we use on our crops kill bees. The good news is that you can protect your crops without killing bees. Today you’ll hear a story about Kwame, who grows melons to sell at the local market. He learned the hard way, after his crop was spoiled.

But Inina, a friend who had been growing melons and vegetable crops for many years, helped him find a solution to his problem.

MARKET SOUNDS

Inina:
Hello, Kwame. How are you?

Kwame:
Hello, Inina. I am all right, but my melon crop is failing. The melons are small and they have a strange shape. One end is round and large, the other small and flat. And they don’t taste sweet.

Inina:
That’s terrible. Do you know what the problem is?

Kwame:
No, and I’ve asked many people.

Inina:
Tell me, Kwame, I know you’ve had a big problem with melon flies for a few years. Did you use any pesticides this year?

Kwame:
Of course, I had to. Otherwise, my whole crop would have been spoiled.

Inina:
What time of day did you use the pesticide?

Kwame:
Same time as always, just before noon.

Inina:
And let me ask you one more question. Have you seen many bees around your melon field?

Kwame:
It’s funny that you mention that. I noticed just the other day that there are not many bees this year.

Inina:
I think I know what the problem might be. The pesticides have killed the bees.

Kwame:
Pesticides kill bees?! Oh, I didn’t know pesticides could do that. But that doesn’t explain what’s wrong with my melons.

Inina:
Oh, but it does, Kwame. I’ll explain. Melons, like most crops, won’t produce fruit unless their pollen is moved from one flower to another. Pollen is a dust-like powder found inside flowers. When an insect, usually a bee, crawls inside a melon flower to drink nectar, it rubs its body against the inside of the flower. In this way, pollen gets on its body. And when the bee flies off to collect nectar from another melon flower, it rubs this pollen against a part of the melon flower.

Kwame:
So the bee helps the crop by moving pollen from one flower to another?

Inina:
That’s right. This exchange of pollen begins the process which produces fruit on the melon vine. The process of moving pollen from one flower to another is called pollination. Without pollination, there is no fruit. And if a flower is not pollinated many times, the fruit may be small, lopsided or tasteless.

Kwame:
I think I understand. If there are not enough bees, there’s not enough pollination. Then the vine doesn’t produce any fruit, or the
melons aren’t big and sweet.

Inina:
Exactly! You’ve got it.

Kwame:
Is it the same for other crops?

Inina:
Most crops are the same. A few crops don’t need bees, because they are pollinated by other insects or by the wind. But most crops do need bees.

Kwame:
Why did you ask me what time I sprayed my melons?

Inina:
Because bees are most active after the early morning, and during daytime hours.

Kwame:
So, if I spray pesticides very early in the morning, or late at night, will my melons grow better?

Inina:
If you must use a pesticide, those are the best times to spray. But pesticides can be dangerous to your health and our environment, not just to bees. So it’s best to try to find ways to use them less, and find other ways to protect your crops.

Kwame:
Well, I guess it’s too late for my melons this year. But believe me, next year I’ll think twice about spraying — especially when bees are in the field.

Inina:
That’s good.

Kwame:
Thank you, Inina!

Inina:
You’re welcome, Kwame.

Acknowledgements

This script was written by Vijay Cuddeford, researcher/writer at the Developing Countries Farm Radio Network. It was reviewed by Doug McRory, provincial apiarist, Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Farming and Rural Affairs.

Information Sources

  • The impact of pest management on bees and pollination, Eva Crane and Penelope Walker, 1983. Tropical Development and Research Institute, College House, Wrights Lane, London W8 5SJ, UK.
  • Decline in honey production result of aerial spraying, Rupert Gajadha. Focus on Rural DevelopmentJuly-September, October-December 1985. FOCUS, PO Box 253, Vieux Fort, St. Lucia.
  • The Dirty Dozen Pesticides to avoid on your Farm“, Uganda Environews, Vol 4, No. 2, June 1997, page 11. Africa 2000 Network, UNDP, PO Box 7184, Kampala, Uganda.
  • The Pollination Scene: The Home Page of Dave and Janice Green.
  • Pollination Management“, Dave Green. Permaculture Activist No.38, February 1998, pages 14-15.