What's up with the Bees?
Remember when bees were not in the news! When they were a normal part of life on the farm, lazily buzzing in and out of our gardens and flowers, doing what bees do. They were virtually ignored by everyone unless they got close enough to sting, which is actually the last thing they want to do, as it will kill them.
What has happened over the past decade that has brought everyone's awareness to ‘What's up with the Bees?' What has changed, that we now have problems with acronyms like CCD, (Colony Collapse Disorder), documentaries about a mysterious bee disease that scientists can't study effectively because the primary symptom is that the bees just disappear.
Bees have lived for millions of years with no help or intervention from beekeepers, and now beekeepers can barely keep their bees alive. What on earth have we done?
It's not a simple answer as there are many factors that contribute to the problem,, but there is one main fact that is being overlooked. Let's recap the cumulative circumstances that have helped the situation develop to here, before we give you our synopsis.
Agricultural Practices: Over the past century, farming has become a chemical arena. Bees have been exposed to a huge variety of toxic substances used in fertilizers, mold inhibitors, pesticides, synthesized nutrients and genetically modified seed strains. All of these substances present themselves to varying degrees in the nectars and pollen produced by plants. Bees collect and eat nectars and pollens as their sole food source along with water. They have little choice but to harvest that which is chemically tainted.
A bee's harvesting distance is within 1/4 to 1 mile. This is a long distance for a little bee and a lot of wing beating. Industrialized farming offers bees inferior food which is deficient in the normal balance of nutrition as they are harvesting from ‘mono' crops. Huge areas of our planet are cultivated with only one crop, be it corn, wheat, soybeans, apples, etc. Typically, in a bee's perfect world, they harvest a bounty of crops from early dandelions and spring flowers to fruit, trees and berries, vegetables and grasses (grains) in the seasonal dance of Mother Nature. Mono cultures are often sprayed with herbicides which inhibit the growth of other natural plants and herbs (weeds), directly robbing bees of a balanced diet and often has them waiting for that one crop to flower with negligible other food before and after.
Industrial Global Toxicity: It is a proven fact that airbourne toxins from industry, mining, machinery, automobiles and processing plants have detrimental effects on humans. The rate at which allergies, asthma, lung problems, autoimmune deficiency diseases and environmental sensitivities are rising is in direct correlation to the state of our environment. Many of these problems arise because our immune systems are over taxed from our environment and diet. Scientific evidence confirms that as little as 150 years ago, our atmosphere contained up to 50% oxygen. Now we are lucky to have 12 – 15% oxygen,,, barely sufficient to live.
Well,,, the honey bee is in the same boat. Their food is toxic and the environment is contaminated. The frequencies that effect their little brain and nervous system is far from what their inherent psyche can make sense of.
EMF – Electro Magnetic Frequencies: It has been proven that exposure to EMF have distinct effects upon humans with regular exposure. It is yet to be determined what the effects on humans are. When you consider the effects on bees, it is simply one more stress without the awareness of the effects. Bees are very tiny and unlike many other insects,,, bees don't change,,, haven't for millennia and probably never will.
Current Bee Health Issues prior to CCD: For millennia, bees have existed with balance and harmony. It wasn't until the 1800's that beekeeping became a more formalized industry, with negligible problems outside of climatic irregularities appearing until the mid 1940's. After the 1940's, beekeeping exploded as a commercial industry, as did every other agricultural commodity on this planet. As much as Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD) has only been a buzz word for the past 3 – 5 years, the underlying warning signs go back some 20 – 30 years.
Authorities speculate about the cause of CCD but few are actually looking at the real dilemma. Varroa and Tracheal mite infestations have only plagued the beekeeping community in North America for the past 20 – 30 years, which is only the beginning of the real problem. Mainstream media and most of the beekeeping community are unaware of what we are about to present and perhaps Colony Collapse Disorder is the bees way of warning us.
The Mite Issue: The introduction of Varroa and Tracheal mites into North America actually came from China 25 – 30 years ago. These mites have existed in China for centuries and Chinese Apiculture has thrived in spite of the mites, as Chinese bees have learned how to ‘clean' these parasites off of each other. However, bees from North America and other countries do not have these skills; hence the mites affix themselves to a bee and literally suck the life out of them. This alone undermines the life force of the bee. The mites become more prevalent in any hive as they lay their own eggs into the brood comb (where the baby bees are born) causing baby bees to be born with a parasite and a greatly weakened immune system. A bee only lives 16 - 18 days and has a very important role to fulfill in this short time. Weakened bees greatly affect the health of the hive.
Solution to Kill Miles is the Actual Cause of CCD: The beekeeping community's solution to the mite problem has been a progressive assault of stronger and stronger chemicals. Unfortunately, mites are a species that propagate prolifically and have a predisposition to adapting and becoming chemical resistant. Initially chemicals controlled the mites but soon they developed a resistance. Stronger pesticides were implemented which have adverse effects on the immune system of the bees. This necessitated the need for drugs to bolster the immune system of the bees, however, bees can only sustain a certain level of any drug.
As the mites gained more strength, despite pesticides, the bee society implemented a stronger solution, neurotoxins. About 10 years ago were the neurotoxins were the mite solution of choice. The most unfortunate reality of these chemicals is the fact that these neurotoxins are created in a wax soluble substance. It is administered at the entrance of the hive where it is designed to dust onto the bee and eradicate the mite. These neurotoxins are absorbed into the very home the bee lives in,,, the walls, the floor and the ceilings, and not only do the bees live on this wax, they store their honey in the wax comb cells, and they raise the baby bees there! So when those chemicals dissolve into the wax, it saturates the hive and affects everything the bees do.
The Real Cause of Colony Collapse Disorder - This story was shared with me by a knowledgeable beekeeper I met in California. His hives are in a relatively remote area,,, a 150 sq. mile national forest, with no chemicals. Void of most of the above mentioned problems, this man's hives were doing very well. He practices many of the old ways of beekeeping while providing the bees with a balanced, healthful environment.
We chatted about the above issues, agreeing that the use of the neurotoxins was definitely the last straw. When I said,, "So how does this kill them as it is not a pesticide which physically kills them?” He tilted his head and responded with an illusion that shocked me in its obvious simplicity. I wish I could recall the name of this gentleman, perhaps I will hear from him one day.
Rather than answer my question, he asked me one; "What do the worker bees do when the lil' scout bee comes home and does his little dance showing them the nectar is 1/2 mile to the sun and 300 yards 15 degrees right? I responded, "they simply go out and harvest the nectar and pollen. Nooo, noo,, they all have to go to the requisitions department of the hive and eat enough honey (fuel) to get them ‘1/2 mile to the sun and 300 yards 15 degrees right. Then they can go a harvesting,,, but, if their lil' neurotoxically affected brains put them off their mark by a hundred feet or more, they run out of fuel and can't find nectar or pollen to eat, hence they simply die in the field. This means they do not load up with pollen or nectar to take home”.
This is the key to CCD - The bees are dying as their radar is messed up and they miss the intended crop. He explained that as the hive is successively encumbered neurologically,, more and more of the workers die,,, simply because they do not find ‘source' to food and cannot return to their home and family. Unfortunately, a whole hive can die quickly when it's workers do not return home with food.
Fortunately, necessity is the Mother of Invention. This dilemma has created the need to find and rediscover the natural rhythms and practices that sustain a health hive. Various new methods are being discovered that actually undermine the health and immune system of the mites, while being totally safe and non-reactive with the bees.
Current Natural Solutions:
Formic Acid Pucks - This healthful discovery uses formic acid pucks which ‘gas off' and are offensive to the mites yet have no ill affect on the bees.
Dowsing Positive Ley Line areas - One beekeeper told me they discovered that when a hive swarms, it will usually relocate itself on a positive ley area. I have since met many beekeepers who find that ‘twitching' for a positive ley line area and situating their hives there, found their bees were healthier and more mite resistant. Isn't Mother Nature amazing?
Essential Oils – Applications with certain essential oil deters the mites and seems to be harmonious with the bees.
Many commercial agricultural applications are being re-evaluated today, and our attitude about honeybees needs to be re-calibrated. We need to move away from treating bees as machines and return to letting nature take its course. We have gotten off track in a short time. It is now urgent that we learn, or maybe remember, how to farm in ways that support honeybees and our environment.
Maybe the bees are our Canary's in this lil' experiment we call Earth, and we must remember that it isn't all ours to do with as we want. It's interesting to compare where the bees are at with certain aspects of our own lives and cultures. We can't change the whole world, but we can change how we expose ourselves to that which reduces our abilities to connect to source: the things we eat, the amount of ‘electronic time' we endure, where we live,, what we do for fun and who we do it with.
Do know that Mother Nature does understand what we must endure sometimes to survive such as hours at a computer, toxic fumes and chemicals in our homes and environment, smells, odors, and allergens.
Know that every time you light a beeswax candle, you are infusing your air with negative ions which are replicating the air cleaning properties of a thunder storm and the freshness of walking by the ocean with waves crashing at your feet. For a comprehensive story on these air cleaning properties of beeswax, read ‘The Positive Side to Negative Ions'.
Sources in Part:
The Natural Farmer - a publication of NOFA - the Northeast Organic Farming Association.
(Photos: Natural wax - Photo by Jimmy Fowler, Foundation wax in a frame - photo by Christy Hemenway)
Wikipedia – History of Beekeeping
GOLD STAR HONEYBEES
What's Killing the Honey Bees?
Colony Collapse Disorder - a Moment for Reflection
If some of our readers have more light to shed on this topic, please send it through.
Update I: European Bees also taking Nosedive - Perhaps GM Crops?
Update II: Colony Collapse Disorder - a Moment for Reflection?
What you can do to help?
1. Vote Organic and Support Organic Farmers and Producers
2. Spread the Word and Become a Conscious Consumer
3. Purchase Organic Products / Raw Honey, Bee Pollen and Beeswax Products