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The Buzz on Bees

Updated: Feb 22, 2023

These little critters have got a bad rap. It's time to set the record straight on these friendly stingers.

Almost half of the worlds food supply is pollinated by these little guys. 40% to be exact according to the docufilm, Queen of the Sun. "Honey bees alone pollinate 80% of all flowering plants, including more than 130 types of fruits and vegetables." says farmers.gov , but they are struggling.


In recent years, the rise of Colony Collapse Disorder has decimated these pollinators, leaving their empty hives mere shells of their former bustling communities. How does this affect us though, and why is this happening in the first place?


 


Toxins are at the top of the list when we look at what most affects bee health. Both, pesticides for crops and in-hive mite control have contributed to this phenomena. The neurotoxins known as neonicotinoids are reaping havoc on our bee populations but the way we farm leaves us at the mercy of using them. With millions of acres cleared for monoculture crops, there are few other food sources for other insects to eat. We end up perpetually fighting them for food. Monoculture farming practices are unsustainable. The almond crop in California is a prime example.




Each year, truckloads of bees are transported from across the U.S to attend to the almond crop pollination. They must be transported there from various states as there are not enough inhabitant pollinators naturally anymore. The land used for this single crop leaves it barren for the other 48 or so weeks of the year for pollinators.


Upon arrival, the bees must be fed high fructose corn syrup to enliven them from their journey. An antibiotic called oxytetracycline is added to the liquid concoction. This practice places stress on the bees, which is another factor in Colony Collapse Disorder. We know what stress can do to a human being. Why should it not affect our animal counterparts? We have managed to exploit the natural abilities of these friendly pollinators, but not without harming them, and in harming them, we harm ourselves. Their sacredness being lost in our exploitation. A gratitude for their gifts lost.


 

Mites are well known for infesting bee populations too. Commercial beekeepers use in hive pest control to try to deter them from decimating populations, but the very stuff we use to control them is causing adaptation in the mites and is becoming ineffective. New pesticides are produced all of the time but they only yield the same results with the mites adapting. It's the natural way of things. Some beekeepers are opting for a natural approach to them in hopes the bees will eventually adapt to the mites themselves.


 

A way of farming that Native Americans employed was to leave grasses and other plants for the pesky critters to feed on instead of complete clearing. They would also pair plantings of differing varieties that compliment and work in concert with each other. This is called intercropping, or sister planting. The three sisters being for this example, corn, beans, and squash. The corn provides structure for the bean to grow up, and provides shade for the squash, the squash provides natural mulch for moisture control and prevents weeds. The beans also add nitrogen to the soil. All plants work harmoniously together for the betterment of all. This intercropping adds a more diverse flora for all of our pollinators too.


 

Throughout history, bees have been revered by powerful leaders of ancient India, ancient Persia, the Greco-Romans and the ancient Egyptian Babylonian. They have been seen as a sacred animal; the great nurturers of life and fertility. Society as we know it can be said to resemble the inner workings of the beehive. The level of cooperation is unsurpassed and should be admired. They are highly intelligent, efficient, organized and social. When we see disease amongst our animal, plant or insect counterparts, it's a reflection of the health of human kind too. We are all a part of the eco system. We are all interconnected. Perhaps we need to think of why they were so revered by the ancients in a quest to know their true worth.


 

Honey was not sold until the nineteenth century. It was considered a sacred gift from the bees and only given as gifts. It also has healing properties like enzymes, nutrients, trace minerals and silica, making it a very thoughtful gift indeed. It is known to help those with seasonal allergies and has been used in poultices over Millenia. It has also been placed in the tombs of historical leaders throughout time to lead them to a sweet afterlife. Our ancestors from all directions recognized and honoured the bees for the divine beings they are. Is it any wonder we are failing them in commoditizing and exploiting them?


So what can you do to help protect these little guys? You're not a farmer, you say. What difference can you make? While it would be difficult to turn back time and naturalize our farming now, we can make small incremental changes to slow the tide and let these guys recuperate before we're in real trouble. Small local farms are wonderful and community gardens are another way to add diversity within even inner city areas. There are plenty of small acts that make a difference for these critters. It can be as simple as planting a variety of flowers around your home. They need a water source in the summer heat, so put out a shallow dish of fresh water, or utilize a bird bath. Start a veggie garden. Anything adding to the variety of plants in your garden and around your property is helpful. There is also an influx of new backyard beekeepers showing up with a passion for helping them along too. While this doesn't appeal to everyone, it's encouraging to know others are passionate about the cause.


 

Unless we realize how our fingerprint affects species, we should be very thoughtful with their conservation. We cannot go without these friendlies. As small as they are, they are a big, integral part of our eco system. It's time we were caretakers of the land and her inhabitants. We all play a role, no matter how big or small our role is.




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