The Salvation of the Honeybee

Honeybees are under attack, suffering from something which scientists have labeled as “Colony Collapse Disorder”, where entire colonies of bees die off en-masse. Commercial apiaries may have many hives collapse one after another. The seriousness of this trend cannot be underestimated. The honeybee is under threat of extinction, and the situation worsens daily. Some farmers in China are already having to hand-pollinate crops. If even ONE farmer in the world has to hand-pollinate seasonal crops which are out of doors, there is something very wrong.

While there are other pollinators for most crops, honeybees are vital to sustaining the perpetuation of many food crops.

It appears that the bees are thin our region as well. Plants that should be dropping blossoms as they are pollinated are still filled with blossoms that have been open for more than a week. We are concerned as to whether we will have some kinds of crops this year.

It is logical to assume that both Pesticides, and GMO foods are at the heart of this situation. Pesticide use has consistently increased in the last 5 decades, and especially in the last two, as insecticide resistant insects have developed. Pesticides are not only used on commercial crops, but on lawns, landscaping, and some are sprayed both from the street and from the air, over many cities, to control mosquitoes. While a pesticide may be more or less effective on various insect types, they are harmful to all, and long term damage builds with each exposure.

GMO crops with BT genes are toxic to many insects. It is logical to assume that their pollen would also carry this toxicity, as would nectar from those plants. In addition to direct harm, insect resistant GMO crops create another round of insecticide resistant insects, which increases the problems with ever heavier applications of pesticides.

It is probable that herbicides play a role in the demise of bees, as well, because while herbicides are not specifically targeted to bees, they are poisons which target many plants upon which bees depend – many of which are considered to be weeds by the commercial food production industries.

More than that though… Commercial beekeepers are greedy. Whereas most home beekeepers are careful to ensure that the bees have sufficient honey to last through the winter, commercial beekeepers supplement more – they rob more honey, and feed more sugar syrup to offset the extra honey they’ve taken. Sugar syrups cost less than the honey they lose if the bees feed themselves – and when feed for the bees is supplemented, they will both feed from it, AND make honey from it. So most commercial honey is NOT just the concentrated nectar of flowers and plants. It is substantially inflated with concentrated sugar syrup – to be exact, CORN syrup. Corn syrup is the most commonly used supplemental feed for bees. And the most heavily BT GMO contaminated crop, is CORN. Feeding bees corn syrup that is contaminated with BT genes is tantamount to feeding them slow poison, and it contaminates their current food source, and is then concentrated as honey, and provides a concentrated contaminated food for later use.

It is important to point out, that corn syrup in and of itself is NOT necessarily a threat to bees. It is fairly certain that it is only the BT Genetic Corn, and syrup made from THAT which would pose the greatest risks.

Pesticide and herbicide residues in nectar, GMO contamination of nectar and corn syrup, result in heavy contamination of the natural and supplemental food of bees. When bees make honey, those contaminants are concentrated into their winter food. So when bees are feeding on honey, they are feeding on concentrated poisons.

I believe the salvation of the honeybee is not in the commercial beekeeping arena. I believe it is in the arena of the backyard beekeeper.

Backyard beekeepers are more solicitous of the wellbeing of their bees, and do not typically over-rob. They feed on average far less supplemental syrup than commercial beekeepers do, and home beekeepers are fairly UNLIKELY to use corn syrup. This eliminates one major risk right off the bat.

Commercial bees are also the most vulnerable to being wiped out by pesticides or GMO crop exposure due to mass exposure, because commercial bees are typically placed near crops in need of pollination – usually near a substantial acreage. A commercial honey producer wants to drop many hives at a single drop point – he does not want to have to put one here, and one there, to get sufficient crop exposure to feed the bees. Therefore, commercially owned bees tend to feed on large scale commercial ag crops. There is a high likelihood that an entire hive of worker bees, and an entire season’s production of honey, would be seriously poisoned.

The backyard beekeeper though, has bees that get a wider range of exposure, and the chance that the entire working element of the hive will be exposed to a large expanse of GMO crops, or heavily pesticided vegetation is lower. Each bee is more likely to run a gamut of exposures – with at least some of their forage being fairly clean. The hive as a whole will do the same – while SOME of the bees may die from exposure, the entire hive will not. While SOME of the honey may be contaminated, all of it will not.

Bees kept in backyards, where they are not exposed to disease from large masses of bees are also less vulnerable to other threats that can wipe out a hive. Careless beehive inspectors from government control agencies pose one of the largest threats to the health of backyard hives – because they inspect both commercial and backyard hive systems, and have, in numerous instances, spread disease from one to the other.

The future of the honeybee is currently threatened by careless agricultural practices. Keeping bees in your backyard is one way to be part of the solution to keeping our valuable agricultural partners working and thriving in the future.

We can’t control what big ag does. We can sometimes influence it, with a lot of effort, but usually our ability to do so is extremely limited. By taking a little piece of responsibility for one colony of bees though, we can make a difference to our own community, and protect that one little piece.

Many towns are now allowing beekeeping within city limits. Check with your town and see if you are one of the lucky ones. If so, invest in a top bar hive (there are several types) and a colony of bees, and begin a new adventure in helping to save the honeybee.

There is much more than honey at stake.

Grow a Garden!

Gardening doesn't have to be that hard! No matter where you live, no matter how difficult your circumstances, you CAN grow a successful garden.

Life from the Garden: Grow Your Own Food Anywhere Practical and low cost options for container gardening, sprouting, small yards, edible landscaping, winter gardening, shady yards, and help for people who are getting started too late. Plenty of tips to simplify, save on work and expense.