"Thy lips, O my spouse, drop as the honeycomb: honey and milk are under thy tongue." ~Songs of Solomon 4: 11One of my closet ambitions in life is to be a professional beekeeper. In my opinion, bees are one of the most beautiful, hard working and interesting forms of life on this planet. The ability of these tiny little insects, to work tirelessly together towards a common goal is an inspiration to even us who reside at the top of the food chain. And make no mistake, the role of bees is fundamental to our food chain.
"The pedigree of honey does not concern the bee; A clover, any time, to him is aristocracy." ~Emily Dickinson
"And thy Lord taught the bee to build its cells in hills, on trees and in men's habitations...there issues from within their bodies a drink of varying colours, wherein is healing for mankind. Verily in this is a Sign for those who give thought." ~Al Quran 16: 68-69
"How sweet are thy words unto my taste! yea, sweeter than honey to my mouth." ~Psalms 119: 103
"For so work the honey-bees, creatures that by a rule in nature teach the act of order to a peopled kingdom." ~William Shakespeare
"Like the honeybee, the sage should gather wisdom from many scriptures." ~Bhagavad Gita.
"Behold, doth he cry unto any, saying: Depart from me? Behold, I say unto you, Nay; but he saith: Come unto me all ye ends of the earth, buy milk and honey, without money and without price." ~2 Nephi 26: 25
Most people don't realize that bees and their hives are much more than simple little honey factories. In fact, honey is far from the most important function these little guys perform. Bees are nature's most proficient pollinators, and as such, they are directly responsible for the continued prosperity of literally thousands of forms of plant life. And many of these plants are of huge importance to humans. Whether it is kiwis, onions, cashews, almonds, strawberries, celery, beets, broccoli, cabbage, papaya, peppers, watermelons, blueberries, cranberries, raspberries, cucumbers, squash, pumpkins, zucchini, lemons, carrots, figs, soybeans, apples, mangos, avocados, lima beans, kidney beans, cherries, plumbs, peaches, pears, eggplant, cocoa, vanilla, tomatoes or grapes (and those are just a few), bees are fundamental to the survival of these plants. In short, roughly half of everything you and I put into our mouths to eat is the direct result of a bee's efforts. That's right, these tiny little guys (actually gals, since 95% of a hive is female including 100% of the workers) are of paramount importance to humanity. Crazy to think that we big, bad Homo Sapiens, with all of our technology, knowledge, and dominance of this planet rely so heavily on a simple little insect!
And just what would happen if these little bees died off? Well, we may get to find out sooner than we thought.
Ever since the dawn of civilization, mankind has looked to bees for their sweet nectar. Ancient cave dwellers drew pictures of bees and their honey, hailing them as the workers of the gods. In Egypt, bees were seen as great soothsayers. The location of their hives were graced with worship and awe, and the bee's honey was so special that only those of Pharaoh's court could partake of the liquid gold. Medieval Europe, having still not discovered sugar, saw honey as the nectar of the gods; a substance that demanded great appreciation from all of society. Yes, it is safe to say that human history is replete with stories of respect and reverence for the mighty little bee.
That is, until today. Sadly, the bee has been introduced to a modern world where corporate interests and the capitalistic quest for continued consumption and production have forced our little yellow and black friends into uncharted waters. Now days, bees are shipped across the world to large corporate farms who need these bees to pollinate their crops.
And sadly, this is the least of the bee's concern. Modern pesticides have made their way into the bee's precious nectar, causing the hive to succumb to disease. Their brood is often born with weaker immune and nervous systems. And as American farms become more oriented to a single crop (often spanning over acres of land) pests are able to find all the food they need, thus increasing the need for pesticides. In consequence, the bee's job is made even harder to accomplish. In short, the mass corporate agenda of our modern food industry has forced beekeepers to ship their bees further, to farms with even more pesticides, thus causing the bees far more stress than they have ever experienced before.
So what's the big deal? Why should we care in the first place? Because our bees are dying...by the BILLIONS. Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD) has become a new phenomenon that the American beekeeper is having to face on a daily basis, and the consequences have been disastrous. Literally thousand upon thousands of hives have simply gone extinct all across the United States leaving the beekeeper virtually destitute, and the American farmer in a real pickle. The blueberry and almond farms of California have suffered huge losses, as have the cranberry fields on the east coast and the farms in the American heartland. If Colony Collapse Disorder continues, chances are we will see serious losses to American farms that will have real and long-lasting consequences for all of us.
So what is causing Colony Collapse Disorder and how do we stop it? There have been literally hundreds of suggested causes ranging from cellular phones to a supposed Soviet plot. And though these suggestions are provocative, you don't have to look for the dramatic to see what is killing our bees. The increased stress to produce goods in order to fulfill the hunger of the capitalist markets has fueled the need for more bees to do their job faster, longer, harder and better than ever before. Farms that were normally producing 80 bushels of goods per acre are now being forced to produce 150 bushels. Economic pressures to compete with other countries who aren't required to meet the standards of our FDA have pushed farmers and food companies to find any way possible to cut corners in order to turn profits. And as can be expected, the bee is taking the brunt of the work.
But unlike the American worker, bees don't care about capitalism or other economic pressures. And as the bee is shipped further to stranger farms, full of pesticides, mites and diverse climates, the bee has reached its limits. Being confused due to geographic relocation, gathering pollen from plants infected with pesticides and fed with synthetic sugars as opposed to their rich and natural honey has caused the bee to die in numbers we have never seen before. And can any of us be surprised? Just imagine how each of us would handle being shipped across the country, given synthetic food, forced to work is a strange climate and exposed to foreign chemicals. It's no stretch to suggest that we too would get very sick and possibly face death. Now just imagine what this must do to the little bee.
We can save the bees, but unfortunately it requires change on our part. As Albert Einstein stated: "We can never solve a problem on the level on which it was created." We must change the way we think and operate before we can effect real change, and such is the case with our bees. Eliminating the ridiculous corporate mentality that permeates our food industry along with the pesticides that infect these hives is of paramount importance. We must quit seeing the food industry as a way to magnify the corporate drive for further consumption and production. We eventually need to recognize that we will never be able to eat money! Taking care of our bees (and our farms/environment in general) is a priority that will forever transcend corporate interests.
That is, assuming you want to keep half of the food you now enjoy!