After watching the 2009 documentary, Vanishing of the the Bees (you can view it on Hulu here), I decided it was time to talk about bees and the beauty of honey, because afterall, the entire Sustainable Shanti line contains raw organic beeswax from Tremblay Apiaries. Have you heard of a new problem called Colony Collapse Disorder, or CCD?
Relatively new on the scene of beekeeping, CCD has major impacts on our environment, our ability to produce food and thus, on every human’s food supply because without the honeybees and their work as cross-pollinators, we wouldn’t be able to pollinate and grow our food. Essentially, bees are leaving their hives and never returning, abandoning their queen bee and any larvae left in the hive. This behavior is not normal and scientists in America are searching for answers. While the scientific community has not pinpointed a main cause, many beekeepers who raise their bees with only organic practices, believe that there is a obvious connection between the currently accepted beekeeping practices and CCD.
So what are these “accepted” practices? And how do they differ from organic methods? And does it really matter? Commercial beekeeping has evolved to use massive doses of pesticides and antibiotics in their hives in an effort to pre-emptively fight the mites and other pests that are natural predators of honeybees. Would you want your house sprayed with chemicals? Would you stay?
Another common practice in commercial beekeeping is to use a sugar-syrup solution as food for the hives once the honey has been removed from them. Seems pretty harmless on the surface, but essentially, the bees are feeding off high fructose corn syrup. Think about feeding any body HFCS for every meal and the effects that it has on them instead of eating whole foods. Bees need real food in the same way humans do.
The third common practice has long-reaching consequences. Commercial bees are literally trucked across the country in order to pollinate different monocrops (don’t even get me started on the monocrop issue!): almonds in California, blueberries in Maine, cranberries in Massachusetts…you get the picture. The hives are loaded onto flatbed trucks and can be on the road for 4 to 5 days with little food and water. How would you feel after such a journey? Not too happy, right?
There are additional problems when the bees arrive in their monocrop havens: there are pesticides used on those crops as well. The types of pesticides have changed over the years and it was with the introduction of a type of pesticide called neonicotinoids that brought the biggest cases of CCD. These chemicals have a longer-term affect on honeybees because they are used as a seed treatment and often work their way into the nectar of the plants. As you can see in Vanishing of the Bees, the honeybees are immediately disoriented when they become covered in the plants that have been sprayed with the neonicotinoid pesticides.
So what can we do about it? Seek out local honey and talk to your beekeeper. Find out what she or he thinks of CCD and the pesticides to which our honeybees are exposed. Buy raw honey–yes, it can be more expensive than what you find in the bear bottles at the grocery store, but it is so much better for you! And the taste is beyond compare.
Our honeybees need our help, and without a doubt we need our honeybees.