“Colony collapse disorder is the subject of this environmental documentary. As bee colonies around the United States disappear, scientists and beekeepers struggle to find the reason why and ascertain the impact on humans and the planet. Longtime beekeepers and newcomers alike are faced with economic ruin as they try to keep their hives healthy and prevent this crisis from wreaking havoc on a world that depends on pollination to sustain agriculture.”
WHO: Dr. Mark Winston
WHAT: Bee Talker – The Secret World of Bees
gardendog: Honeylove Swarm Capture
“Chelsea and I drove out to Glendale a couple of weeks ago to respond to a couple calls on the Backwards Beekeepers rescue hotline and were able to capture two beautiful swarms. And just in time too. The exterminator showed up just as I was boxing up the second swarm from the hedge in front of a triplex. He wasn’t thrilled about missing the opportunity to bill his client, but was happy that the bees would be given a new home. Apparently this wasn’t the first time the Backwards Beekeepers beat him to a swarm.”
Why We Need Bees and More People Becoming Organic Beekeepers
Bees teach us how to live our life in a way that by taking what we need from the world around us, we leave the world better than we found it.
Beekeeping is rising in popularity — from urban rooftops to backyard hives, the world is abuzz with interest in homemade honey. And who better to comment on the nature of bees than the former president of the Vermont Beekeepers Association, Ross Conrad.
MG: Describe briefly beekeeping as a business. How much energy do you focus on honey production?
RC: Honey production is not the focus of my beekeeping business at all. The focus is on caring for the honey bees and keeping the colonies as healthy and vibrant as possible. This means primarily reducing stress on the bees. In fact the only consistent observation that has been made of hives suffering from Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD) is that the bees in infected colonies are always suffering from stress that has caused the bee’s immune systems to collapse. While there are numerous stresses that the bees must deal with that we cannot directly control (see below), there are numerous other stresses on the hive that we do have control over. Such stressors include reducing chemical contaminants in the hive, eliminating the presence of antibiotics in the hive, making sure that the bees are fed a healthy diet of honey and pollen from a wide variety of plants and that the hives have access to clean uncontaminated water. When the bees health needs are taken care of, a honey harvest tends to be the natural result.
MG: Let’s say I’m an aspiring small-scale farmer, or beginning life on a homestead, or merely thinking of expanding my urban garden. Why should I keep bees, in terms of honey production, and their pollination benefits, etc?
RC: The biggest benefit honey bees provide is pollination. Pollination fees are what is keeping the beekeeping industry alive today. Honey is really a byproduct of pollination. Why should anybody keep bees? As suggested above, the life support systems of our planet are collapsing. The forests are disappearing, desert regions are growing, the climate is shifting so that some areas are getting dryer, other areas are getting wetter, some areas are getting colder, other areas are getting warmer, and our oceans are collapsing with large dead zones, acidification, giant “islands” of floating plastic debris, collapsing fisheries, and ocean animals that are dying in greater numbers every day from cancer. My observation is that it is our industrial civilization that is, if not the actual cause of all this destruction, it is certainly contributing to the devastation. As a member of this society then, I am partly responsible and part of the problem. This is a wonderful thing, for if I am part of the problem, then I have the responsibility and am empowered to be part of the solution.
One of the greatest lessons we learn from the honey bee is in observing how they go about making their “living” here on earth. As they go about their business collecting pollen, nectar, propolis and water (everything they need to survive) they do not harm or kill anything in the process. Unless they feel threatened and are forced to defend themselves, not so much as a leaf on a plant is harmed. In the process of taking what they need to survive they in turn give back more than they take and make the world a better place through the pollination the plants. This gift of pollination ensures that the plants can thrive and reproduce in vast numbers which produces a large variety of seeds, nuts, berries, fruits and vegetable in all shapes and sizes, which in turn ensures an abundance of food for all the rest of the insects, animals and people on the planet. This is the ultimate lesson that the bees teach us and challenge us to accomplish: How to live our life in a way that by taking what we need from the world around us we leave the world better than we found it.
Each one of us who takes care of the honey bees and makes sure that there is adequate habitat and flowering plants for the native pollinators in our regions, is indirectly through the good work of these pollinators, making the world a better place for all of creation. This is the kind of healing our beautiful blue-green planet needs desperately at this time in history.
Honeybees ‘entomb’ pollen to protect against pesticides
By sealing up cells full of contaminated pollen, bees appear to be attempting to protect the rest of the hive.
Honeybees are taking emergency measures to protect their hives from pesticides, in an extraordinary example of the natural world adapting swiftly to our depredations, according to a prominent bee expert.
Scientists have found numerous examples of a new phenomenon –bees “entombing” or sealing up hive cells full of pollen to put them out of use, and protect the rest of the hive from their contents. The pollen stored in the sealed-up cells has been found to contain dramatically higher levels of pesticides and other potentially harmful chemicals than the pollen stored in neighboring cells, which is used to feed growing young bees.
“This is a novel finding, and very striking. The implication is that the bees are sensing [pesticides] and actually sealing it off. They are recognizing that something is wrong with the pollen and encapsulating it,” said Jeff Pettis, an entomologist with the US Department of Agriculture. “Bees would not normally seal off pollen.”
But the bees’ last-ditch efforts to save themselves appear to be unsuccessful – the entombing behaviour is found in many hives that subsequently die off, according to Pettis. “The presence of entombing is the biggest single predictor of colony loss. It’s a defence mechanism that has failed.” These colonies were likely to already be in trouble, and their death could be attributed to a mix of factors in addition to pesticides, he added…
Bees naturally collect from plants a substance known as propolis, a sort of sticky resin with natural anti-bacterial and anti-fungal qualities. It is used by bees to line the walls of their hives, and to seal off unwanted or dangerous substances – for instance, mice that find their way into hives and die are often found covered in propolis. This is the substance bees are using to entomb the cells.
Research bees stolen from scientists trying to test effects of pesticides
A $3.3 million research project into colony collapse disorder (CCD), the phenomenon of honeybees mysteriously dying in droves, lost thousands of its test bees to thieves. Researchers at the Center for Neurosciences at Dundee University in Scotland, reported that the British black bees, contained in four hives, were taken on the morning of Sunday, May 8, 2011.
The monetary value of the bees, in the vicinity of $5,000-$6,000, is only part of the reason for the researchers’ dismay at the bee burglary. “This theft will undoubtedly hamper our research,” said lead researcher of the project Dr. Chris Connolly who called the theft “disheartening” for the research team.
The thieves apparently worked quickly and had some knowledge of bee handling. Connolly stated that “The bees were there when I arrived at work on Sunday morning but were absent when I went to work on them 20 minutes later.” Police in the area are pursuing leads about a sighting of two men in a white van seen near the research center around the time of the theft. One of the men may have been wearing a beekeeper’s helmet. Dr. Connolly described the stolen bees as “very unique” and suggested they would be easily identifiable if recovered.
Hmmm, let’s play armchair detective and think about this.
Who would want to steal bees? It could be, as Dr. Connolly speculated, someone wanting the bees as breeding stock for the lucrative bee farming business? Large-scale bee businesses can earn hundreds of thousands of dollars by renting their hives to farmers for use in pollinating crops. With the decline in bee populations due to CCD, bees have become scarcer, resulting in a growing apian black market.
But unlike most bee thefts, this one took place at a university, not a bee farm. Is there another suspect? Remember, these bees were part of a research project investigating colony collapse disorder. Many scientists and environmentalists have speculated that CCD in bees, like white-nose syndrome in bats, afflicts pollinators because they come into close contact with plants sprayed with pesticides.
Who might want to prevent research that could potentially verify the link between the toxic chemicals used on our crops and a mysterious decline in bee populations? Is it outside the realm of possibility that the list of suspects might look something like this: http://npic.orst.edu/ingred/manuf.htm
White House Bees
“Silence of the Bees” – PBS Video
Watch the full episode here! (1 hour)
This program premiered October 28, 2007
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