photo by gardendog.tumblr.com
The vegan ethic is complex and nuanced. Any vegan that says otherwise is itching for a (respectful, intelligent, I hope) fight. So I may as well be calling this piece, ‘It’s actually impossible to be vegan, but we are all doing our best.’ To me, veganism is about trying to live in harmony with the planet. My beekeeping is not an exception to my veganism. It is a well-thought out amendment. It might even make me a better vegan, depending on how much of this you follow along with.
Still, I am a beekeeper and I am a vegan and that is a sticking point for about 50% of the vegans I know. This is my attempt to explain my position. I am vegan because I deeply care about animal rights. I dig the other benefits, but in my heart, I believe eating animals is wrong. My purpose for saying so is that it needs to be clear from the start that I really care about bees. I am not arguing that I think killing bees or treating them with anything but the utmost respect is OK. I don’t keep bees because they fall outside of my deeply felt consideration. In fact, I think bees are amazing…
Whenever I think about the shortcomings of the human species, I always end up being reminded of the near perfection of bees. Selfless, female-dominated, self-reliant, dancing, mysterious bees.
Human life as we know it is dependent on bees. It is true that there are wild bee populations; but they are dying. It is a widely held belief within the beekeeping community, and those educated about what commercial beekeeping has done to the world’s bee population, that small-scale “backyard beekeepers” hold the key to preserving disease resistant stock that can survive to pollinate all the foods upon which vegans and non-vegans rely. About 1/3 of the human diet can be traced back to bee pollinated foods…
The point is vegans need plants, and plants need bees. And bees make honey.
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.
The way of the Bee (Natural Beekeeping)
article by milkwoodkirsten
Bees just want to be bees. I’ve learned recently that, like most things in nature, a honeybee colony is most happy, calm and resilient when it’s left to do what it does best. For bees, this means forage for nectar and pollen, raise a brood, and make honey. And bees want to do this in their own time, on their own schedule, and with the freedom to respond to each unique season. Which is quite contrary to how we currently manage bees. So what’s going on here?
Our species’ treatment of the honeybee is a striking metaphor for our wider relationship with nature. In short, we started out okay, with a suitable amount of reverence, and then we progressively sought to bend the way of the bee to our wishes, convenience and ultimately, gross profit at the expense of all else. The result of this treatment has pushed the honeybee (a primary pollinator of most things we eat) to the point of collapse, and now we’re wondering what went wrong and how the heck to fix it. Sound familiar?
Until recently I thought beekeeping was pretty simple and straight forward. Don’t you just get a hive, plunk some bees in it, put it somewhere suitable, check it lots for disease, then harvest honey once a year? But once i started thinking, reading and chatting about it, I realized there are ways and there are ways…
…a bee colony is a finely tuned super-organism with about 40 million years of evolutionary backup. Bees have been refining what they do for a bloody long time, and they’ve got things pretty much sorted. Understanding how they operate in a completely natural system is a good starting point for understanding their needs.
So natural beekeeping (as opposed to not-quite-as-bad-as-conventional beekeeping, sometimes called by the same name) is all about letting bees be bees, and harvesting surplus honey when it is available. In the meantime, you get fantastic fertility from having so many pollinators around, and you’re creating resilient colonies which are disease resistant.
(By Susan Salisbury – Palm Beach Post)
Once again, the American honeybee had a tough winter, but more and more people are pitching in to help save the troubled bees by becoming backyard beekeepers.
Commercial beekeepers reported losses of 30 percent of their colonies, similar to results reported during the past five years, according to survey results released Monday. The survey conducted by the Apiary Inspectors of America and the U.S. Department of Agriculture covered October through April.
Colony Collapse Disorder, a phenomenon in which an entire colony of bees abruptly disappears from its hives, appears to still be occurring. It was first reported by Florida beekeeper Dave Hackenberg in 2006, and since then abandoned hives have been reported worldwide.
About one-third of commercial beekeepers who participated in the most recent survey said they lost at least some of their colonies without finding dead bees. Exactly why the bees are disappearing from their hives is not known, although scientists suspect it’s due to a combination of factors such as stress, poor diet, diseases and pests.
Jerry Hayes, assistant bureau chief of apiary inspection for the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services in Gainesville, said there’s an upside.
“Because of CCD, our numbers of residential backyard beekeepers has grown phenomenally, from 700 or 800 to around 2,000 registered backyard beekeepers. They have heard about honeybees. They want to save the world. It is amazing,” Hayes said.
Boynton Beach resident Judy Leger, a retired Siemens project manager, took up the hobby four years ago and has 18 hives on her half-acre property. She enjoys the many flavors and colors of honey they produce.
Leger’s interest was sparked after honeybees set up housekeeping inside her kitchen’s soffit, and she called the Palm Beach County Beekeepers Association to remove them. Aware of the bee’s struggles, she didn’t want them destroyed.
“People are more sensitive to the fact that the honeybees are the good bees and because they are suffering from CCD, people want to save them,” she said.
The Palm Beach County Beekeepers Association, founded in 1974, has grown from fewer than 20 members to more than 130 in the last few years.
Brendhan Horne, a suburban West Palm Beach hobbyist beekeeper who also operates a bee removal business, Bee Barf, has witnessed and helped spur the hobby’s growth in the seven years he has been involved. The honeybee losses have thrust the insects into the limelight.
“People want to try to preserve something they recognize as important, because of bees pollinating the food supply,” said Horne, a past president of the beekeepers association. “With the green movement, here is something they can do. You don’t have to have 2,000 hives; you can have one or two.”
Horne said many homeowner associations prohibit beekeeping, but some other areas allow it.
Through the beekeepers association, Horne organized the third annual Southeast Organic Beekeepers Conference in West Palm Beach in February.
Horne and other organic beekeepers say they have not seen any evidence of CCD, but unlike commercial bees, the backyard bees aren’t hauled around the country to pollinate various crops.
Hayes said if it wasn’t for the fact that commercial beekeepers split their hives’ populations so the bees can establish a new hive, there would be no bees left. The process is expensive, and replacing 30 percent of the nation’s colonies is not considered sustainable over the long term.
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
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