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Save the Bees!

The quality of our lives is dependent upon the state of the world in which we live. And the health of our world is reflected in nature. We are responsible to our descendants and ourselves for the state of our earth. But when do we take action? Historically, humankind resists change until forced by a crisis. How bad do things have to get before we really need to sit up and pay attention and change the fundamental way we think about, and live in this world? Unfortunately it is easy to overlook the symptoms of the damage we are doing. Most of the time we don’t even notice. If a rare species of frog becomes extinct, or one or two species of coral disappear, it is unfortunate, it is a concern, but perhaps not enough to really matter. Likewise, a crisis is hardly defined by the loss of a particular species of caterpillar or local bird found only in an isolated valley or on some remote island.

But what if honey bees become extinct?  This is not some far-fetched idea. Bees of the same subfamily of stingless bees we have today have been found preserved in amber, 80 million years old, yet today bees are disappearing at an alarming rate. As many as 15% of beekeepers have gone out of business as their hives suddenly and inexplicably are abandoned. Colony collapse disorder (CCD) has affected 23 percent of the commercial bee colonies in the United States, causing losses of from 50 to 90 percent of the bees in each colony. I suppose we can live without honey (present company excluded), but bees are responsible for pollinating a third of all crops in the world today. Without them, we have a serious food supply problem. But even this we will likely overcome. The true issue is that under our care we are faced with the extinction of an insect that has been here for millions of years. And of course bees are just the face of the issue. Behind the scenes many other insects and pollinators are on the decline. We need to heed this warning and closely examine our agricultural and societal practices with the goal of sustainability and not just short-term yields.

Other Resources

World Regulations & Guidelines Designed to Protect Bees

EU Council Directive 1107/2009 concerning plant protection products such as insecticides – EU Regulations:
European Union (EU) sets rules and regulations for all member countries.

Status of Pollinators in North America – National Research Council
The National Academy of Sciences is a private, nonprofit, self-perpetuating society of distinguished scholars engaged in scientific and engineering research, dedicated to the furtherance of science and technology and to their use for the general welfare. This landmark study was produced by the Committee on the Status of Pollinators in North America and supported by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the U.S. Geological Survey. The recommendations in the study have not yet been adopted.

Position Paper on Bee Colony Health and Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD) – AAPA
American Association of Professional Apiculturists (AAPA) exists to be a source of Research-based information and recommendations on all matters of honey bee science and management.

4 comments to Save the Bees!

  • Muggers

    Surely the honey bees survival is not only down to pollution and chemicals. Maybe they would stand a bit more of a chance if we were to stop taking their honey from them. They spend their time producing ‘their’ ideal sustenance, with all the minerals and goodness to see them through the winter. But us humans like to interfere and assume that the bee is producing this lovely substance for our benefit, we come along and take their food and replace it with second rate sugar water that doesn’t have the necessary goodness in it to keep them healthy, warm and strong enough to buzz for another year. Their role as pollinators provides us with the food and flower crops we need for sustenance, the least we can do is ensure the bees get their fair share by leaving them with the honey that they have worked so hard for!

  • HT

    Hi Muggers:

    If I understand you correctly, you are concerned that taking all the bee colony’s honey and leaving them with sugar water to last the winter might weaken them and leave them in an unhealthy state. You may be surprised to know many beekeepers and educators wholeheartedly agree with you. Not that there is necessarily any conclusive scientific studies proving or disproving this idea; but simply from common sense and experience. It is a generally accepted bee keeping practice to leave enough honey in the hive to last the bees through winter and then only in dire circumstances to feed them corn syrup or sugar water to get them through.

    The beekeepers’ credo is to think of the bees first and honey second. Undoubtedly, not all beekeepers follow this practice; some are greedy. Who knows what some of the very large operations may do in the pursuit of profits. And there are probably many beekeepers who could benefit from training. But most hobbyists and commercial beekeepers are very interested in their bees and work hard to keep them healthy and vital by following best practices. There are beekeeping associations in every state and extensive educational opportunities from Apicultural societies available to teach best practices.

    If you think that hobbyists don’t have much impact on beekeeping then you would be astounded to learn that of the 135,000 beekeepers in the United states almost 95% of them are hobbyists with 25 colonies or less (The American Beekeeping Federation, presentation to the National Academy of Sciences Committee on the Status of Pollinators in North America on October 19, 2005).

    And finally, the decline of honey bees is happening simultaneously with the decline of many pollinating species that do not produce honey—suggesting other factors. See Status of Pollinators in North America – National Research Council

    …Scott

  • Well put Scott, my first two years keeping bees I believed that sugar was bad news… Well after two years without harvesting a drop of honey and killing many beehives by letting them starve, I started feeding my bees both sugar and protein supplement when they need it. What I got in return was fully nourished beehives that survive without medication, produce surplus honey that I can harvest, and a lot higher percentage that survive the winter.

  • Camille

    Saving the bees has become my personal goal in life and I am hoping to either take a class, attend a convention or volunteer for a French bee saving organization in the summer of 2015. However, it is difficult to find leads to events because everything is written in french. Does anyone one know of an organization that I can contact?

    Merci!

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