Friday, July 5, 2013

A World Without Bees a world without food.

Since time began, or at least since it was first recorded, honey and bees have played an extraordinary part in the great myths of humanity.  It's said that bees accompanied Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden.  And in the mythical Golden Ages honey dripped from trees like falling rain.  In many ancient Near East cultures bees were believed to be the sacred insect that bridged the natural world to the underworld.  Honey was prized as the food of the gods in Mayan cultures and bee and beehive motifs can be found amongst the ruins of honey producing cities.  Even the original name the Mormon Pioneers gave to Utah, Deseret, means honey bee and is symbolic of the quest to create a place of abundance, a land 'flowing with milk and honey.'

Cox Honey Farms of Shelley, ID - my go to source for all things honey - says, "In ancient times, Egyptians sacrificed honey by the tons to their river gods, Roman legions slathered honey on the wounds as a natural cure to promote healing, and medieval lords reserved honey for their private use. It’s told that the body of Alexander the Great was preserved and embalmed with honey."

Honey, and by extension the bees who produce it and in the process pollinate much of our plant-based food sources, have been important to human well-being for centuries.  Intentional beekeeping dates back as far as 700 BC.  Obviously we humans know our lives are better with bees in it.

So why are we participating in the very activities that kill them off?

Recently Whole Foods Market participated in a study, as reported by the Huffington Post, where all the produce that is dependent on bees for pollination was pulled from the floor in their University Heights store in Rhode Island.  This amounted to 52% of the normal product mix!  That should get our attention!!!

Both of the photos, left, are from the folks at

Is this not truly frightening?

In light to the unprecedented collapse of beehives all over the world we should all be terrified about the future of our food supply.  It seems like every week lately we hear about hundreds of thousands of bees found dead somewhere in the world.  The reasons are complex, frustrating and laced with issues that should challenge our personal code of ethics.

Many blame companies like Monsanto for their attempts to control what crop seeds are available to farmers (and home gardeners) and genetically modify food crop plants for everything from faster growth to pesticide resistance.  Others blame beekeeping industry practices like feeding bees on mixtures of corn syrup instead of their natural diet of honey and say the lack of genetic diversity in existing bee populations leaves them vulnerable to parasites like the Varroa mite.  I think it's a combination of all these factors, and the loss of habitat from rapant development, coming together to cause a global crisis.

It's true that I'm no fan of Monsanto.  I see it as wrong to have intellectual property laws govern a living thing.  I'm also not convinced foods produced this way is safe either ecologically or for consumption.  But, not being a scientist, I'm not completely sure this is enough to kill off the bees in the kind of record numbers we are seeing in the past few years.  That's why I think modern beekeeping practices are also contributing to the problem and need to be changed to protect the health of the bees.

And so are we by demanding new commercial developments for our shopping habits and ever more spacious homes.


As much as I want to write about living in a smaller home and planting a yard full of bee friendly and bio-diverse plant life and the importance of mindfully shopping for local organic produce... I fear that it's not nearly enough.  The problem may already be bigger than individual consumers can effect any change on.  I mean, doing those things can't hurt and they may soothe our individual consciences but I fear it's just not enough.  Not by a long shot.

The real answer is that I don't know how to solve this problem.  And that makes me feel powerless...

I don't like feeling powerless.

I want some sort of solution in my grasp.  Something doable and meaningful.  A list of personal action items, perhaps.

What are you doing to save the bees?

And life as we now know it?

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