Friday, March 26, 2010
Saving the Bees Just a Little
If you’re a new beekeeper like me, chances are you started doing this not because you had this life-long burning desire to produce beeswax and honey, keep beehives, or immerse yourself in the mysteries of waggle dancing. Nah, you probably absorbed all the news about the worldwide deaths of honeybee colonies and you were knowledgeable enough to conclude that it was another of those man-made biodisasters that threaten our habitation of this small planet. You read or heard how the beekeepers were losing 50-75% of their colonies; how cellphones, pesticides, viruses and factory-farm methods of beekeeping were doing in our pollinators for good. You added a commitment to do something to save the bees right along with your commitments to the environment, the climate, and the biosphere. Probably said something to yourself like I did, “Dammit, looks like I’m gonna have to save the bees meself; these clowns have no clue about how they are killing the Earth. I’m sure I can do a better job than they have!”
Relax. You’re prolly right that you can and are doing a better job at promoting the safe, organic and natural existence of the bees you are caring for. But come to find out it’s not all that emergent an issue. Not really. The overall opinion seems to be that the bees are in some trouble, but they aren’t gonna die quite yet. It’s gonna be okay.
I just had a nice email correspondence with one of the chief organic and natural beekeeping gurus. Without his permission, I’m gonna quote a paragraph of what he said about CCD and bee deaths: “… note that no one is having trouble getting their crops pollinated, note that the price of package bees has not gone up since CCD hit the airwaves...none of the things that would indicate a functional shortage of bees have happened.
“imho, the issues surrounding beekeeping are much closer to the issues around feedlot cattle (in that there is no shortage of cattle, but it would be nice if they were treated better and allowed to be cattle) than it is like an endangered species (where one is concerned that the species will die out). what you are mostly hearing in the media is "the plight of the status quo beekeeper", the bees are, for the most part, doing fine. certainly there are die offs (there always have been, it's the nature of insect populations), certainly some beekeepers (large and small) have had significant losses that have greatly affected (or buried) their businesses...but at the same time, there is a huge payoff for almond pollination (which comes with huge risks).”
What he said makes a lot of sense, don’t you think? You can still read the alarmist media hype, you can find a whole spectrum of thought about the CCD thing. But it’s not the worry that it was purported to be.
Far more worrisome is the plight of endangered whales. Far more evil is the human predation on elephants. If you're a back-to-the-land life changer, or if you’re a greenie tree-hugger environmental animal rights activist - as I am - who got into beekeeping to save them, you ought to be devoting more concern to those emergent issues. And for sure if you want to have any hope at all of our species living a sustainable life on Momma Earth, we damn sure better do something about the deaths of one third of the amphibians in our chain of life! Got any frogs?
It’s good to keep these bees. Dee Lusby and friends are correct: they need lots of new organic and natural beekeepers to get aboard and preserve bee genetics and turn around the factory bee farm madness. Sam Comfort is right to want beehives to be as ubiquitous as TVs. By now you’ve found how rewarding to the heart the peaceable contentment of working with the little buzzing gals is. Good for us all! Better still is your commitment to protect the feral honeybee habitat around you by any means you can think of.
But … in the words of Douglas Adams, DON’T PANIC! Just do your thing, okay? Enjoy being a beek. Continue to educate those around you to those best concepts of sustainability you can live by. My $0.02, YMMV.