For millions of years humans have reaped the benefits of a symbiotic relationship to the world’s pollinators. Bees are uniquely special because they are the only pollinator who also gives us gifts of their finely crafted honey to sweeten our foods and heal our bodies. However, as we have grown technologically and socially, our industrial societies have lost touch with the very natural rhythms they worked so hard to transcend. Our relationship with the bees has become imbalanced and in the last several years we have seen millions of bees die off or disappear completely because of a mysterious condition called Colony Collapse Disorder.
Though our planet has sadly lost dozens of species to human activity, the bees are arguably one of the worst creatures for us to lose. Several sources have estimated that bees are responsible for about one third of food production, an amount totaling $30 billion in the United States alone. Many of our favorite foods like broccoli, blueberries, apples, and peaches are only pollinated by bees! Even cotton is pollinated by bees! Because of our dependence on bees Albert Einstein, one of humankind’s greatest minds, noted that humanity would not survive more than four years without these little pollinators.
The situation has gotten so bad that bees and their human stewards are at the brink of devastation. The USDA estimates that the off season bee deaths have doubled from their historical average of 10-15%, with some keepers reporting losses as high as 40%. Many argue that the bee industry is one bad winter away from losing everything!
The causes and solutions for Colony Collapse Disorder are hotly debated by the conflicting interest groups and lobbies. Though the US Department of Agriculture has considered a variety of causes, their main focus has been on varroa mites, viruses, poor nutrition, and genetic variety. They have also studied the effects of pesticides and fungicides, but unlike our neighbors in the European Union, the USDA has not taken any action to ban the use of the chemicals that are proven to be harmful to bees, even in sub-lethal levels.
The original queen, who lives up to five years in the wild, is often removed from the hive and replaced with a younger queen who has been artificially inseminated. This queen must be protected in a screen box while the male drones get accustomed to her smell and presence. The males will only live up to 4 months if they’re very lucky. The social structure of the hive is incredibly complex and this change effects each member of the hive, altering the group’s personality forever.
Many would argue that big-money stands in the way of truly helping the bee population return to a balanced state of existence. Beyond chemicals, and other physical traumas, hives are suffering from commercial practices of tampering with the Queen Bee to control the population’s genetics and productivity. With so many different perspectives, it is easy to feel lost and helpless in the convoluted issue of Colony Collapse Disorder.
Heal the Hive is not here to get involved in the politics of the bee industry. We are here to look at the solutions that work and offer our support to projects and people who are taking the right steps. The best way to get around large corporate interests is to work regionally to provide a safe place for bees and humans to return to our peaceful symbiosis. Do you know a holistic beekeeper who needs help? A research team or teacher that is a few dollars short? These are the people who can benefit from the power of crowd funding!
To find out more about all of these issues, check out our blog and resources.