Jan 01, 2015 07:46PM
● By Juliette Jones
Bees are like canaries in the coal mine, warning us of an imminent and frightening threat to our food. – Friends of the Earth
Most people have little idea of the relationship between the honey bee kingdom and the expression of life on our planet. The loss of the honeybee would have an inconceivable impact on the entire ecosystem.
There is a story about Albert Einstein asserting he performed a calculation, which led him to a startling conclusion: ‘If the bee disappeared off the face of the earth, four years later, all humans would have also died.’ Whether or not the story about Einstein is true, there is no doubt that the loss of the honeybee would have a devastating effect on our food supply. Every third bite of food we eat is pollinated by honeybees.
We are facing what should be genuinely alarming statistics, concerning the loss of the bee population. In the United States, it has been estimated that 30 percent of our commercial bee population is dying annually, nearly double the historic loss. Many commercial beekeepers have gone out of business. But, for the moment, the number of commercial beekeepers in Florida is again expanding due to investors, who realize the commercial value of pollination. These are people, who have money to invest, but are not always experienced beekeepers. It remains to be seen just how well this will work out.
While some of the causal factors of honeybee depopulation are known, a great deal remains unclear. Neonicotinoids (Neonics), a dangerous class of pesticides, is widely used, lethal to bees and poisonous to pollen and nectar, soil and waterways. Loss of native habitat, mono-crops, such as sugar, and disease factors are also certainly part of the problem. Much has been cited about genetic modification of crops and how GMOs affect the life, or should I say death, of bees.
The European Union has banned the most widely used neonic pesticides. In the U.S., the EPA is ignoring the advice of its own scientists. We, as a society, cannot afford to stay uninformed about these issues because, if present death rates continue, we will progressively face the loss of our food supply. If we think the price of decent food is high now, what will the future hold?
To Bee or Not To Bee
Traditionally, Florida has been known as a premier locale for beekeeping and the production of honey. The honey industry in Florida was worth about $23 million in 2012. Twenty-seven states use Florida as a winter nursery, where beekeepers rebuild their stocks and contribute to our agricultural and economic health.
In 2014, the Florida legislature apparently realized the seriousness of the challenge to the bee population and its relationship to our economy. They appropriated $2.5 million to build a state-of-the-art research facility at the University of Florida. This “Bee Lab” was to concentrate on honeybee husbandry, biodiversity, integrated crop pollination and the study of Colony Collapse Disorder, a phenomenon that causes unexpected losses of managed honeybee colonies.
This project would have made Florida a national leader in honey bee research and put Florida in a better position to receive national grants and visits from international researchers. Governor Scott, however, chose to veto the project for reasons that seem entirely unclear. The economic value of this project to the state of Florida has been amply demonstrated through an independent report conducted via Tax Watch.
Realizing that this project is vital to Florida and very possibly to the life of the honey bee worldwide, the Florida State Beekeepers Association (FSBA) is now putting together a new effort to get it back in front of the legislature in 2015. FSBA President, Tom Nolan, informed me that the organization has raised $15 thousand in the last month and are actively fundraising on their website.
As I see it, the general population needs to develop a much greater level of awareness, concerning the necessity for support of the honeybee, and in one way or another, take steps to become involved. As a backyard beekeeper I can testify to the many joys and adventures of beekeeping. One of my life goals is to foster heightened interest in beekeeping and devote time to the support of bee colonies. Not long ago, my friend Russ and I rescued a gentle honeybee colony that had made its home in an old armchair someone had thrown in a parking lot. The neighbor was threatening to set the chair on fire. So, we covered it with breathable garden cloth, placed it on Russ’ flatbed trailer and moved it off to a sheltered place. Soon, I will transfer this colony from the armchair to a productive hive.
The wisdom of the beehive far surpasses the wisdom of human communities. Bees are among the most perfect of animals, and we, who keep them learn a lot in caring for them. Unfortunately, many people fear or revile the honeybee as a “stinging insect.” Unless provoked or Africanized, the honey bee does little harm and provides untold benefit on behalf of the human race and the environment in general.
In upcoming feature articles Dr. Jones will discuss the myth and magic surrounding the honeybee, the history of beekeeping, the medicine of the hive and the life of the honeybee, as universally honored in sacred literature.
To learn more or donate to the Florida State Beekeepers Association, visit their website at FloridaBeekeepers.org.
Juliette Jones, PhD, grew up in a little house in Michigan where she knew every tree, rock, animal and flower in the universe of the family’s back yard. Early communion with the natural world triggered super sensory experience and gnosis of our direct relationship to the cosmos. Her involvement with the preservation and protection of our environment led to exploration of critical challenges facing Florida and our planet. She holds several academic degrees. As a writer, public speaker and clinically certified spiritual counselor with hospice, she exercises her passion for research and progressive self-realization. She sees backyard beekeeping and Apitherapy as a fascinating way to learn and share. Connect at [email protected]