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Stressed Out Bees

I love honey, but it seems North America may be in for a shock this year, with stressed out bees fleeing their homes, and leaving unfertlised crops behind…

Mystery of the dying bees | COSMOS magazine

Since October 2006, 35 per cent or more of the United States’ population of the Western honey bee (Apis mellifera) – billions of individual bees – simply flew from their hive homes and disappeared.

What’s causing the carnage, however, is a total mystery; all that scientists have come up with so far is a new name for the phenomenon – Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD) – and a list of symptoms.

The symptoms are baffling, but one of the emerging hypotheses is that the scourge is underpinned by a collapse of the bees’ immune systems. Stressed out by cross-country truck journeys and drought, attacked by viruses and introduced parasites, or whacked out by harmful new pesticides, some researchers believe the bees’ natural defences may have simply given way.
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I post this article as a reminder to myself to simplify my life, to walk or ride rather than drive, to shop as locally as possible, and to encourage others to do likewise, for their health, and that of the planet.

Just as humans fall ill more readily after draining tasks or emotional upheavals, Mussen says stress is a sure-fire way to compromise bee immunity too.

And the lives of commercial honey bees are filled with stress. A typical year for a hive might entail up to five cross-country truck trips, chasing crops to pollinate and clover fields to make honey in. Banging the bees around during cross-country journeys can take a heavy toll.

I truly had no idea that commercial honey production was this involved, am I the only one? To me this makes a good case for buying locally produced, even organic if possible, honey.

The most sobering statistic from the article is that one third of fruits, vegetables and nuts consumed in America depend on pollinators, particularly honey bees, a net value of produce per year, some where around the $15 billion mark.

Is this living beyond our means?

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Update: after I read the article, I found this comment by Keith, an organic beekeeper.
Comment – Holistic Beekeeping | COSMOS magazine
The best things concerned individuals can do? stop mowing and especially chemically treating your lawn (check out www.edibleforestgardens.com for some alternatives to grass). golf at an organic course. buy local foods, and encourage area farmers to grow organically (but a local conventional farm may be better than an organic one far away). find local honey. plant a pollinator garden. begin to learn about migratory pollinator corridors, your local native pollinators, and what you can do to support them. If it interests you, begin keeping honeybees, and manage them holistically.

What a great comment, and answer to the question that formed in my mind, “What can we do?”

Mike Thomas

Mike Thomas P.Eng. ENV SP, is the author of UrbanWorkbench.com and Director of Engineering at the City of Revelstoke in the Interior of British Columbia, Canada. If I post something here that you find helpful as you navigate the world of engineering, planning and building communities, that’s wonderful. But when push comes to shove: This is my personal blog. The views expressed on these pages are mine alone and not those of my employer.