Humans on a large scale are causing all sorts of damage to the ecosystem and all of its species. We know about deforestation, acidifying oceans, melting ice caps, and the carbon and methane we are producing. We know about certain countries exploiting animals - using their scales and fins for medicinal use, wildlife trafficking, pet trade etc… It almost seems as if humans are only known for one thing : relentlessly taking from our ecosystem. However, as much as this is true, it implies that we are not capable of symbiotic partnerships with any other species but our own. Given these examples, I can see how we would think that, however on a smaller scale, I find that humans are compassionate, emotional, and brilliant beings and there is an incredible innate pull within many of us to see our ecosystem thrive. I feel since we are all so connected, we truly know that if one species falls, a part of ourselves does as well. I am here to specifically shed light on the symbiotic production of beekeeping, local beekeeping to be exact - a topic that may seem black and white but once we dive deeper, you will hopefully understand the importance of supporting this crucial system that could very well save the planet!
There has been a massive bee disappearing epidemic sweeping the nation starting in 2006 called Colony Collapse Disorder. Worker bees just started leaving their hives, their queens, the plenty of food they had left - to never return and die. A hive and a queen cannot function without worker bees, so the hive would die off as well. In the first year, 30-40% of all colonies in North America disappeared and died each winter. In recent years, 2015-2016, was the worst it’s ever been, with 44% of all hives dying off. This is not just the non-native honey bees that make our food either, this applies to the 4,000 other species of wild bees as well!
WHY SHOULD WE WORRY?
- 1 of every 3 bites humans consume comes from a source that needs pollination by bees. From blueberries, apples, and strawberries to coffee, almonds, and soybeans - honey bees are hands down the most important animal pollinators to our food systems. They offer us over 100+ crucial crops and without them, we could say goodbye to pretty much everything except 28 crops which include tomatoes, peppers, wheat, rice and corn (and do we really want to just eat carbs and nightshades all day? I mean yes maybe, but really not the best for us).
-Bees are the glue to all ecosystems, homes, and the main food chain of life. Bees are not only important to our food sources, but they pollinate millions of trees, plants and flower species, creating vital food sources for millions of species that depend on it. In pollinating these trees, plants and flowers, they create shelters for millions and support the biodiversity of the area. If all bees disappeared, there would be a huge dismantling of every part of our world creating chaos, extinction, and more. Think of your garden and all the squirrels, insects and birds that thrive there. Without bees, your garden systems and the creatures that live there wouldn’t have a way to thrive!
WHAT CAN WE DO TO HELP?!
-Build a bee-happy environment and plant a garden! A huge reason for poor bee health is lack of habitat, especially in urban areas - they need all the flowers and plants they can get! Upon doing just a little research and having access to a small outdoor space whether it be in your backyard or finding a community area, you can help bees thrive by growing nectar rich and bee friendly flowers that will boost their immunity and offer a beautiful food source. How cool is it that you have the ability to create a happy and loving environment for another species!
**** IMPORTANT TIP! If you are building a bee friendly garden, you shouldn’t use pesticides or synthetics! This will endanger the lives of these precious beings and will cause them more harm than good. There are many natural pesticides you can use including introducing beneficial species that will help manage your garden (ladybugs, mantises, etc…). FOR MORE INFO ON HOW TO PLANT A BEE GARDEN CLICK HERE .
-Build a bee bath! There have been so many times that I have walked around in the city and seen a little bee on the floor of a sidewalk, stuck and exhausted, needing a break from flying around and pollinating with nowhere to go. It would be similar to having a really long day in the city with zero options to lay in the grass, drink some water and recollect yourself. By getting creative and using what you have in your house, you can create a mini sanctuary for your important pollinators in between their busy work. For an easy DIY, CLICK HERE.
-SUPPORT YOUR LOCAL BEEKEEPER! This is by far one of the easiest, most delicious and rewarding ways to help the bees. Supporting a sustainable, local beekeeper means you are supporting an operation that is dedicated to increasing bee populations, managing hives from environmental conditions/mite infestations, boosting their immunity and helping local gardens stay healthy and thriving. A proper beekeeper aims to increase their health and immunity so they produce more than they need. Happy bees means over abundance in what they produce and harvesting beeswax or honey should never compromise the hive.
Here are some things to look out for when supporting a beekeeper.
1. Beekeepers will always leave the bees with enough honey and pollen until next season and no artificial feeding takes place!
2. Nothing should go in the hive that didn’t directly come from bees.
3. Hives should be built using only naturally occurring materials and no synthetic paints or chemicals should be used.
4. Honey harvesting should be done without using synthetic repellents and when harvesting, should not destroy bees in the comb.
5. Losses are minimized by keeping a healthy environment, free from preventable illnesses
6. Apiaries are placed in and around organic operations and where native vegetation thrives. NO pesticides around the vicinity.
7.Practices involving mutilation, pain, or destruction of larvae, eggs and pupae.
DOES THIS FALL IN LINE WITH BEING VEGAN?
There is a popular question: “Can’t we help bees without taking from them?” I completely understand this notion when you apply it to the regular habits of humans on a global scale - constantly depleting the earth's resources and exploiting all species. However, even if you’re vegan, this question is not black and white. Look at the food you eat and the production behind that - if you are eating blueberries, almonds , coffee, and most fruits and veggies, you are voting yes on bees being utilized by humans for your gain. You are saying “I am okay with productions utilizing bees so I can eat this food.” The real way to look at this is, how are the bees being treated? If you are not buying organic fruits and veggies and not supporting a healthy production then most likely thousands of weak immune bees are getting strapped to the back of a truck and pumped with refined sugar water so they have enough energy to pollinate said crop only to then be sprayed with pesticides. This oftentimes kills off half of the population and worse, poisons the rest.
There are good productions and bad productions, and when bees are an essential part of all of our food crops, we must rethink the way we look at these practices. It is absolutely possible for a human to work with a hive to strengthen their immunity, creating a happy environment and harvesting the extra honey and beeswax without disrupting their daily methods or livelihood and it is definitely possible to support organic crops where bees can pollinate these essential areas all while having a happy hive. If a production has earth, healthy practices and bees in mind, that is what matters most.