In Gratitude to the Honeybees

Jessie Ayani


We can thank the honeybees for pollinating a third of the food we eat, including nuts, fruit, and many vegetables. Those of us who are gardeners and those who manage orchards know that without honeybees, production of many vegetables and fruit would be drastically reduced. The presence of these pollinators can greatly increase yields, which is why most of the bees in the USA are trucked to the almond farms in the California central valley each February to start their year’s migration. Migratory beekeeping has become the norm for Big Agriculture with serious consequences to the bees.


What happens when we combine pesticide contamination, supplemental feeding with high-fructose corn syrup, disruption of the natural state of the colonies through frequent queen replacement, artificial insemination of queens, and chemical treatment of pests and diseases? We create the ‘perfect storm’ of beekeeping known as Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD). All of those factors weaken honeybee colonies, which become more susceptible to pests, diseases, and CCD.


Since its advent in 2007, commercial beekeepers have lost millions of honeybee colonies to CCD. Losses in the United States average 34% each year. Beekeepers come to these hives to find that the bees have vanished, leaving behind dead bees, perhaps a living queen, baby bees, and those still developing in the brood chamber. The hives are so toxic that robber bees will not steal the honey in them. CCD is the result of unnatural farming practices combined with unnatural beekeeping practices. It used to be that a bee colony’s worst nightmare was prolonged inclement weather, the varroa mite, or, around here, a hungry bear, but now many factors of man’s making affect the vitality and survival of the colony.


Fortunately, Mount Shasta is not the site of Big Agriculture but a stroll through the hardware store will alert you to the fact that a lot of chemical fertilizers, pesticides, and weed killers find there way into our community every year. And they all harm our vital pollinators. What can we do to maintain and protect our gardens and, at the same time, help the honeybees? Firstly, we can recognize CCD for what it is – the ‘canary in the coalmine’ portending our own collapse. That will motivate us to make a few changes in our lives, heeding the warning brought to us by the sweetest and most beneficial of the insects.


Secondly, we can food shop as an environmental activist, avoiding manufactured food and Big Agriculture fruits, nuts and produce. Organics can be a little higher in price but if we create a greater demand for them that will change. Thirdly, we can eliminate chemicals from our lifestyles and, particularly, from our gardens where the bees visit. Keep in mind that dandelions produce some of the first nectar of the spring for the bees. Dandelions are good.


We have two nurseries and one garden center with a wide variety of natural soil supplements and means of insect control, like dormant oil spray for fruit trees. Our conventional hardware stores are carrying natural products these days as well, and would gladly carry more products if we request them. Let’s not forget the number of horses we have around our area with endless supplies of fine, natural fertilizer. Lastly, support your local natural beekeepers. We have a guild of natural beekeepers in our community who are raising bees and harvesting honey naturally in their backyards. Their bees have never left the community and never will. They are fully committed to sustainable living. How about you?