If Honeybees Could Speak, Would We Listen? (Part II)

As you may recall from the first article in this series, Rudolf Steiner predicted the loss of the honeybee as a result of industrial beekeeping methods that were coming into popularity during his lifetime. We looked at some of the methodology that has led to this undeniable loss of the honeybee, including manipulation of the queen (wing clipping, artificial insemination, prohibition of natural swarming, and frequent queen replacement), control of the colony through plastic comb, and so forth. This I called The Loss of the Natural Order. In this article, Part II of the series, we will look at environmental and lifestyle factors that have brought the honeybees to the brink of extinction.


The Crippling of the Honeybee Soul

Esoterically, we must regard the honeybee not as the individual insect, but as the hive, the “bien”. Seen from this perspective, Steiner pointed out that the “bien” represents the pinnacle of the animal world – the animal most closely resembling the human. Though we will take a closer look inside the community of the hive in the next article, let’s look at the occupants in an unconventional way here. Like all animals, including humans, the super-organism of the hive is a three-fold being – the sensory-nervous (drones), the metabolic (workers), and the rhythmic (queen). Unlike most animals that specialize in one of these three areas, human and the bees use all three equally.


The drones (nervous/sensory organ) - boys who all seem to have ADHD - are the security guards, the police force, and protectors of the “bien”. Their huge eyes come in handy in this regard and the workers keep them well fed during the foraging season because they do keep the hive safe. They bring to mind Thom Hartmann’s book, The Edison Gene, wherein ADHD children are likened to our hunter/gatherer ancestors who constantly scanned the horizon to warn us of danger. They will be the first to notice, when the environment is amiss. Industrial beekeepers regard the drones as slackers living off the dole or buzzing around the treetops with their drone buddies from nearby colonies waiting for a virgin queen, a good chase, and the triumph of a sacrificial mating. As discussed in the last article, with artificial insemination (the industry standard these days), the slackers have been eliminated and, as a result, the “bien” has lost its nervous/sensory organ.


The female workers (metabolic organ) – infertile girls with fabulous work ethics - bring home the pollen and nectar, excrete the wax for comb-building, excrete the royal jelly for queen making and maintaining, nurse the young, and form propolis from tree buds to seal the hive providing their version of collective immunity. They also keep the hive clean, beat their wings to warm or cool the hive to maintain the optimal temperature for the brood, and use symbolic and vibratory communication to indicate where a good run of nectar can be found or a new home in the event of swarming. Naturally, these industrious workers have been exploited by the beekeeping industry.


The queen bee lays eggs (rhythmic organ) – privilege comes at a price for this amazingly fertile girl. She lays up to several thousand a day during high forage periods, thus creating a central rhythm for the hive. She is in continual service to the “bien”. They are all her children. If she has been allowed to take her single nuptial flight to the sun, she has been inseminated naturally and bears within her the genes of the few strongest, fastest and most ardent of the drones that were hanging out above the treetops with their buddies waiting for her. The “bien” becomes more resilient.


In addition to the three-fold nature of the super-organism, the bees, like all animals, live in three worlds - the physical reality, the etheric reality and the astral reality. However, the bees break rank with the animal kingdom because they also have the equivalent of the human “I”. There is an ego consciousness in the “bien”, a human-ness with individuality expressed in the venom. Honey and pollen contain the long-term memory of the “bien” and short-term memory is contained in the scent the workers deposit on the wax. They feed their young with their own secretions like all mammals and, to complete the picture, the temperature of the brood chamber (next article) is right around our body temperature. The hive and the bee are the most cosmic of animals, continually connected to the Sun but also greatly influenced by Venus.


This similarity to humans in so many ways makes the lessons of the honeybee all the more important for us to understand. To be honest, we must admit that we have been subjected to the same industrialization as the bees, as have all domestic farm animals. That is why many people who understand what is happening to the bees regard it as crisis of our civilization. We are quickly reaching a tipping point on a great many fronts  - climate change, human rights, toxic agriculture, economic inequality, and failure of so-called democratic governments to represent the majority of people. We are in as great a crisis as the bees.  Besides our bold enslavement of the queen and subsequent control of the hive itself, how has industrialized beekeeping marched towards the tipping point?


Industrialize beekeeping (worldwide though I will use America as an example) has walked hand in hand with industrialized agriculture, which has steadily become industrialized crop management and what we now call “Big Ag”.  Its use of petroleum-based chemicals for fertilizer and pesticides has destroyed the family farm, destroyed the land itself, and now the honeybee – and soon, us. The family farm had diversity, habitat for birds, wild animals and native plants, and plenty of pollinating insects. The honeybees lived in dead trees, hollow logs, in the farm sheds, and sometimes in beehives that the farmer tended. He knew the importance of the many pollinating insects as well as the beneficial insects that helped keep his crops from insect damage. A portion of the crops went to feed the animals when they weren’t grazing and their manure was returned to the land as fertilizer, often with composting. The weather was his greatest challenge.


With the industrial revolution and agricultural science, formulas were created out of chemicals to give the land back the minerals, which growing of plants depleted. It was found that high quantities of phosphate had a tremendous affect on plant growth. This led to greater manipulation of chemical formulas by the chemical companies. Family farmers who experimented with these newfangled fertilizers got amazing results and some of them stopped using manure and compost - many stopped needing animals altogether. The loss of beneficial insects and native plants wasn’t noticeable at first since the crops themselves were something to behold so it was a bit surprising when the harmful insects began showing up along with more invasive weeds.


Industry was ahead of the game anticipating the need for pesticides to kill those insects (along with a good many beneficial insects) and herbicides to wipe out the invasive weeds. The farmer was now spending most of his time and money on chemicals and the equipment to spread and spray them on the land. If he was going to stay in business he needed to buy up his neighbors’ farms to make his own profitable. Since his new agriculture was destroying their ability to maintain a natural farm, many did sell whilst other converted to chemical farming. This became one reason among many that the family farms were soon a thing of the past. Food was being grown on larger and larger farms using tons of chemicals and pesticides/herbicides and it still is today. What has been lost is hard to measure – diversity, the life in the soil, habitat for native plants, birds and animals, pollinating and beneficial insects, and good health through local organic food.


Coming back to our bees, we find no natural place for them in “Big Ag”. They need habitat, diversity and good food too. And yet, “Big Ag” needs pollination for many crops like fruits, nuts and the many pollination-dependent vegetables. Enterprising beekeepers saw the handwriting on the wall and began to rent their bees out to pollinate enormous acreage of mono-crops. Not only could they charge a high price per hive, they reaped the benefits at honey harvest time. At first, this was more or less local, but now, these industrial beekeepers load up a flatbed truck with hives and head on down to Florida (over here) in January. To get the bees ready for an out-of-season (for them) pollen and nectar extravaganza in the vast acres of grapefruit, they are given high fructose corn syrup solution because the beekeeper has taken every last comb of honey for his honey business.


After the grapefruit job, the bees are loaded onto the flatbed truck again and travel clear across America to await the flowering of the almond trees in California’s Sacramento Valley. Again, they are force-fed high fructose corn syrup, and away they go, already buzzed on sugar concentrate. For the farming industry, this story gets worse as it goes on. The prices for fertilizer and pesticides/herbicides continually escalate as farmers (mid-sized and corporate) have become, as planned, completely dependent on the chemical companies for their survival. Then along come the industrial beekeepers escalating prices on hive rental because there will be no grapefruit or almonds without the bees! Though many a farmer feels hand-tied, no one involved in this very profitable industry paid attention to the destructive farming practices (aside from tragic lessons learned about DDT and other chemicals) until the bees started disappearing.


The beekeepers became alarmed when whole hives of bees took off from the almond farms for parts unknown or the relief of death. The farmers demanded refunds. That is the human version of the crisis. Ag science has been hot on the trail of the “agent” that has caused this Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD) hoping to uncover a virus and assign blame. That is how science works for industry – and then develops another product to kill the newly discovered culprit. We can see the downward spiral of “Big Ag” unfolding before our eyes and imagine the consequences for an already starving third world. Currently, the bee industry is shipping bees from as far away as China to the almond farms and these bees are dying quickly from the stress. On the other hand, in China, young women are hand-pollinating all the cucumber crops because their bees are disappearing too.


The bees are leaving for many reasons. There will be no one cause. They don’t like the lifestyle we have imposed on them. There isn’t anything natural about it. They don’t like eating pesticides (including one that directly kills them) and herbicides, which they take home on their feet, in their pollen bags and in the collected nectar to feed their “bien”. They don’t really like acres of mono-crop nectar. My guess is that they don’t like GMOs either – industrialized, counterfeit plants. Apparently they experience complete disorientation from cell phone radiation – towers and phones. All of this, and more than we could never understand, is part of the spectrum of CCD.


They are not fooled for a minute into thinking that manufactured high fructose corn syrup is the same as nectar even though they make honey from it because the “bien” will otherwise starve. They don’t like riding across great distances on flatbed trucks. In fact they don’t like having their homes uprooted or even opened up at all. Manipulation of their reproductive life has bred colonies of docile bees that cannot defend themselves or resist parasites and viruses that infect their hive. The soul of the “bien” is rapidly being crippled in this physical reality. Who can blame them for lifting themselves out of the mess we have created for them?


In my community, we have begun a movement for natural backyard beekeeping. We are challenged by harsh weather and weak bee colonies that need to be strengthened but we see the bees as key players in our own sustainability and resiliency. Our long-range vision is that our community can become a sanctuary for the honeybees and the center of larger movement on behalf of the bees. It feels as if we are right on the edge of it being too late here (fruit pollination has been shockingly absent this year), but passions are strong and spirits high. In your community, the gift of time can avert tragedy and prevent collapse of the honeybee.


And What Of Our Lifestyles?

How can we apply the lessons of the bees to our lives, and especially to our children’s lives? I am sure many of you have already thought of a few changes that could be made before it is too late for humans.


Foster Diversity: Think back to the family farm where the family members solved problems and proposed improvements around the dinner table not in a corporate boardroom. Think back to the family doctor, whose house visits and supportive bedside manner comforted both patient and family. Think about schools, like Freshwater Creek, that are not government’s way of producing workers for industry. Think of a child roaming the family farm learning about nature and having real experiences every day instead of sitting passively in front of a TV or computer.


Create Habitat: In addition to fighting privatization of the Commons (the mutually held right to communal open space, water, and air, for example) we can turn this Earth into a temple of the Divine. We can fill every space with magic, beauty, and positive intent, no matter how tiny it is. We can start in our own backyards, on patios, doorsteps or balconies. The children will love to help.


Say “No!” To Mono-crops: We can pay attention to what we are buying and where it was grown. Buy Australian and keep it as local as possible. Engage the children and grow your own veggies. Use backyard size hoop houses or tunnels to provide winter veggies as well – and provide a fun place to have a foul-weather picnic with the fairies if you are a wee one. Shop the perimeter of the grocery store, avoiding packaged food. Support local farmer’s who grow organic and biodynamic (you are so lucky to have local BD). These are the foundational actions that will make organic the choice for farmers too – and will bring the prices down.


Read Labels: High fructose corn syrup is poison for your children and for you. It is now the standard sweetener in soft drinks, candies, desserts and so forth. People are misled into thinking this is healthy because it contains part of the word fruit. All sugar is addictive and harmful to our organs but this one is the most potent. It is usually made from corn but can be made by concentrating any fruit sugar. Older children will help with label reading (and memorize those numbers) and become the “drone” food police of the family in no time at all. As much as possible, cook from scratch and teach the children these skills. We need to get back to what grandma cooked – real food.


Clean Your Veggies: If you are purchasing Big Ag food, you should be aware that it contains traces of pesticides (skins and foliage can be heavily laden), herbicides and fertilizer. In addition, no one has made any attempt to wash off pesticides from the food before it was manufactured by the food industry or from the veggies in the grocery store. Pesticides are not water-soluble. Fortunately, we can wash all fruits and veggies in veggie wash, an eco-friendly product that removes fat-soluble pesticides and can then be rinsed off with water. Even homegrown veggies should be washed because our soils naturally harbor parasites that can affect our gut health. We can convert to eco-friendly cleaning products as well, if we haven’t already.


Minimize Flatbed Truck Time: Like the bees our children are happiest when spending solid downtime at home. What goes on at school is enough to integrate in a day without added distraction and visual stimulation. At the same time participation in community events at school or in your neighborhood enrich rather than cripple their souls.