Tuesday, 24 April 2007

About Bees...part two

This is a quote from a list that my husband subscribes to...

"I'm an organic beekeeper.

"Two things here. One, we would not be so dependent on commercial non-native factory farmed honey bees if we were not killing off native pollinators. Organic agriculture does not use chemicals or crops toxic to bees and, done properly, preserves wildlife habitat in the vicinity, recognizing the intimate relationship between cultivated fields and natural areas.

"Two, factory farmed honey bees are more susceptible to stress from environmental sources than organic or feral honey bees. I know a lot of people think beekeeping is all natural but in commercial operations the bees are treated just like livestock on factory farms.

"I'm on an organic beekeeping list list of about 1,000 people, mostly Americans, and no one in the organic beekeeping world, including commercial beekeepers, is reporting colony collapse on this list. The problem with the big commercial guys is that they put pesticides in their hives to fumigate for varroa mites and they feed antibiotics to the bees. They also haul the hives by truck all over the place to make more money with pollination services which stresses the colonies.

"Bees have been bred for the past 100 years to be much larger than they would be if left to their own devices. If you find a feral honeybee colony in a tree, for example, the cells they lay eggs in are about 4.9 mm wide. This is the size they want to build, the natural size.

"The foundation wax that beekeepers buy have cells that are 5.4 mm wide so eggs laid in these cells produce much bigger bees. It's the same factory farm mentality we've used to produce other livestock - bigger is better. But the bigger bees, for a lot of easy to understand reasons, do not fare as well as natural sized bees. It's now possible to buy foundation with these smaller sized cells but most beekeepers in Canada don't have a clue, or aren't willing to put the effort into going organic this way. Certified organic honey, as in the President's Choice brand, still allows chemicals to be put in the hive.

"So the factory farm aspects of beekeeping, combined with all sorts of negative environmental factors, puts enough stress on the colonies that they are more susceptible to dying out."


Katherine said...

Very interesting, Nicola. Never thought about the "factory farming" of bees. More support for leaving Nature alone rather than using lots of chemicals...

Mary-Sue said...

SO interesting. thanks for this.
more more more!!!