The Bitter Little Honey-Bee

I’ve one in my bonnet.

Bees are in trouble, with massive declines in their populations. We are losing hives, mainly in agriculature, but also wild hives too.

If you don’t want a rant, don’t read on:

The situation is thus:

Honey bees are in decline, attacked by what scientists are calling a ‘syndrome’ or ‘disorder’. What this means…is that no-one really knows why (in other words, “the cause of this bee problem, is a problem with bees).

We need honey bees. It isn’t just that honey is one of the oldest foodstuffs in the world, the original sweet-treat; and it isn’t just that the wax of the honeycomb provided humans with their original portable light source, the candle. No, above all this, bees are a great and clear reminder of the world’s inherent kindness, of our ability to thrive here, amongst this nature both cruel and forgiving. The bee works for herself, and yet also works for us, in making our plants multiply, and allowing us to share her labour’s fruits, honey.

2dusty-bumbler-olivia-bathampton

There’s an Einstein quote that gets wheeled out about now: “when the honey-bees leave the face of the Earth, mankind will follow in 4 years”. No-one is really sure where this quote was made, and it seems a very certain botano-biological statement from a physicist renowned for ‘relativism’. But it’s a good quote, and we should probably run with it.

So why is the bee in such trouble? While walking, we have certainly noticed less bees than ever this year. We’ve asked lots of the people we’ve met what they think is the reason for this great trouble, and how it might be remedied. There are lots of answers for the ‘why’, and sadly fewer for the ‘how-to-fix’.

We suspect all the trouble is caused by…(ready for this)…a combination of factors. Every sundry cause will be agitating and complimenting the next, all in mob together, and as a whole this makes life really difficult, nigh intolerable, for bees.

Firstly blamed is: industrial bee-keeping, and the wholesale theft of bees’ honey. They produce it as a food for themselves, as a resource to keep their hive alive during winter months, when there are far less flowers about. The old method of bee-keeping would leave a portion of the honey for the bees, but now it is all taken. As a replacement, bees are being fed HFCS (High-fructose corn syrup), an intense sweetener that is used in the most violent of fizzy drinks. It is the stuff that allegedly melts human teeth, if left in overnight. It is that which turns flavoured fizzy water into “Super-Pop-a-Rola” and so on. It is the sweetness that takes your breath away, that (allegedly) causes addictive behaviour, and concentration loss, in human children. It is the bad stuff, the refined white nightmare. Some people have the gall to call it ‘bee-food’, but this is like calling offal and ash ‘dog-food’.

Also adding to the plight of the honey bee is the way hives are kept agriculturally, being driven about the land on the backs of trucks. Driving all day is not healthy; this is a generaly acknowledged truth. But our bees are being driven around continuously, and dropped off to work in the middle of vast plains of mono-cultural crops, to pollinate these plants like slaves. So instead of a varied supply of pollen, they have only pea-blossom, or whatever the crop. This is mostly true in the US, where there are fields of a single crop that go for miles and miles in all directions. I’m sure this would also be desired in Britain, but the mono-culturalists’ grand plans are probably held back by all those villages and churches, forests and other pesky disruptions.

The shape of the modern hive is also blamed as a cause of bees’ decline. Bees, keepers say, are circular creatures, their improbable flight being due to vortex-engine-like-air-flows created in and around them as they fly.

magic like this

magic like this

They are magic, you see. And, left alone, they build themselves homes that reflect this circular magic (the hexagonal honeycomb being a geodesic representation of a circle). But now they are forced to live in cuboid structures, with corners, which really cramps their buzz. This, we are told, does nothing to help the bee thrive.

2honeycomb-windy-ridge2

Another factor is that bees have been hindered by the new wave of pesticides and insecticides that now come built into the plant itself, via clever genetic manipulation. So every time a bee visits a flower, it is taking in a dose of these insect-killing chemicals. But such doses are, the companies responsible say, “sub-lethal” for the bees. It’s more like a minefield, not designed to kill, but to ruin – these chemicals leave bees dizzy, confused, with a weakened sense of direction and co-ordination. This also does not help.

And our experimental agriculture, with its full reliance on petro-chemical fertilizers and toxic herbicides, likewise damages the wild honey bee. The flowers beside a oilseed rape field are all withered, all dead. And much more of this land is given over to monocultural crops than ever before. Of course, we need to feed people, and thus need crops. But our crops need bees, and we have to strike the right balance.

Yet another issue is with a parasitic mite called Varroa. This little fellow latches onto bees, and eats their soul, and can kill a whole hive. We don’t know if this is an ancient illness, or one like myxomatosis, the result of panicking human minds.

Poor old bees. They have got it tough. It reminds us of the militia burning the protestors’ homes and crops, forcing them to leave. Yet with the bees, we warm our hands on these burning homes, and are mystified when the inhabitants won’t play with us.

But without safe habitats and good food, how can any living thing fare?

We think the problem, the syndrome, is rooted in our species’ lack of respect for this creature, and the constant expectation that it shall endlessly provide for humanity, despite our ever decreasing respect for bees. It is not that the great majority of people love the bee any less than before – but that this great majority have very little say in how the affairs of bees are managed. Those who care, and have common sense, are not in charge.

Bee-love, in fact, carries very little political credence. Even our democratic gift, that four-yearly vote, our infrequent and fluttery act of political contribution, our muddling into the mess of image-play and word-power, will not talk of the bees.

Surely this would be an election-winner – “I will save the bees on earth”. Bees are a big issue, but are seen as nothing important, a minor insect problem. The truth is, to remedy this problem would require well-thought-out whole-system solutions, exactly the type of far-thinking clarity that we do not find in government. And why are the far-clear thinkers not politicians? It may be, we have been told, that to be a politician requires the skills of manipulation, treachery, egoism and charade. The most charming liar wins.

Serious topics, like honey bees being on the point of leaving this world for a better one, are far from the minds of men…

It seems to us that long before we were born, there was communication between animals, land and men. We believe that our inherited world saw deals being made, between man and nature, accord and agreements wrangled by wiser humans who knew these entities intimately.

And it seems also like our affairs today are being managed by those who (aim to?) forget, more and more entirely, the nature of such old accords. The solution to the problem of the honey bee would be: to recall this deal with the honey bee, and other creatures: that we shall be good to them, house them well and care for them, and we may in turn enjoy a share of their work.

But we prefer to grab without thanks, and shamelessly demand a constant increase in yields and profits. It is little wonder, then, that the bee’s tolerance for our world is getting thin. Soon they may decide to disappear completely, and we cannot really blame them.

The topic of the bees gets raised periodically in our journey. People know it is happening, and nobody likes it. For if the bees go, we will not have enough food growing for all these people. Our own hive will be decimated. The disappearance of the bees seems like that goal-post we didn’t ever want to meet, and it feels like we’re going to slip soon easily past it, saying: “bugger, I meant to do something about that, didn’t I…”

But if so, then all for the best. People are gearing up already for PBW (post-bee-world), but there are polarized opinions in how the best form of response. Americans, we are told, have developed self-pollinating crops, which would be un-reliant on the bee, but would also be a strand of food wholly owned by a private corporation – finally all food supplies on earth would be controlled, withheld and priced at the whim of a profit-seeking company, unanswerable to any government. This, to us, smells rotten, like ‘factory-fresh eggs’. Can you not hear the whispered warning…‘beware’…?

And the Chinese method for dealing with no-bee agriculture, is to arm millions of people with tiny paint-brushes, and get them out in the fields brushing the pollen between flowers. “The robots are nothing if not versatile”. Perhaps humans can become bees – but we wonder how energy efficient this would be, with each worker consuming lots of fuel, in food and transport and housing. For how long would human bee-ing remain a workable proposition?

So anyway: when you see a bee, say thankyou for its work, maybe sing it a song – for goods’ sake do not be scared of it – and maybe the bees will decide that humanity is worth hanging around for, despite all, and that perhaps we can live together on this planet. We really just need to remember what we, as a species, are here for – to be custodians of this great fine garden, to allow life to thrive, to create, and to love. It’s a really simple thing – but then here we are again, the child-species humanity, pissing in our mother’s mouth, wondering why her patience turns to sorrow and anger.

big bumbler

big bumbler

LINKS:

Chronogram: A Case of Hives by Jonathan King

Peak Energy Blog – Big Gav

New York Times:  Honeybees vanish…byAlexi Barrionuevo

Times Educational Supplement: The Plight of the Honey Bee by Zoë Corbyn

Free Thinking and Free Energy

BEE QUOTES OF NOTE:

“Give and Take…
For to the bee a flower is a fountain of life
And to the flower a bee is a messenger of love
And to both, bee and flower,
the giving and the receiving is a need and an ecstasy.”

(Kahlil Gibran)

“When the bee comes to your house, let her have beer;
you may want to  visit the bee’s house some day.”

(Congolese proverb)

“That which is not good for the beehive cannot be good for the bees.”

(Marcus Aurelius)

“Quite cleary nature did not tell the honeybee to go out and cross-pollinate the vegetation. What nature did was to genetically program the honeybee to go after the honey and inadvertently crosspollinate . . . What nature told humanity (genetically) was, I’m hungry, my kids are hungry; I’m cold, my kids are cold. Go after that food and coat. They cost money–go after the money. They say you have to earn it. OK, I’ll earn it. Buzz, buzz, honey-money bee. No human genes are programmed to say– go make the world work for everybody– only your creative mind can tell you that.”

(Buckminster Fuller)

One Response to “The Bitter Little Honey-Bee”

  1. Hi Will and Ed, Thought you should hear another Congolese(?) proverb.
    “Woman is like de flower, and
    man is like de bee!”

    You inspired me to visit a bee keeping neighbour. See blog for happy report on the state of these local bees.
    Happy festivalling!

    Your bicycling friend, Rob

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