Where, oh where have the little bees gone?
VANISHING OF THE BEES
2009, DVD, 87 minutes
In 2006, American bee farmers sent out a cry to the world. Their bees had disappeared.
In the documentary film, “Vanishing of the Bees,” researchers explore the phenomenon of empty hives. Labeled Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD), scientists continue to analyze the symptoms – no worker bees (alive or dead), no Verroa mites or pathogens present to account for the rapid losses, only the young bees and the queen left.
Theories have circulated the globe, from cell phone towers interrupting bee navigation to outlandish Russian interference conspiracies. None have proved true.
One highly probable cause is the use of systemic pesticides in combination with monoculture crop farming.
Monoculture means the same crop in a large area – no diversity. Once the crop’s blooming period is over, the bees have no other source of nectar. Why would they stick around?
For a long time, extremely toxic chemicals originally used in biological warfare were adapted for commercial use as pesticides. When fields were sprayed, hives would be moved out for safety. Deemed too dangerous, the industry moved to “safer” chemicals early in the 2000s: systemic pesticides like Roundup that stay in the plant throughout its life. Bad move.
One experiment conducted by researchers involved videotaping a bee on an organic sunflower and one on a sunflower treated with a systemic pesticide. The bee on the organic sunflower moved around naturally and rhythmically, collecting nectar. The other bee wavered, staggered, and was constantly trying to shake something off its body, becoming weaker and weaker.
In contrast, holistic bee farmers believe that mixed crop farming and natural pest management make for happy, honey-producing bees.
One commercial beekeeping practice frowned upon by holistic bee farmers is the long distance transportation of bees for the pollination of crops. Hundreds of full beehives travel across the continent on massive trailers for days on end causing stress to the bees from the movement, weather and unfamiliar locations.
Some holistic bee farmers think that when bees are out of sync with the natural world and exposed to stressful environments, they become more susceptible to diseases, mites and viruses. Driven by quantity vs quality, commodity honey is a global enterprise sticky with controversy.
“Vanishing of the Bees” is an eye opener. The danger to our bees is cause for high concern. The reasons may be complex, but the message is simple: bees are in danger, and without them our food supply will be in severe jeopardy.
By Kristi Dorian,
See Kristi’s Kaleidoscope column “Into the World of Bees” for the main article.