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the bees are o.k.
May 17, 2007 5:01 PM   Subscribe

The mystery of the disappearing bees might not be much of a problem. That is if commercial bee keepers go organic. (previously 1,2)
posted by orgvol (62 comments total) 2 users marked this as a favorite

 
I disagree. Whatever beekeepers may think or do, Bess' husband is bound to be upset.
posted by Malor at 5:04 PM on May 17, 2007


I dunno, Malor, Bess' hubbie might just be happy about this turn of events.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 5:07 PM on May 17, 2007


Jokes aside, though, it's an interesting link, and as far as I'm concerned, the more organic farming the better.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 5:09 PM on May 17, 2007


I beed your bess, bud.
posted by cortex at 5:10 PM on May 17, 2007


Who needs Bess when we've still got plenty of Porgy?
posted by maryh at 5:11 PM on May 17, 2007


I say we learn to enjoy cannibalism before we have to resort to it. It'd be much cheaper than drafting orphans, and tastier too.
posted by davy at 5:18 PM on May 17, 2007


I beed your bess, bud.

Hmm, that sounds kinda doggy.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 5:20 PM on May 17, 2007


It may be true, but that's anecdotal from a single source with a personal interest in asserting this. It's a puff article and not a very good post.
posted by Ethereal Bligh at 5:28 PM on May 17, 2007


This is a bad post.
posted by rxrfrx at 5:42 PM on May 17, 2007


This is much more like science than science.
posted by Muddler at 5:46 PM on May 17, 2007 [1 favorite]


A little more here on organic beekeeping.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 6:07 PM on May 17, 2007




Ethereal, Organic web sites are not allowed to contain bias.
posted by srboisvert at 6:15 PM on May 17, 2007 [1 favorite]


Hey, nobody cares about Bess no mo?
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 6:18 PM on May 17, 2007


...and, done properly, preserves wildlife habitat...

Isn't it the case that, done properly, things work, by definition.
posted by StickyCarpet at 6:21 PM on May 17, 2007


factory farmed orphans are more susceptible to stress from environmental sources than organic or feral orphans
posted by kuujjuarapik at 6:23 PM on May 17, 2007


Hey, nobody cares about Bess no mo?

'fraid so... seems Bess is into, er, organic farming, so the knee-jerk dismissal thing set in. Bring on the pesticides! No bias there! They make the honey taste better anyway!
posted by flapjax at midnite at 6:24 PM on May 17, 2007


'fraid so... seems Bess is into, er, organic farming, so the knee-jerk dismissal thing set in. Bring on the pesticides! No bias there! They make the honey taste better anyway!

My dismissal had more to do with the article being fluff and the post being worthless as a result. Organic farming had nothing to do with it.
posted by Ethereal Bligh at 6:40 PM on May 17, 2007


Killered Bees are vanishing for awhile.

hank God we've got dogs in bee costumes to take their place!
posted by ericb at 6:57 PM on May 17, 2007


Killered Bees *have been* vanishing for a while. *Thank* God we've got dogs in bee costumes to take their place!

Hiccup. Honey, please pass me some more of that mead.
posted by ericb at 6:59 PM on May 17, 2007


What's next single link post to an article in fundie times on the Bee Rapture, and it's implicaitons for pre-tribulation theory? A more interesting story on CCD was published today. An Africa beetle and yeast may play a role in CCD.
posted by humanfont at 7:04 PM on May 17, 2007


Honey ericb, please pass me some more of that mead honey.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 7:06 PM on May 17, 2007


Hiccup. Honey, please pass me some more of that mead.

I hate to tell you this, but if it's the dogs making it, it isn't really mead.
posted by IronLizard at 7:14 PM on May 17, 2007 [1 favorite]


Our local natural bees are thriving, trust me. They are swarming the yard right now. I think the strawberries are going to come in just fine, and we will see about the rest.
posted by caddis at 7:39 PM on May 17, 2007


The link does make a case for organic bees. More research needed. Thanks.
posted by pointilist at 7:42 PM on May 17, 2007


It may be true, but that's anecdotal from a single source with a personal interest in asserting this.

Absolutely. It's also troubling that the author keeps referring to "native" honeybees. North America has no "native" honeybees; the four "honey" bee species originated in Europe or Asia and were intentionally brought here as introduced species.
posted by Miko at 7:47 PM on May 17, 2007 [1 favorite]


You guys are great. I completely bought the article... Found myself thinking... well of course the *evil* non-organic beekeepers are having trouble... they're not using *native* honeybees.

Thanks for your diligence.
posted by zach4000 at 8:07 PM on May 17, 2007


It's the Birds and the bees
posted by longsleeves at 8:24 PM on May 17, 2007


OK skimpy, but whatcha wanna bet that fungus is a result of commercial farming practices.
posted by gorgor_balabala at 8:27 PM on May 17, 2007


One of the earliest recorded incidents resembling colony collapse disorder was in the 1890s, when all beehives were 'organic'.
posted by stavrogin at 8:59 PM on May 17, 2007 [1 favorite]


for the bees:

.
posted by jdfalk at 9:02 PM on May 17, 2007


Covered in bees.

Making a political statement covered in bees.

On roller skates and covered in bees.

Not exactly covered in bees, but photographed by Richard Avedon.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 9:22 PM on May 17, 2007


Of course the "nature" of this article are very one sided and I am not sure who else is doing more research. with all the hubbub I thought about the ramifications of pesticides and the connection to honey producing bees.

//found this comforting//

stavrogin I am curious about the 1890's colony collapse disorder...
posted by orgvol at 9:26 PM on May 17, 2007


Do you have any 'sardonic laughter while covered in bees'?
posted by stavrogin at 9:28 PM on May 17, 2007


Do you have any 'sardonic laughter while covered in bees'?

Sorry stavrogin, but bees don't react well to sardonicism. Makes their little stingers go wild.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 9:31 PM on May 17, 2007


Here are two links referenced by the wikipedia page: cosmos and MAAREC.

From the Cosmos link:

What's surprising is that mysterious declines are nothing new. As far back as 1896, CCD has popped up again and again, only under the monikers: 'fall dwindle' disease, 'May dwindle', 'spring dwindle', 'disappearing disease', and 'autumn collapse'.

Even the current outbreak has possibly been going on undetected for two years, according to the CCD Working Group - a crack group of U.S. researchers from institutes including the Pennsylvania State University and University of Montana, who are trying to unravel the mystery.
posted by stavrogin at 9:32 PM on May 17, 2007


I dunno. There's still no answer as to what's causing the massive collapses (even this article admits that), and just because organic beekeepers haven't been hit yet doesn't mean they aren't next. Yeah, I have an organic garden and it is covered in bees, but that doesn't have much to do with national food supplies.
posted by Gilbert at 9:32 PM on May 17, 2007


i'm covered in beeeees
posted by sixtoes at 10:16 PM on May 17, 2007


Hah! You want organic?

In the Amazon I met a 70 year old guy who collects honey from bee hives - making a fire in a canoe to drive them away, then chopping down the tree.
posted by iamck at 12:21 AM on May 18, 2007


I raised a couple of hives of bees a few years ago. I built my own hives from scratch, frames, supers, everything. Tracheal mites had just started becoming a problem in NE and I was working on a theory that using cedar would cut down on this growing concern. It was a crumby theory for numerous reasons which I won’t go into here; I only bring it up to reference my disagreement with this article.

The hive I built was a “Langstroth Hive” This is the normal hive used in modern beekeeping since 1851, based on the principal of “bee space” being 3 /8 0f an inch.
If you changed the size of bees, you would change “bee space” and therefore also have to replace every hive and comb frame in the developed world. There is just not any were near enough money in keeping bees to warrant that, regardless of increased production.

Also, there are no “wild honey bees” only feral bees that swarmed away from a domestic hive. Even these rarely make it for long. Due to mites over wintering by feral bees has been rare since the 80’s.

As to cell foundation, it’s just a sheet of wax you hang from your frames to help define where you want bees to make comb and cut down on how much wax they have to make for themselves. (It takes 8lb’s of honey to make 1lb wax) The bees decide how big the cells will become.

As far as anyone can tell CCD has nothing to do with mites or pesticides anyway. The author of the article should try to do at least a tiny bit of research before publishing. Here are a couple good sources I found.
posted by BostonJake at 2:54 AM on May 18, 2007 [1 favorite]


BostonJake, as I understand it the wax foundation is stamped with the size cell that the bees then build from. I know that all I have to do is to put frames of (larger) drone foundation in to get entire frames of only drones. I have not experimented withe the smaller cell size but possibly the bees build them out to the same length in which case the smaller width would have no effect on bee space.
posted by InkaLomax at 4:36 AM on May 18, 2007


Fuck 'em, they're only bees. (YouTube, FF to 5.30)
posted by Jakey at 5:13 AM on May 18, 2007


My most recent issue of Art of Eating has an article detailing 3 kinds of US honey. In a footnote they mention that colony collapse seems to be happening only to large commercial beekeeping businesses that move their bees around the country and work them very hard, pollinating. It claims that smaller farms with stationary bees aren't having such a problem.
posted by Nelson at 6:37 AM on May 18, 2007


"In a footnote they mention that colony collapse seems to be happening only to large commercial beekeeping businesses that move their bees around the country and work them very hard, pollinating. It claims that smaller farms with stationary bees aren't having such a problem."

That's a point the author of the FPPed link touches on as well:

"Hives are hauled long distances by truck, often several times during the growing season, to provide pollination services to industrial agriculture crops, which further stresses the colonies and exposes them to agricultural pesticides and GMOs."
posted by flapjax at midnite at 6:44 AM on May 18, 2007


InkaLomax
Your right, drones and queens are grown in larger cells. I didn’t put that in my comment to avoid TMI, but my point remains the same, you grew drones, not a new larger species of bee. If you filled a hive with nothing but drone foundation the bees would eat it and make new cells. Or take off. Or make only drones and die that winter, its hard to say, I’ve never heard of anyone doing such a thing and bees are tricky little buggers.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for going organic. I wouldn’t be at all surprised to learn CCD is linked to pesticides used on crops or stress from being moved to often. What I didn’t like was the “conspiracy theory/evils of big bee business” tone that the author takes. There’s no money in bee’s, just hang out with a few commercial bee keepers some time. And no conspiracy, barely enough cohesion to get congress off its ass in time to figure out what to do about declining bee populations before we’re all paying $5 for an apple. The reason they move bees so often is there aren't enough to go round.

Also, for what its worth both my hives died of mites, so take my opinion with a large grain of salt.
posted by BostonJake at 6:56 AM on May 18, 2007


the “conspiracy theory/evils of big bee business” tone that the author takes."

Hmm, I'm unable to discern this tone from anything she's written. The only thing that even comes close to "conspiracy theory" in the article was this, and I'd say it's pretty far from tinfoil hat territory:

"It's now possible to buy small cell foundation from US suppliers, but most beekeepers in Canada have either never heard of small cell beekeeping, aren't willing to put the effort into changing or are skeptical of the benefits. This alternative is not promoted at all by the Canadian Honey Council, an organization representing the beekeeping industry, which even tells its members on their website that, "The limitations to disease control mean that losses can be high for organic beekeepers."
posted by flapjax at midnite at 7:09 AM on May 18, 2007


Don't like the message?
Attack the messenger.
Or the method.
posted by nofundy at 7:30 AM on May 18, 2007


I get a buzz just reading about organic honey.
posted by nofundy at 7:36 AM on May 18, 2007


It's also troubling that the author keeps referring to "native" honeybees.

The author does not refer to native honeybees, but native pollinators. It's confusing because they're talking about organic beekeeping (which uses the non-native honey bee) and also the unrelated problem of pollinating crops, which currently uses honey bees, but does not require them. Because we rely almost solely on honey bees to pollinate our crops instead of a variety of the available pollinators, some of which are native to North America, we are facing not only a shortage of honey, but food as well. There's lots of good information on varieties of bees and all things pollination at this website.
posted by nTeleKy at 8:11 AM on May 18, 2007


Yes, that is confusing, partially because of the sentence construction
"...we would not be so dependent on commercial non-native factory farmed honey bees if we were not killing off native pollinators,"
in which "native" is contrasted with "non-native" and "pollinators" in the absence of clarification can be misread as a synonym for "honeybees."

Part of why I didn't like the article was that it was not well written. I don't disagree with the message (I'm a proponent of organic and small-scale farming myself), but there is really insufficient evidence presented to assert that organic "natural" (whatever that is) beehives are less prone to CCD. It's one person's essay based on anecdotal information and needs to be substantiated by a structured inquiry. If it proved true it would indeed be interesting.
posted by Miko at 8:28 AM on May 18, 2007


It's not definitive until LanguageHat opines upon it. So there.
posted by davy at 8:49 AM on May 18, 2007


Pretty much every single link I can find on "+organic bees +colony collapse" leads back to this very article, which has been widely reprinted in independent media and picked up on blogs. Sharon Labchuk, the author, heads this nonprofit. There doesn't seem to be any other discussion about it yet.

I checked out the bee forum she links to, which is the one she cites. But she is using it to reason from a lack of reports about colony collapse disorder in organic bees, apparently not from any data that's been gathered in any systematic way. There's really not all that much discussion of the issue in the forum, except to note the increased traffic this article has driven to the forum. Also, there's this message indicating that even when looking at all beekeepers taken together, CCD is still numerically rare.
This report published 4/10/07 from Dr. Jamie Ellis at the Universityof Florida and offers somenew insights on CCD.

"Even though thousands of honey bee colonies are dying, a small percentage of U.S. beekeepers are reporting significant colony losses. However, these beekeepers typically manage commercial operations with thousands of colonies. Therefore, the data represent a minority of beekeepers but a large number of colonies. For example, less than 2% of all Florida beekeepers as of April 2007
reported colony losses to a disorder with symptoms matching those of CCD. Yet collectively, these beekeepers lost thousands of colonies."
So the lack of CCD in your hives may or may not have anything to do with the organic nature of your farming practice.

I wouldn't be a bit surprised to learn that industrial farming practices and agricultural chemicals are contributing to the loss of bee populations. Not at all. And I think we should support organic farming where possible on general principle. But there needs to be more evidence and analysis to support a direct connection in this case. In my view, that would be great, because it would give us another push to rethink and modify our food production system. But to use a message board as a data source is not sufficient. and if you read a few messages, you'll see that it's all over the place, including suggestions that chemical companies are modifying their crop sprays to get bees 'hooked' on their GMO patented crops only, and that the corn industry and corn syrup lobby is behind the spread of CCD so as to protect its corn syrup sales from the encroaching honey thread. Hm.

Our food system is indeed capable of terribly damaging things, but before we run in circles screaming, more evidence is needed before we reach the level of assertion. Right now we just have possibilities and questions. Fodder for an enterprising grad student somewhere.
posted by Miko at 9:02 AM on May 18, 2007


Wrong link in "This nonprofit." Should be this one, Earth Action.
posted by Miko at 9:04 AM on May 18, 2007


we would not be so dependent on commercial non-native factory farmed honey bees if we were not killing off native pollinators.

Native pollinators don’t get the job done. That’s one of the reasons humans have always kept bees. The only other viable pollinator out there is wind, and there is still plenty of that. And before anyone comes back with “hey what about bumble bees or solitary bees” remember there are 40K bees in a healthy hive. A good sized farm needs maybe 5 hives, a large farm 15 or more. Also most native pollinators are pretty specific as far as what they pollinate. Honey bees polinate everything within several miles. No honey bees means low crop yield. Same as 1000 years ago, same as 1000 years from now.

Most people think beekeeping is all natural but in commercial operations the bees are treated much like livestock on factory farms.

No referencing, just accusations, how do you respond to that?

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 want to see the tin foil hats try to reference this.
No one has been breeding bees to be bigger. The two major strains of domestic honeybee are “Caucasian” and “Italian” bees. Italian bees are more aggressive and harder to work with, but smaller and seem to be more resistant to mites. Almost all beekeepers now use the smaller “Italian” bee.

In an organic Canada, native pollinators would flourish and small diversified farms would keep their own natural bees for pollination and local honey sales.

Very Jeffersonian, but I suspect such a Canada would import almost all of its food. And BTW thanks to NAFTA you can’t give honey away. Most goes into animal feed.

Like I said before, I suspect pesticides or fertilizers are at the bottom of the CCD mystery, so we may wind up with a more organic system of agriculture anyway.
posted by BostonJake at 9:25 AM on May 18, 2007


I keep a number of hives out on the prairie and it is just amazing to me that they can survive the chemical load. This time of year bees are working overtime trying to bulk up the hive population and get some food stores after a long winter. At the same time, conventional farmers are spraying fence row to fence row with pre-emergent herbicides. Later in the year, bees feed off of the very crops that are being sprayed.

On top of that, the general health of the bee population is so low due to mites and other parasites that most beekeepers are having to medicate them constantly. Check out a beekeeping catalog sometime...1/3 hive parts, 1/3 harvesting equipment, 1/3 medications.

I talked to the small commercial beekeeper that sold me new hives this spring and he said his father used to be able to overwinter the hives in our area, but hasn't been able to since the 70's. He cited poor immune systems. He hates trucking his bees all over the country, but has to. That and the fact that crop pollination is a good source of income for people now.

One last thing. In order for honey to be certified organic by the USDA, the hives have to be a certain distance (miles) from conventional agriculture or other sources of chemical contamination. That is extremely difficult to find in most areas of the country that produce honey.
posted by limmer at 10:52 AM on May 18, 2007


And if commercial food producers would just go organic, that would address the real problem we're concerned about. (Of course, to really go truly organic, they would have to disband and return food production to local agriculture.)
posted by asfuller at 12:02 PM on May 18, 2007


Don't like the message?
Attack ... the method.


Welcome to science, I thought maybe you'd like it here.
posted by rxrfrx at 1:40 PM on May 18, 2007


Food science, yes. Welcome to the fucking future of fucked farming. Science is the excuse for greedy corporate fucking of the Earth's food supply. Hooray for fucking science.
posted by gorgor_balabala at 6:24 AM on May 20, 2007


Personally, I'm no more willing to believe badly researched propaganda from the side I do support than from the side I don't support. I want real facts on my side. Science is your friend.
posted by Miko at 5:29 AM on May 22, 2007 [1 favorite]


I heart Miko. Oh, wait, there's a thingie I can click for that.
posted by Ethereal Bligh at 1:54 PM on May 22, 2007 [1 favorite]


A round table of experts answer all our pressing questions about the sudden death of the nation's bees. What they have to say has a bigger sting than we ever expected.
posted by homunculus at 9:11 PM on May 28, 2007


Only one person of the four on that roundtable is actually an expert. One of them, for example, is an "amateur bee keeper".
posted by Ethereal Bligh at 3:31 AM on May 29, 2007


Sorry, two of them are experts. At any rate, it's not as if this was some NSA or FDA panel. It was four people assembled by Salon to informally discuss the issue.
posted by Ethereal Bligh at 3:33 AM on May 29, 2007


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