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  • Jane Wheeler

A Deceptively Sweet Mystery...

A good mystery has to have drama, intrigue, a lot of unanswered questions and of course a villain. The following quote (albeit I left out a couple of words to create a great case of a who-dun-it) has it all:

“The question has baffled scientists for nearly a decade. Around the world . . . tens of thousands are suddenly empty. They have vanished, abandoning their homes and ominously never returning. No corpses found on the scene. No clues left behind.

"One day, they are in; the next, they're gone," said Hartmut Doebel, assistant professor, "And nobody has a good explanation for how it happened."

Now the “who” ….

Dubbed colony collapse disorder (CCD), the mysterious malady has claimed 40 percent of the world's honeybees since it was first identified in 2006. Almost half of the bees in the United States have disappeared in just a decade.” The Continuing Plight of the Honeybee June 2, 2015 by John Diconsiglio

Yup, - it Bees; more than that it is the Honeybee, domestic and wild.

If you watch the news, read a newspaper, browse through Time or National Geographic – you have no doubt heard of the plight of the honeybee. If you have not heard about it, let me give you the buzz on it…

Why should this concern you? About 1/3 of our worldwide food production is at risk because we are losing our honeybees at an alarming rate.

In 2015 it was estimated that beekeepers – worldwide lost about 45% and in 2016 it was estimated to be around 60%.

What does this mean for you and me? It means less food and I am not just talking about honey. Bees are also producers of bee pollen, royal jelly, and bee propolis – and each of these four items have amazing and healing qualities to them (but that is another blog).

In addition to producing cool stuff, bees pollinate about 1/3 of our food worldwide, from fruit to nuts to coffee beans.

I first heard about the strange and random dying off of honeybees back in the early 2000’s when I attended a conference with the health food store I was managing. The speaker was from Switzerland where they were already doing intense research on the disappearing honeybees. North American was not yet on board with the honeybee prognosis but in Europe the alarm was raised and in fact the EU has taken measures to ban the use of pesticides.

I had also watched a documentary where in China they have to hand pollinate their fruit trees, they had to keep their children home from school in blossom season – check this out:

“The most dramatic example comes from the apple and pear orchards of south west China, where wild bees have been eradicated by excessive pesticide use and a lack of natural habitat. In recent years, farmers have been forced to hand-pollinate their trees, carrying pots of pollen and paintbrushes with which to individually pollinate every flower, and using their children to climb up to the highest blossoms. This is clearly just possible for this high-value crop, but there are not enough humans in the world to pollinate all of our crops by hand.” Decline of Honeybees Forces China's Apple Farmers to Pollinate By Hand, Dave Goulson, 02.10.2012

The mystery continues, we are not 100% sure why the bees are dying off - probably it is a combination of factors. There are several thoughts on why this is die off is occurring. It is thought that chemicals, most likely pesticides could cause the demise of our honeybees.

Other presented theories are: loss of habitat, climate change – which changes the plants and flowers, and disease. Pathogens carried by mites weaken bees, which makes them susceptible to pesticide poisoning.


“There are simple solutions; studies in Europe and North America have found that planting strips of wildflowers on farms, and leaving patches of natural vegetation such as forests, can greatly boost pollinator populations. These practices can also increase populations of natural predators, decreasing the need for pesticide sprays." Decline of Honeybees Forces China’s Apple Farmers To Pollinate By Hand, Dave Goulson, 02.10.2012

“The thing we can most control is pesticides,” says Sass. Anyone with outdoor space—from a container garden to a large lawn—can create a pesticide-free, safe space for pollinators that will encourage native bees and other beneficial insects.

We can also make sure to purchase plants that aren’t pretreated with pesticides by asking questions when we shop for seeds and flowers. We can let our lawns grow a bit longer and leave the blooming clover for bees to enjoy. We can ask our elected officials to pass county and town ordinances to reduce pesticide spraying, and we can urge corporations to stop making and selling neonicotinoids.” The Buzz About Colony Collapse Disorder, December 31, 2015 Alexandra Zissu

“We can at least do our part by plating bee-friendly plants, including Echinacea, lavender, and clover, while also becoming aware of the impact that our food choices could have on the health of not only honey bees, but the food system that supports us.” National Post, Jennifer Sygo, August 1, 2014

Beekeeping is now “trendy” and in some areas of North America – backyard bee hives are popping up, from starting or building your own to renting a hive (check out the Heritage Bee Company), or having bee hives in the gardens atop of towering skyscrapers or hotels.

Some San Francisco hotels have built beehives on their rooftops – NBC News link:

What do London’s Buckingham Palace, New York’s Whitney Museum of American Art and the Notre-Dame Cathedral in Paris all have in common?

They're all keepers of honeybees, part of a growing collection of bee-friendly landmarks around the world.

If you want to find out what plants are great for pollination in your growing area – check out The Xerces Society for each growing area in the USA and they have a link for Canada.

The David Suzuki Foundation also has some ideas:

If we all do something to help the plight of the bees – we help ourselves, our food, our neighbors and the busy little bees – and truly, that is a really sweet spot to be in.

Links to Read more:

The Plight of Honeybees Shound Be A Concern for All... WGN TV 10:43 PM, MARCH 16, 2017, BY JULIE UNRUH, UPDATED AT 11:17AM, MARCH 31, 2017 Link:

The Continuing Plight of the Honeybee June 2, 2015 by John Diconsiglio

The Plight of the Honeybee – GW Today – June 1, 2015

Unique and Emerging Beekeeping Trends, Perfect Bee, February 29, 2016, Sarah Woodard Link:

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