Ecology And Environment

Why the Bees are Dying

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"Why the Bees are Dying"
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A note to let you know about this article, a current issue being addressed by the Earth Vision project -

"Why the Bees Are Dying - and how to bring them back"


This article opens the box on the disappearing honeybee issue, so-called Colony Collapse Disorder, by using spiritual ecology and the indications of 20th Century renaissance man, Rudolf Steiner, to realize the common denominator of suspected causes. If entrenched analysts, who have been concertedly looking at external threats for the villain, were to turn their sights 180 degrees, they would discover that "we have met the enemy, and the enemy is us!" - that is, overall human interference.

A report from Earth Vision,
The EV project - taking nature to a new level
by Josef Graf

From the perspective of spiritual ecology, some of the suspected causes merely stand in the foreground of the disappearing honeybees - EMF radiation; GM crops; and diseases and pests - while artificial incursions of modern bee-keeping on overall hive ecology are recognized to prevail at the root of the issue.

Varroa, an old story retold

Diseases and parasites, such as the invading Eurasian varroa mite, when looked at in the same light as other modern agricultural issues, actually presents itself as a red herring for anyone in pursuit of the central cause of bee decimation.

While initial losses appear to have accrued as a result of varroa, it is almost certain to be a temporary phase. The situation is not unlike problems in other areas of modern agriculture. Using the cattle industry as a choice example, pathogenic forces are not really threatening stocks but, rather, decades of contrivance and intercession by means of antibiotics, hormones, and other artificial "propping up" of the species that have weakened and degraded the overall constitution of the species. (And let us call events like Mad Cow disease a symptom, not a cause, of the bottoming out of the cattle industry.)
Witness the decidedly hale condition of the bison alongside the debilitated circumstance of cattle. In a word, predation strengthens a species, and interference with that predation leads to debilitation. The finest shepherd ever invented, in terms of a keeper for the bison herds, was Canis lupus, the common wolf.
There are times, and this includes livestock, bees, and any other biological form, when a producer has to "take in on the chin" and let the species evolve by allowing the surviving, adaptable members of the population reproduce. The result will be an enviable level of wholesomeness in both species and product.

This leads to the heart of the matter - too much interference. For example, in a bid to avoid having to work with a species that can become what humankind deems as overly aggressive, we have been cultivating a more "docile" temperament in the bee. Therefore, unlike its more combative relatives in other parts of the world, who are able to bite at, mutilate, and dispose of the varroa mite, our more passive breeds are not equipped to handle these intruders.

Time will heal the varroa situation, if we let the honeybee "duke it out" in its own way, under its own terms. As with most predation, the strongest will survive to carry forth its capable seed into future stocks.

Excessive interference and the foresight of Rudolf Steiner

In deference to the spiritual science of Rudolf Steiner, it needs to be said that this modern Renaissance man predicted in 1923 that if humanity continued to cultivate the honeybees by artificial means, we would, within eighty years, witness the mass disappearance of the bees.

Arguably the best-kept secret of the 20th Century, in terms of a resource for social transformation, Rudolf Steiner, in his series of lectures entitled "The Bees," portrayed the intricate nature of the honeybee community.
In capsule, Steiner warned against both meddling with the natural process of hive society and artificial manipulation of queen bees.

The following list of aspects of human interference with the natural process of bee life, while substantial, is no doubt incomplete:

- The raising of larva in separate quarters, arbitrary feeding of royal jelly to produce queens, then shipping by post to keepers.

- Selection of bee populations for docility, de-selecting for aggression.

- In contrast to the normal 5 or 6-year life span of a queen, "re-queening" after one or two years.

- The grafting of queens - moving larva to artificial cups, then cages for transport.

- Supplanting guard bees with protective measures by humans.

- Keeping hives hyper clean, to reduce production of "nuisance" propolis.

- Using chemical control agents for disease and pests.

- Providing ready-made combs in place of bee-constructed combs, to save work (production time) for the bees.

- In a similar vein, supplying sheets of wax, so bees don't have to gather and secret their own wax.

- Use of ventilators so the bees don't have to tend this.

- Use of queen excluders to prevent eggs being laid in inconvenient areas of the hive.

- Moving of hives over long distances at the will of human intention.

- Clipping of queens' wings.

- Agricultural practices consisting of monocultures that wreak havoc on honeybee diets, and limiting options once the dominant crop is no longer flowering.

The foregoing list of strategies used to manipulate production demonstrates that mankind is capable of invention. In fact, we are able to wax clever, even to the point of genius. However, in this modern era (in which we find ourselves so often losing the perspective of overview, due to reductionism and specialization, among other things) it appears that when we fail to perceive the whole picture, our inventiveness falls short of the masterful way that a naturally developing hive proceeds.

Perhaps there are effective ways to work in harmony with the bees, even using a certain degree of creative intervention. But just which particular intercessions will time prove to be both wise and productive, in terms of a win-win for both bee and human?
Who can know, but those who gain utmost understanding of the synergy and multi-dimension of the bee kingdom?

Leo Tolstoy, after his own lengthy study of bees, had this to say: "The higher the human intellect rises in the discovery [of the bees' aim], the more obvious it becomes that the final aim is beyond its reach."

The most essential thing we learn from reviewing the Steiner material is that beekeepers would do well to acquire a metaphysical understanding of bees and the complex masterpiece of the hive.
Mystery lives in the hive, and within the golden elixir that is honey, mystery we have yet to, or may never, discover.

Spiritual ecology holds that the first step in addressing an issue pertaining to the realm of nature is to deepen our understanding of the overall synergy of the particular eco-community in question.
Meanwhile, the short answer, at least for consumers, is to buy only honey produced in an organic manner. Withdraw all support from other means of production.
If you are a marketer, establish non-interference standards and label those products so consumers have a means of choosing.
If you are a scientist, reductionism leads to reduction in the world of nature. If you are a bee-keeper, study Steiner.
Get an overview.

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Josef Graf
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