On The Music Box: We are alternating between Magic Sense-Psycz ‘Chilled C’Quence’ and Radio Earthrites!
I hear your children humming
in the morning sun
humming for the joy of their task
long have your herds scoured
the slopes of the mountains…
honey sweet honey
your children are lost
far from the hive do they wander
far from the queen they have strayed
Today’s entry concentrates on the Bee. As you may well know the humble Bee is in trouble, and we may well be the root cause of it. Our Diane Darling has written a piece that should be distributed out….
We have some lovely poems as well.
Bee seein’ ya,
On the Menu:
Radiohead – Karma Police
Bees on Their Knees – Diane Darling
Poetry: To The Humble Bee
One of my favourites of theirs…
Radiohead – Karma Police
“If you want to gather honey, don’t kick over the beehive.”
Something very, very important from our dear friend Diane Darling… Please let other people know about this article, it will be on the front page of Earthrites.org as well very soon-Gwyllm
Bees on Their Knees
Ah, Spring! Skies as blue as a robins egg, with a smiling sun that quickens the seed in its dark bed and seduces the buds to bloom on every branch and stem. Every flower that spreads its petals, wafts its fragrance and thrusts its little pistils and stamens to the light is doing it for one reason only: to attract its particular pollinator. Flower sex is a ménage a deux with an insect partner, an arrangement that has worked flawlessly since before ever there was anybody else around to wonder at the beauty or even munch with beak or toothy mouth.
Its a lovely arrangement: the flower with its female part open, trembling, and longing only millimeters away from its male parts. It sends out an olfactory signal to draw the tiny insect that can bridge that divide, delivering pollen to pistil, fertilizing the ova that wait within, beginning the season-long process of propagation through seed. As the insect penetrates the bloom in search of nectar, it also collects pollen on its body, which it then carries to nearby blossoms, thereby mixing the DNA ever so slightly, just enough to assure the vigor of outbreeding necessary for the survival of any species.
Honeybees are the pollinators of roughly one third of the food we eat, or the food of the animals we eat. Every year honeybees and other pollinators, including bumblebees, other kinds of bees, moths, wasps, flies, and hummingbirds, emerge from their winter retreat to gorge themselves on pollen and nectar, which they bring back to hive or nest to feed their young, to propagate their own species.
How many springs have I stood before this rosemary bush, its deep green crowned with delicate flowers of my very favorite blue, and admired the industry of the bees as they frisk each tiny bloom. There were times this bush was vibrating visibly with the tiny currents made by the bees wings, when every minute spray of blossoms bent under the miniscule weight of two or three bees, busy, busy. Looking closely I could see the pollen baskets on the bees hindmost legs bulging with golden goodness which they would take back to the hive and pack into perfect hexagonal cells made of wax, made of honey, made of nectar, which would provide protein for every bee, queen, drone, larva and all.
Where are they today? I look and look and I only see two bees. Two bees on this whole, riotously blooming bush? Whats going on here?
Whats going on here is part of a tragedy of monumental proportions. Since November of 2005, honeybees have been disappearing in ever increasing numbers. Beekeepers look into hives that were humming with thousands of bees only days before to find them empty, or to find only a queen and a few very young bees, and then a few days later, nobody home at all. Over the last two years this decline has become a crash, a disaster, and a very real threat to our food supply.
Colony collapse disorder (CCD) is widespread and growing. Twenty four states and several European countries report that beekeepers found upwards of 80% of their hives just empty when they opened them in the spring. Some large beekeepers have lost virtually all their hives, or enough to seriously threaten their livelihood of hauling thousands of hives around the country, following the bloom. Ranchers depend on those bees to pollinate their almond and fruit orchards, to say nothing of alfalfa and just about anything they grow that has a showy flower.
No one knows what is causing this precipitous decline in bee populations, but there are some very strange aspects of it that suggest it is not some overgrowth of a usual pest or pathogen. No, this is something new and very frightening.
Here is the strange story:
· The bees fly away and they dont come back. The stricken hives are empty of bees and no dead bees are found near the hives.
· Honey, pollen, and comb are all left behind and the expected scavengers of empty hives (other bees, wax moths and hive beetles) wont go near those hives until theyve been opened and aired out.
· No special toxins or microbes are found in the honey.
· There are no signs of starvation or unusual parasite infestation,
· The few bee carcasses that have been found and examined show unusual bacteria and fungi, though not in great quantities, which is a sign of a weakened immune system (BIV?).
What is causing this disaster? Though there are many theories being bandied about by agriculture agents, entomologists, and beekeepers, a few have emerged as real possibilities.
Stress due to drought, extreme weather, poor quality pollen, parasites. These factors are not present in all or even most of the areas where CCD is rampant, though they no doubt contribute to the problem.
Genetically modified crops. The presence of GM crops has not been correlated to areas of greatest CCD. Meaning: no comparison has been made between GM plantings and CCD, so a correspondence is possible but unknown.
GM pollen is by definition different from natural pollen, upon which bees depend for their protein. Its possible that genetic modification changes it sufficiently that it is not a good food for bees, though the bees will collect and eat it anyway. Though starvation is not a feature of CCD, other possible effects of GM pollen have not been studied.
Pesticide genes inserted into some GM crops have been shown to be toxic to butterflies, another pollinator. This pesticide, Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) has been demonstrated to be of low toxicity to adult honeybees. However, Bt-containing pollen concentrated in hives has not been demonstrated to be harmless to bees or their young.
Electromagnetic signals (cell phone towers, microwave arrays, satellite signals). Honeybees navigate partly by sensing very tiny variations in the Earths magnetic field, as do other migratory animals. The presence of so many and so much electromagnetic field manipulation by human electronics could disorient bees sufficiently that they cannot find their way back to their hives and die out in the field.
Another animal that navigates this way is the homing pigeon, which is raised and raced for sport. Pigeon clubs are reporting that whereas they expect to lose a few pigeons in every race to predators and so on, lately they are losing entire teams of pigeons. They just dont come home. Sounds familiar, doesnt it?
Pesticides. In 1994 a pesticide called imidacloprid (Bayer, marketed as Merit, Admire, Premise, Pre-Empt, Gaucho, among others) was approved for use in agriculture. It had already been used for several years on household pets for flea control (Advantage and others). Since then imidacloprid has become one of the most widely used, highest volume pesticides worldwide. Its approved uses include application on cotton, vegetable crops, turf, ornamentals, potting soil and for cockroach, termite, flea and tick control.
Imidacloprid is a neurotoxin, meaning that it interferes with nerve cell impulses, as well as being mutagenic, meaning it damages DNA.
It is a systemic pesticide that is applied to the soil and taken up by the plant into its tissues, killing pests when they feed on the plant. It persists for many months or years after application and is mobile in the soil, contaminating water tables and streams.
In commercial products, imidacloprid is mixed with several inert ingredients, notably crystalline quartz silica and naphthalene, which are both known to be carcinogenic and to cause chromosomal damage in humans and lab animals. The potential synergistic effects of these chemicals together has not been examined. In addition, the products of the breakdown of imidacloprid are actually more toxic to insects and mammals than the imidacloprid itself.
Imidacloprid is poisonous to many birds, including game birds and songbirds, as well as most insects. It is highly toxic to fish, and even more so to juvenile fish, for which it is not possible to find the lowest concentration that will not cause adverse effects. It is also toxic to earthworms, beneficial insects, and some plants.
Just about the only insects not affected by imidacloprid are Colorado potato beetles, which developed resistance to imidacloprid in only two years. Insects resistant to organophosphate insecticides are showing cross-resistance to imidacloprid as well, a very distressing development.
Imidacloprid is widely applied to vineyards in Sonoma County, where its half life, the length of time required for half of the imidacloprid to break down (into toxic metabolites) or move away from the application site (into the water): 4 months. Though bees do not pollinate grapes, since imidacloprid is applied to the soil, all plants in the vineyards and vicinity are in effect treated, including flowering weeds which are pollinated by, guess what, bees (among others).
(For an exhaustive discussion of imidacloprid, see Journal of Pesticide Reform, Spring 2001, vol. 21 no. 1)
Imidacloprid is an increasingly widely used neurotoxin that interferes with the central nervous in insects and honeybees dont return to their hives. Hmmmmm
“If the bee disappeared off the surface of the globe, then man would only have four years of life left.” —–Albert Einstein
Pollination is only one of the wondrous things bees do. Honey, pollen, propolis, beeswax and other bee products have healing properties only now being understood. Honey itself is a sweetener without equal and beeswax candles are actually beneficial to you, your body, and your appearance. We allow this animal ally to languish at our own peril. Without bees, we will not live long enough to die of global warming.
Beekeepers and other experts have their opinions about what might be the cause(s) of this bee crash, but no one will dispute the gravity of losing the domestic honey bee as a food plant pollinator. (Native bees may also be dying off, but it is very difficult to determine their condition.) So, what can a poor food-eater do?
Assuming the causes will one day become clear and that the delay in removing the agent(s) from the biome is not too long, some day we must replenish the hives. Thousands of hives, millions and millions of bees will be needed to return our orchards and gardens to working order. So, whatever we can do to maximize bee populations in the meantime must be done.
Consider hosting beehives on your property. Now is the time to order bees by the pound for April delivery. If you dont feel up to maintaining them yourself, and it is not a simple thing anymore, obviously, contact your local beekeeper or honey merchant (see list below) and offer your land for hives. Youll get lots of great honey and youll be saving the bees for posterity!
Read the labels of pesticides you use in your home and garden. If imidacloprid is there, stop using it. Google other ingredients you dont recognize. Find another way to have a healthy garden.
Ask your neighboring orchard or vinyard owner what they are spraying, including systemic pesticides, organophosphates, tree oils and pheremone confusers. Educate yourself and them about the long term consequences of their practices.
Be alert for swarms! In the spring and through the summer, bee colonies are inspired to make a new queen and thousands of them take off with her looking for a new place to live! Experienced beekeepers can catch these swarms and give them a nice, warm hive box where they will be pampered and loved. Call the county agent, bee clubs, honey store or feed stores for hive catchers. Dont delay! Those bees might take up residence in your barn wall!
Teach the children about bees. Ettamae Peterson (http://www.petersonsfarm.com/ ) and others have wonderful websites and visiting farms for kids to experience the wonder of bees first hand.
Beecome a beenut. Its the buzz, you know.
Poetry: To The Humble Bee…
Like trains of cars on tracks of plush
I hear the level bee:
A jar across the flowers goes,
Their velvet masonry
Withstands until the sweet assault
Their chivalry consumes,
While he, victorious, tilts away
To vanquish other blooms.
His feet are shod with gauze,
His helmet is of gold;
His breast, a single onyx
With chrysoprase, inlaid.
His labor is a chant,
His idleness a tune;
Oh, for a bee’s experience
Of clovers and of noon!
The Honey Bee
In the springtime, joyous spring-
When the birds begin to sing,
And we hear the murmuring brook-
Then the bees are on the wing.
When the long, cold days are over
Bees are out to sip the dew
And the nectar from the clover,
Buttercups and daisies blue.
Supers placed above the beehive
For the honey bee to find,
Will be filled if showers are given
To the flowers of every kind.
Then the bees are kind and gentle
“Take it hog,” they seem to say;
“We will work again the harder
After the next rainy day.
“And we’ll fill again the super,
We don’t mind with you to share,
Early morn will find us busy
Gathering honey everywhere.
We just gladly gather honey,
And the wax from off our back
We produce, now is’nt it funny,
No material do we lack.
“For our queen cells we have polen,
Any egg a queen may be,
From the proper food and cover,
We produce a queen, you see.
If some drones we wish for mating,
Other food we must supply,
Just the food we give while waiting
For their hatching by and by.”
“But when frost on field and hillside,
In the autumn kills the flower,
And in vain we search for honey,
In each glen and leafy bower,
Then in every hive is stationed
Guards to watch our winter’s store,
For if you would rudely take it,
We would search in vain for more.
“And we sting with all our fury,
Take our honey if you dare,
For we want to keep from starving
In the winter, so beware.”
There’s a moral we may gather
From the busy bee for all,
Gather food stuff in the summer,
And protect it in the fall.
-Nettie Squire Sutton
bee sits on flower
buzz buzz bee sips sweet nectar
quick! next flower waits
What time I paced, at pleasant morn,
A deep and dewy wood,
I heard a mellow hunting-horn
Make dim report of Dian’s lustihood
Far down a heavenly hollow.
Mine ear, though fain, had pain to follow:
`Tara!’ it twanged, `tara-tara!’ it blew,
Yet wavered oft, and flew
Most ficklewise about, or here, or there,
A music now from earth and now from air.
But on a sudden, lo!
I marked a blossom shiver to and fro
With dainty inward storm; and there within
A down-drawn trump of yellow jessamine
Thrust up its sad-gold body lustily,
All in a honey madness hotly bound
On blissful burglary.
A cunning sound
In that wing-music held me: down I lay
In amber shades of many a golden spray,
Where looping low with languid arms the Vine
In wreaths of ravishment did overtwine
Her kneeling Live-Oak, thousand-fold to plight
Herself unto her own true stalwart knight.
As some dim blur of distant music nears
The long-desiring sense, and slowly clears
To forms of time and apprehensive tune,
So, as I lay, full soon
Interpretation throve: the bee’s fanfare,
Through sequent films of discourse vague as air,
Passed to plain words, while, fanning faint perfume,
The bee o’erhung a rich, unrifled bloom:
“O Earth, fair lordly Blossom, soft a-shine
Upon the star-pranked universal vine,
Hast nought for me?
Come I, a poet, hereward haply blown,
From out another worldflower lately flown.
Wilt ask, `What profit e’er a poet brings?’
He beareth starry stuff about his wings
To pollen thee and sting thee fertile: nay,
If still thou narrow thy contracted way,
– Worldflower, if thou refuse me –
– Worldflower, if thou abuse me,
And hoist thy stamen’s spear-point high
To wound my wing and mar mine eye –
Nathless I’ll drive me to thy deepest sweet,
Yea, richlier shall that pain the pollen beat
From me to thee, for oft these pollens be
Fine dust from wars that poets wage for thee.
But, O beloved Earthbloom soft a-shine
Upon the universal Jessamine,
Prithee, abuse me not,
Prithee, refuse me not,
Yield, yield the heartsome honey love to me
Hid in thy nectary!”
And as I sank into a dimmer dream
The pleading bee’s song-burthen sole did seem:
“Hast ne’er a honey-drop of love for me
In thy huge nectary?”
Tampa, Florida, 1877.