Apr 11, 2010

Soule Restaurant: Bees... They're Our Friends

Early last month, New York City lifted its ban on urban beekeeping.


Well… the city’s health code had previously placed bees in the same category as about 100 other creatures found to be too dangerous to be kept in the city.

The honeybee cause has been on the forefront lately, with the decimation of much of their numbers in recent years endangering agriculture in the United States.

In order to grow fruits, vegetables or nuts, you need soil, sun, seeds, water, and honeybees. Honeybees are vital for our agricultural well-being; one out of every three bites of food we eat depend on bees.

Beekeepers throughout the United States routinely load their beehives onto flatbed trucks and travel all over the country, renting their bees to farmers who require the pollination of their crops.

In November 2006, David Hackenberg, who has been in the beekeeping business for over 50 years, went to a bee yard in Florida where he had left 400 hives, and all 400 hives, usually containing roughly 35-40,000 bees each, stood empty. He searched the fields, getting down on his hands and knees to find the deceased bees to no avail.

It has since been found that a particularly large portion of honeybees have been losing their sense of navigation and not returning home to their colonies. Three months after Hackenberg’s discovery, a third of the bees in the country were reported to have mysteriously disappeared as well.

The peculiar thing is, bees have an inherent navigation system that guides them home, even after flying up to two miles in search of food. Upon their return to the hive, they instinctively safeguard the well-being of their colony; performing an intricate dance that informs the others of the location of the food source, and they never abandon their young. Yet, when they disappear, they routinely leave behind a hive filled with larvae and eggs, as well as their queen. Also peculiar is the fact that no other bees will invade the abandoned hives to forage for the honey; it is as if they realize that the hives are somehow contaminated and its honey unsuitable for consumption.

Bee losses are estimated at 60 percent on the west coast and Texas, and 70 percent on the east coast, when the normal winter reduction averages at 20 percent.

“If the bee disappeared off the surface of the globe then man would only have four years of life left. No more bees, no more pollination, no more plants, no more animals, no more man.”

…Albert Einstein

This revelation is alarming; especially in light of the fact that this is quickly becoming a world-wide pandemic, currently affecting 24 states within the United States, as well as areas in Germany, Poland, Switzerland, and Spain.

Autopsies of bees that remain in the abandoned hives show that these bees are typically afflicted with several viruses and ailments.

It appears that something is weakening the immune systems of honeybees, making them more susceptible to parasites, fungi, and viruses, while simultaneously causing memory loss and nervous system disorders. Scientists are referring to this phenomenon as Colony Collapse Disorder (CDD), the cause of which is still undetermined.

The importance of bees to our very existence is not universally recognized. Many have accepted their disappearance as positive.

It’s not.

Our first lady recently had a beehive installed on the south lawn of the White House.

Now that the beekeeping ban has been lifted in New York City, maybe some of our bravest residents will follow in her footsteps and assume a new hobby.

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