bees

Beekeeping Practices are Killing Honeybees, Part I

Saturday, January 30, 2010 by: Laura Weldon
Tags: honeybees, colony collapse disorder, health news

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(NaturalNews) It`s a troubling and little-known fact. Today`s beekeepers use herbicides, fungicides and insecticides in and around beehives. They say they have no choice. Honeybees increasingly suffer from disease and parasites, forcing their keepers to fight back with powerful chemicals. But modern beekeeping practices put severe stress on honeybees, possibly causing this weakened resistance to diseases and parasites in the first place. These practices include unnatural feed, migratory beekeeping, artificial insemination, and chemical treatments. In part one of this series we`ll look at the first two practices.

Unnatural Feed.
The only natural foods for honeybees come from the nectars and pollens they collect. These foods contain vital nutrients that optimize the health of these tiny insects. Bees carefully vary their own diets, flying farther to find different blooms if large amounts of nectar have been gathered from one type of plant. But today`s beekeepers commonly feed their honeybees artificial syrups and patties made out of high fructose corn syrup (HFC). Unlike the range of fats, proteins, vitamins and minerals found in pollen and nectar HFC is devoid of any real nutrition.

Worse, about 85 percent of all corn grown in the U.S. is genetically modified. Let`s remember what that means. Crops are genetically modified, in part, to resist insects yet beekeepers are feeding that crop right back to insects. There`s no way of determining how honeybees will react to being fed genetically modified corn products generation after generation. In addition, bees also forage for pollen and nectar on GM crops, adding to their exposure. It isn`t difficult to imagine their health might be compromised.

Migratory Beekeeping.
The majority of large scale beekeeping operations don`t make their money from honey production; their profit lies in pollination services. Large monoculture crops require pollination for a few weeks in the growing season, yet the scorched earth methods of agribusiness leave no other plants for honeybees to live on during the rest of the year. That`s where migratory beekeeping comes in. Truckloads stacked with beehives crisscross the country for months. According to the American Beekeeping Federation nearly two-thirds of the estimated 2.4 million colonies in the U.S. are transported for pollination purposes.

During travel it`s difficult for bees to maintain crucial hive temperatures and impossible for them to forage for food. The stress takes its toll. A recent study by the University of Massachusetts compared the prevalence of viruses in migratory bees to locally maintained bees. The researchers reported, "The migratory bees were more consistently infected and had a significantly higher prevalence of triple infections. This may be due to the differences in both exposure to pathogens that migratory and local bees experience and overall fitness of the hives as related to stress." In other words, this practice is bad for bees.

The massive honeybee disappearance called Colony Collapse Disorder that has researchers stumped is more prevalent in transported, not locally maintained, honeybees. Some migratory beekeepers have lost up to 90 percent of their colonies.

Sources
Thomas, Pat, 2007. Give Bees a Chance. Ecologist 37:30-35.
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Natural Beekeeping: Organic Approaches to Modern Apiculture by Ross Conrad


About the author

Laura Weldon lives on an organic farm and believes in bliss. Learn more about her book "Free Range Learning" by visiting at www.lauragraceweldon.com

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