[permaculture] more on honeybees

lbsaltzman at aol.com lbsaltzman at aol.com
Wed Mar 7 17:30:24 EST 2007

I think the post is on to something. The mass trucking of honeybee hives is starting to sound like bee monoculture which makes the problems not surprising.  I live in the city and have a backyard food forest on approx. a third of an acre of land.  We don't keep bees, but I am seeing an amazing variety of honeybees, native bees, bumblebees and other pollinators thriving on our seventy odd fruit, nut and seed trees as well as berries and other flowering plants.  
-----Original Message-----
From: evansdk at earthlink.net
To: permaculture at lists.ibiblio.org
Sent: Wed, 7 Mar 2007 2:18 PM
Subject: [permaculture] more on honeybees

I sent the last post about honeybees to a beekeeper friend and thought some 
might be interested in his reply:

"About the honeybees: They've been on the ropes for most of the 
last decade, and it is unclear to me whether the current hullabaloo 
reflects a new disaster or just more press coverage of their ongoing 
plight. Previously, unexplained honeybee demise has been attributed to 
PMS - parasitic mite syndrome - perpetrated by the Asian mite, varoa 
destructor. Varoa has decimated feral honeybee populations. In the 
past several years, varoa has become increasingly resistant to the 
chemical treatments that had protected the domestic honeybees. So it 
may be that the current cataclysm reflects this resurgence of the 
mites and the viruses they carry. And then there is a much smaller 
mite, Acarapis woodi, that lives in the trachea of honey bees; it 
disorients them, so they fly away and don't come back - a symptom often 
mentioned in the current news releases. But then again there could be 
something totally new and mysterious and ugly wreaking havoc.

And then there are the "unnatural" aspects of honeybees that may 
contribute to the problem. They are not native to North America. But 
they've been on the continent for over 300 years (how long does a 
hardworking illegal alien insect have to endure before it qualifies 
for a green card?). So most of the plants that require honeybees for 
pollination - e.g., almonds - are not native. I suspect honeybees may 
have replaced some of the less-efficient native bees (and other 
pollinating insects) that were doing a fine job of pollinating the 
native plants before the honeybees invaded. The way domestic honeybees 
are kept is also not natural. Hundreds of hives in close proximity may 
be the bee equivalent of factory hog farms. (On the other had, a 
single feral hive is a little like a very well-run factory hog farm). 
And beekeepers load thousands of hives onto semis and haul them across 
the country to pollinate crops - the going rate for almonds is over 
$100 dollars/hive; this insures that any local pestilence will be 
efficiently disseminated to the entire country.

To help the wild bees, I can't think of anything better than your 
suggestion, to plant things they like - preferably native plants that 
native bees like. The native bees may well not be subject to the 
pestilences of honeybees. I haven't heard of harvester bees - unless 
they are the same as carpenter bees that live in holes in wood, and are 
significant pollinators.

If you ever thought of keeping bees, I would tell you, as you put 
it, that your were nuts. But then that's something of a prerequisite. 
C. P. Dadant, an ancient bee guru said, "Beekeeping is a business that 
requires the greatest amount of attention to small details ... The good 
beekeeper is generally more or less cranky."

Kathy Evans
evansdk at earthlink.net
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