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Saturday, May 19, 2007

Grinding That Ax Won't Save the Bees

If you've been reading my blog or my posts at, you know that I'm a little obsessed with Colony Collapse Disorder, which is wiping out honeybees. So I read with interest a post at DailyKos about organic versus commercial bee-keeping, and why raising honeybees commercially is the reason for the die-off. You can find more explanation of the organic versus commercial thesis here.

The thesis in a nutshell: By raising bees in square Langstroth Boxes, we are killing the honeybees. Feral honeybees build colony cells 4.9 millimeters wide. A Langstroth box, used for about 200 years, has a cell about 5.4 millimeters wide. This breeds larger bees and gives pests like mites more room to breed and kill the bees.

I have to say I'm not convinced. I'm not a bee expert, but this is a line from the story: "recent data had shown that the number of managed bees is Starting to recover slightly due to more diligent pest management, but that the feral bee population has been decimated."

Well, if "going organic" is the solution to everything, why are feral honeybees dying? They build the cells the "proper" size. They feed their colonies honey, not syrup. They don't artificially replace their queens to prevent swarming. In other words, feral honeybees do everything that organic beekeepers say they should be doing, and yet they're the ones whose populations are suffering the brunt of the die-off.

I am not a bee expert, however I still believe it is new breeds of pesticides that are the problem. For one thing, pesticides affect feral and commercial honeybees alike, don't they?

Honeybees are our best immigrant (from Europe) migrant workers. They don't ask for money or days off. Our agriculture depends on them. We have to save them and they are dying like flies (pardon the insect pun). Saving them should be a national priority. I hope this problem is solved soon, and I'll likely keep obsessing about it until we hear some good news.
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