I’ve been pondering the apparent plight of bees the past few days. I mean more so than usual.
I tried to take a picture of the lavender that is dancing under the weight of bees that zip from one blossom to the next, but photographs just don’t capture the magic. Still pictures just can’t show that the lavender is bouncing to and fro from all the bee busyness.
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I know it sounds naive, but it’s hard to witness the joy of so many bees in my garden and give credence to the allegedly pending doom of CCD (Colony Collapse Disorder). It’s not unlike the disconnect between the concept of Global warming and having to wear wool tights and a sweater to keep warm in Oregon. How can this be when our garden is teeming with all manner of bees?
There have been several theories about the causes of The Case of the Mysterious Bee Disappearance. These include the overuse of pesticides and herbicides, a version of the bee Swine Flu, viruses or mites, nutritional stress due to fewer available native plants, bee loss during commercial hives transportation, interference of bees’ flight/communication capabilities from cell phones, lack of genetic diversity or a multifaceted combo of all of these influences. Whatever it is, reduction of bees is not evidenced in my garden. The Lavender, Sunflowers, Echinacea and Oregano seem to be teeming even more this year with honeys and bumbles working their little bee bodies to the bone. In fact, they work so hard they fall asleep after a hard day in the field and sleep so soundly they are hard to rouse in the morning. I love this bee high five.
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As you may know, we don’t use beeswax to make any EMAB products, and it’s an issue that we put on the table from time to time. If we did use organic beeswax, the balms would have a smoother texture and they would all be eligible to be certified 100% organic. But before we make that decision, I want to believe that there is a long term sustainable supply of organic beeswax. According to a recent OPB Radio broadcast, the evidence may have turned around about CCD. It appears that the rate of colony disappearance has reduced from 30-90% three years ago to 29% from all causes this past winter.
I have consulted the heads of many organic personal care product manufacturers that use large quantities of organic beeswax, and they are definitely convinced that organic beeswax can be sustainably harvested without threat to the bee population on this planet. Queens raised naturally by the hive result in diversity, health and disease resistance of the species. The current commercial practice is to replace the queen every 1-3 years with a new queen that has been bred for honey production has led to the weakening of the bee species. Organic beeswax suppliers do not use this practice, thus helping contribute to the strength of the hive.
There are no “organic” bees, but organic beekeepers might have avoided CCD because they allow their bees to breed naturally and go naturally about their bee work (minding their own beeswax). Organic beekeepers are also less likely to use chemicals or antibiotics, or artificial feeding, and they keep their bees away from pesticide-laden crops.
I’d like to think that this planet, like our bodies, knows how to adapt, adjust and thrive. But when we mess with the natural order of things, the earth has a heck of a job trying to provide while healing. I’d love to be convinced that the bees are fine (and here’s a heartening article that suggests they might be). I’d love to be 100% sure that if I use what the bees create I am not contributing to their demise before we make this decision. I’m in the business of nurturing mamas and babies, and protecting Mother Earth for them to enjoy is a huge part of that.
So this leaves us with finding answers and solutions. The answers to the problem are unclear, but being investigated. Figuring out how we can all help seems intuitively obvious. We can stop our use of pesticides and grow our vegetables and flowers without using chemicals that harm the earth. We can plant native and heirloom wildflowers and vegetables and support non-GMO agriculture to help ensure a bountiful feast for the bees. And don’t forget to pet them once in awhile.
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