What is Killing the Bees?

bees and poppies

What’s the cause of colony collapse disorder (CCD)? We may be getting closer with the release of a study from the University of Maryland about fungicides and other chemicals used in agriculture.

This study is more interesting than many others I’ve seen. It looked at how pesticides interfere with honeybee’s resistance to a common parasite Nosema ceranae. Bees exposed to a widely used agricultural fungicide, chlorothonatil, were more likely to succumb to nosema. The most provocative result for me was that bees exposed to fluvalinate, a miticide used by beekeepers on their own bees, were also likely to get nosema.

Perhaps the villain in CCD is the beekepers themselves. Don’t get me wrong, pesticides probably play a role in CCD. But we must also remember that commercial beekeepers:

  • Treat their bees with pesticides to control mites and these chemicals, as the study points out, harm the bee’s immune systems.
  • Move hives thousands of miles every year to provide pollination services.
  • Place their hives in monocropped areas where their bees can forage on only one kind of nectar/pollen such as almonds in California and citrus in Florida.
  • Use foundation (sometimes made of plastic sometimes made of wax that may be contaminated with pesticides) that does not allow the bees to build their own comb.
  • Regulate (through the use of foundation) the amount of drones the queen can make. Drones may be a sacrificial first defense against mites.
  • Use queen excluders to prevent the queen from moving freely through the hive.
  • Kill the queen and re-queen every year, often using artificially inseminated queens.
  • Import hives from other climates.
  • Feed hives high fructose corn syrup.

Nassim Nicholas Taleb’s new book Antifragile: Things That Gain from Disorder warns about what happens when we prop up and interfere with complex systems like beehives or the economy. When we don’t allow failure (such as trying to prevent mites with chemicals) we set ourselves up for bigger disasters down the road. It’s very convenient to be able to point the finger at the pesticides farmers use. But just like Ben Bernanke, the big beekeepers can’t see the foolishness of their own practices. Point this out at most local beekeeping association meetings and you’ll be shown the door.

This cluelessness is why I recommend new beekeepers avoid most state beekeeping organizations. For a practical and wholistic approach to beekeeping see Michael Bush’s website, The Practical Beekeeper and look at the videos at the Backwards Beekeepers.

Are you part of a natural, no-treatment beekeeping group? Or is your local beekeeping club open to alternative methods? If so, leave a comment . . .

Saturday Linkages: Sidewalk Koi, Papercrete, Jaywalking and How to Grow Fresh Air

Wendy Tremayne and Mikey Sklar's papercrete

Wendy Tremayne and Mikey Sklar’s papercrete masterpiece.

Sidewalk Koi http://greenroofgrowers.blogspot.com/2013/08/sidewalk-koi.html …

Worker sent to remove graffiti finds image of himself on the same wall hours later http://fw.to/wOjTzDJ

Let’s Build A Traditional City (And Make A Profit) http://www.andrewalexanderprice.com/blog20130330.php …

Tiny Tea House on Wheels http://feedproxy.google.com/~r/lloydkahn/~3/D2Xib4vOfeY/tiny-tea-house-on-wheels.html …

Straatlokaal Dumpster Structures http://tinyhouseblog.com/construction-articles/straatlokaal-dumpster-structures/ …

Building with Papercrete at the Good Life Lab : http://wp.me/p22K2I-1mgi 

Straw Bale Dome Home in France http://www.naturalbuildingblog.com/straw-bale-dome-home-in-france/ …

Do-it-yourself Pole-barn Building http://www.naturalbuildingblog.com/do-it-yourself-pole-barn-building/ …

Healthy Design: 3 Core Engaging Chairs http://www.apartmenttherapy.com/three-unusual-ergonomic-task-chairs-191874 …

How to Grow Fresh Air http://www.naturalbuildingblog.com/how-to-grow-fresh-air/ …

Secret Garden of Survival – How to Grow a Camouflaged Food Forest http://www.naturalbuildingblog.com/secret-garden-of-survival-how-to-grow-a-camouflaged-food-forest/ …

How Flora Grubb and an Airport DJ Saved My Soul by Allen Bush http://gardenrant.com/2013/07/how-flora-grubb-and-an-airport-dj-saved-my-soul.html?utm_source=feedly …

On Rooftops, a Rival for Utilities http://nyti.ms/15luRcD

The Invention of Jaywalking Was a Massive Shaming Campaign http://paleofuture.gizmodo.com/the-invention-of-jaywalking-was-a-massive-shaming-campa-858926923 …

For these links and more, follow Root Simple on Twitter:

LA Cracks Down On Parkway Vegetable Gardens

Our clueless, incompetent and backwards city government here in Los Angeles apparently has nothing better to do than crack down on parkway vegetable gardens two years after hassling Ron Finley. Steve Lopez, a columnist for the Los Angeles Times, wrote a great column about this ridiculous situation, “L.A. still saying parkway vegetable gardens must go.” And above you can hear Lopez joined by Finley and Councilman Bernard Parks (who sounds like the president of an excuse factory) discuss the situation.

Please Tweet, Facebook, email and otherwise spread the word. My hometown government needs some international ridicule.

The Society for the Diffusion of Useful Ignorance

Henry David Thoreau

I’m turning over the blog today to Henry David Thoreau, who has kindly taken a break from running his pencil factory to blog for free:

We have heard of a Society for the Diffusion of Useful Knowledge. It is said that Knowledge is power; and the like. Methinks there is equal need of a Society for the Diffusion of Useful Ignorance, what we will call Beautiful Knowledge, a knowledge useful in a higher sense; for what is most of our boasted so — called knowledge but a conceit that we know something, which robs us of the advantage of our actual ignorance? What we call knowledge is often our positive ignorance; ignorance our negative knowledge. By long years of patient industry and reading of the newspapers, — for what are the libraries of science but files of newspapers? — a man accumulates a myriad facts, lays them up in his memory, and then when in some spring of his life he saunters abroad into the great Fields of thought, he as it were goes to grass like a horse, and leaves all his harness behind in the stable. I would say to the Society for the Diffusion of Useful Knowledge, sometimes — Go to grass. You have eaten hay long enough. The Spring has come with its green crop. The very cows are driven to their country pastures before the end of May; though I have heard of one unnatural farmer who kept his cow in the barn and fed her on hay all the year round. So, frequently the Society for the Diffusion of Useful Knowledge treats its cattle.

A man’s ignorance sometimes is not only useful, but beautiful, while his knowledge, so called, is oftentimes worse than useless beside being ugly. Which is the best man to deal with, he who knows nothing about a subject, and what is extremely rare, knows that he knows nothing, — or he who really knows something about it, but thinks that he knows all?

My desire for knowledge is intermittent; but my desire to bathe my head in atmospheres unknown to my feet is perennial and constant. The highest that we can attain to is not Knowledge, but Sympathy with Intelligence. I do not know that this higher knowledge amounts to anything more definite than a novel and grand surprise on a sudden revelation of the insufficiency of all that we called Knowledge before — a discovery that there are more things in heaven and earth than are dreamed of in our philosophy. It is the lighting up of the mist by the sun. Man cannot know in any higher sense than this, any more than he can look serenely and with impunity in the face of the sun: “You will not perceive that as perceiving a particular thing,” say the Chaldean Oracles

–From Walking, written in 1862. Read the rest here.