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Where Have All the Honeybees Gone?

I recently attended the M.O.S.E.S. Conference in La Crosse, WI. The Midwest Organic and Sustainable Education Service (MOSES) serves farmers striving to produce high-quality, healthful food using organic and sustainable techniques. These farmers produce more than just food; they support thriving ecosystems and vibrant rural communities. I am the Kitchen Manager for the Willy Street Co-op Production Kitchen, and we also strive for the same high-quality produce that supports these farmers and our community. We prepare most of the deli items, catering and hot food that you will find in our Deli departments and source local organic ingredients when available, always trying to help our local communities when we can.
Because I do not have a farm or a garden, finding a topic to write about was a challenge. I happened to find it in a very small dark movie room. I had gone in there to watch a completely different film but when that one hadn’t arrived, the kind volunteer decided instead to play the movie “Vanishing of the Bees.” I sat through the 87-minute film with tears in my eyes. I had never even thought or known anything about what I was watching. It completely broke my heart. Filmed across the U.S., in Europe, Australia and Asia, this documentary examines the alarming disappearance of honeybees and the greater meaning it holds about the relationship between humankind and Mother Earth. As scientists puzzle over the cause, organic beekeepers indicate alternative reasons for this tragic loss. Conflicting options abound and after years of research, a definitive answer has not been found to this harrowing mystery.

Where have all the honeybees gone? This is a major question that most of us don’t even know about or pay attention too. The documentary takes a close, hard look at the economic, political and ecological implications of the worldwide disappearance of honeybees.  I never realized the impact honeybees have on our eco-system, how much we really need them and how we have managed to practically destroy them at the same time. Without bees there would be no fruits and vegetables. Can you imagine what that would be like for our children? Bees are an indicator of our environmental quality; if they aren’t around what does that say about us?  I think we all know the answer to this. The environment and how we have been treating it has been a hotbed topic for as long as I can remember. Most of us, even the very educated, have different opinions and knowledge about what is really happening. I say let’s start to open our eyes to what nature already warns us about.

Colony Collapse Disorder
The honeybees have stunned scientists with what they are calling Colony Collapse Disorder or CCD. This happens when the worker bees abruptly disappear form the hive or colony; they have abandoned their young and the Queen. there is no evidence that they are dying; they simply disappear. Beekeepers are losing more than 40,000 to 2 million bees within weeks. Many farmers in this documentary had lost everything; it was a disturbing site to see huge piles of hives being burned because they had been abandoned. So who is to blame? According to the scientists in the video, farming practices such as monoculture and the use of systemic pesticides may be the cause. We are losing the battle with this and, as a result, more fresh produce is produced further and further from our own front doors.

Over 95% of the foods we eat have been treated with these chemicals; this is the real cost of eating “cheap foods.” What we can do as Owners to help this cause? Cut the use of toxic chemicals in your house and lawns, buy as local as you can possibly get and read the label, especially on your honey. Support the local organic beekeepers who are trying to make a difference and help the problem. Some local options here at the Co-op are:

  • Some Honey from New Lisbon.

  • Wisconsin Natural Acres from Chilton.

  • Gentle Breeze Honey from Mt. Horeb.

Support your local Co-ops and tell your friends and family to also. Together we can make a difference.

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