Earlier this evening I had a wonderful dinner in a restaurant but was dampened by this family who was sitting next to my table. I guess the son was about 6 years old. There was this jar of honey on their table and the child was smearing it all over the food, wasting it. The parents did nothing. My heart sank! . I felt so sad for the bees. Throughout their lifetime, which is only around 45 to 60 days, a worker honeybee is only able to collect half a teaspoon of honey. If one has ever been out into the field and watch how the bees collect nectar for rainy days, I believe the whole mindset of appreciating honey will change. I can only blame myself for not being able to reach out to as many people as possible to share with them what tough times these bees are going through right now.
This brought me to this article my friend showed me a few days back, Low Tech Treatment for a Bee Plague by Arron Hirsh. It’s related to a very serious issue the honey industry is facing……..COLONY COLLASPE DISORDER! If you do not know what it is, it’s about honeybees disappearing from the surface of the earth without any traces or reasons. So far what we have are only theories.
Here’s an extract;
Last winter, over a third of the honeybee hives kept in the United States suffered the strange fate now called Colony Collapse Disorder.
What’s at stake here is not just our honey, or our favorite symbol of cooperative society, but our food. Most of our crops require pollination — deposition of a bit of male pollen on the female flower — to set fruit and ultimately produce the parts we eat. Out of 115 of the world’s leading crops, 87 depend on animals — predominantly bees — to perform that vital act of placing pollen.
And it is important to add that, here in the United States, the majority of our crops are pollinated not by wild bees, or even by honeybees like mine, which live in one location throughout the year, but by a vast mobile fleet of honeybees-for-rent.
From the almond trees of California to the blueberry bushes of Maine, hundreds of thousands of domestic honeybee hives travel the interstate highways on tractor-trailers. The trucks pull into a field or orchard just in time for the bloom; the hives are unloaded; and the bees are released. Then, when the work of pollination is done, the bees are loaded up, and the trucks pull out, heading for the next crop due to bloom.
The mobile fleets have been hit exceptionally hard by Colony Collapse Disorder, and if the epidemic continues, crop yields will soon decline. The consequences of CCD are therefore very clear. The causes, however, are not.
Some says it is due to pesticides or viruses. Others narrowed it down to the amount of environmental stress that these honeybees are being put through as mentioned by the Arron Hirish. What actually happens is still anybody’s guesses.
When our research and feasibilty studies on Uganda honey was carried out in 2001, we were very pleased to learn that the Uganda honeybees are literally disease free and unaffected by what is happening to their cousins in other regions of the world. We sat down on many occasions to discuss these findings. There are various opinions that we conclude in common. One view that emerged more prominently was that the environment that Uganda honeybees lives in currently is still ideal as per their evolutionary genetics capabilities.
I had handled other species of honeybees and non are as ferocious as these bees in Uganda. In the article, there was this paragraph,
“Some keepers say the problem isn’t just with the honeybees’ lifestyle, but with their genetics, as well, since they’ve been bred for traits that make them easier to handle, but may also render them more vulnerable to disease.”
Uganda honeybees are probably more resilient to diseases because they have still retained their original genes. Yes they can be very very ferocious indeed. Even very experienced beekeepers can get stung by them too if they underestimate their ferocity. Recently, some of my visiting compartriot beekeepers, who have many years of experience, were subjected to just such a surprise reception from the local bees.
Most consumers may not have realized that many honeybees are infected with some kind of viruses or being deformed by some destructive mites. During my trip back here in Singapore, I visited many stores and supermarkets to have a grasp of the development of honey consumption in this little city state. What I saw are beautifully labelled jars stating the wonderful contents of its honey content. Sadly, what the consumers would never see are the constant struggles these honeybees are subjected to by many of their human attendents in order to fill up that jar of honey .
It certainly takes two hands to clap. If we can learn to respect the way bees live their lives, and to learn to work WITH them instead of making them working FOR us, the end result would be good honey that are produced from bees that do not require medical treatments. Cause and effect.
Whenever I go upcountry to work with the bees, whenever I harvest and collect the honey from them, I feel a sense of achievement and joy because deep in my heart, I know these bees are kept as closely, according to their natural habitat requirement and the honey collected are as pure as it can be. And having stress free honeybees will produce good wholesome honey, and thats Uganda Honey from us.