I will be the first to admit that I don’t know much about bees. I probably have not thought much about bees over the course of my lifetime. I know that there are bees who sting and bees who don’t. I thought that all bees produce honey, which I now know is not true. It is really the honeybee who makes the honey that is sold commercially throughout the world. Bees pollinate our plants to keep the cycle of growth and renewal, renewing, as it were. But, apparently, it is not the honeybee who does the main part of this oh, so important work. Rather, this is the job of the humble bumble bee who we see buzzing around our plants from time to time.
I used to consume honey back when I was not a vegan. But it was never a big item in our home. When I was kid, there was always a sticky plastic hive shaped bottle sitting somewhere in the cupboard. Somehow, that same, sticky bottle ended up in my, I am a grownup now, cupboard. My kids ate it on their toast and I would use it in baking from time to time. But mostly, the sticky bottle would sit there until the honey solidified and would not come back to a usable, liquid state even when microwaved. That is when it hit the trash bin, plastic bottle and all.
I have been thinking about bees lately because the Rooftop/Garden business from which I buy organic veggies each week has recently started “raising” bees as a project.
We started a small rooftop apiary as an interesting project to learn more about beekeeping and supporting honeybee populations. We’re also hoping to harvest a bit of honey as well :).
And, I am not sure if I am okay with that. So, I started to do a little bit of research and without regurgitating the entire history of bees and bee keeping, I will highlight some of the points that I find particularly germane.
- Most honeybees are factory farmed.
- Most Queen bees are artificially inseminated.
- Queen bees can live up to five years, but are usually killed and replaced by the beekeeper every two years.
- A successor queen is selected by a human, rather than by the reigning Queen bee.
- Queen bees are produced commercially and shipped (flown) to the waiting bee keeper.
- In nature, colonies divide when there is more honey than is needed to support and feed one colony.
- Colonies (hives) are routinely split according to the wants of the beekeeper.
- The bees are routinely prevented from swarming (to form a new colony) by killing the old queen who is much more likely to swarm.
- The bees are recaptured if they do manage to swarm.
- A smoker used to manipulate the bees causes them to gorge on honey and may prevent the entire colony from becoming agitated.
- Honey is stored in the hive as winter food for the bees.
- Most of this food (honey) is stolen by the beekeeper and replaced with sugar water.
- All of the spring-summer honey is stolen (harvested) by the beekeeper.
- 10-20 percent of the colonies are lost over the winter both by accident and on purpose.
- When the honey is collected, many bees are squashed by the frames, are stepped on and also die from stinging the keeper in defense of their home.
In doing this research, I learned that honeybees are not domesticated even though they are manipulated by humans for our wants, not needs. There is no evidence that honey provides any kind of vital nutrient for human survival. The bucolic picture that is painted by honey producers is very far from the truth. Honey production is factory farming like any other nonhuman animal industry. It is no different than enslaving cows for their milk, chickens for their eggs, sheep for their wool and aquatic animals for their flesh, eggs and fins. The bees are not free to head for greener pastures if they so wish. They are manipulated into staying and are recaptured if they do escape. In effect, the methods of beekeeping prevent the honeybees from practicing behaviors and instincts which are natural to their species.
Annie’s Vegan View
Please join me in looking for and debunking these mind numbing terms.
Watch out for the Language Switch when thinking about bees and their place in nature:
Industry Jargon versus The Reality
Beekeeping Factory Farming
Replace Queen Kill Queen
May all beings be happy and free.