I will be the first to admit that I didn’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.
Managing Nature for Human Gain:
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.
13 thoughts on “Bees Are Buzzing Around This Vegan’s Head”
Thank you for this! Very informative and helpful. I hope to give a home to bees someday, but for their own good, not mine.
You are most welcome and thank you to you. I like how you say “for their own good, not mine”. My husband has recently put up a bat house on our property despite all the ridiculous notions about bats, that I have flying around in my head. He said to me, We need to help them and I agree.
Many thanks, Anne
Well this was an “eye opener”. I had no idea that this is how it is done…sound familiar? In our attempt to improve on “Mother Nature” it sounds like we are as usual messing things up!
Yes, it is news to me too! I believe that many people think of beekeeping as a peaceful interaction between the bees and their owners. My daughter first mentioned the truth to me a few years ago, but, since I did not eat honey, I did not follow up on it. I am glad now that I have and I will avoid any companies that are associated with the production of honey.
Many thanks, Anne.
I’m glad you chose to write about this topic. Many people don’t know the details about the beekeeping industry and its enslavement of honeybees. As well, I wonder how many of us even know or understand the vital importance of these insects as pollinators in food production. David Suzuki did an excellent show investigating the massive deaths of bees in the hive populations. He also revealed how these bees are so stressed as they are transported around the country, contracted out by beekeepers, to pollinate crops such as apples, almonds and many, many other crops. I know we need food to cultivate these foods but, sadly, millions of honeybees are manipulated to pollinate these crops. Apparently, honeybees are used less to make honey than to pollinate our food crops.
Thanks for the info about David Suzuki’s doc. I will check it out and may pass the info along in another post about bees. Stay tuned.
Wow – that is so informative. Thanks for the info. I’m done with honey. Used to have a few drops in my tea when i was sick but only for that reason. I am really sickened by this, b u t it is true. Factory bee farming. Exploitation. Humans – when WILL we ever learn and stop the manipulation and interference and bringing horror and grief to living creatures. I so much appreciate the article!!!
Welcome to my website, thank your for comment and I am very glad that you found the article informative. Sadly, any kind of bee farming whether it be industrial of small is exploitative and we certainly need to continue to inform people about why. There still seems to be a lot of confusion out there. I think that education is key is helping people to understand and to stop being complicit.
Thanks for the info! I find the use of language that you talk about very interesting. I had never really thought of it in this way before. People forget that the small creatures like insects have a life of their own. The insects actually have the most complex behaviours and should be respected like any other living creature.
Education is key, as you say to dispelling these myths. As you say this is just yet another form of factory farming and exploitation at it’s finest.
We need to leave animals alone to live life the way they want to.
I am still correcting my language when I speak. I catch myself saying that something is “bugging me”, a reference to insects being annoying, for instance. It takes work, but we will get there.
Well said – nothing to add!!
Love that even though you know nothing about bees, you go on to post a load of “facts” about bees and beekeeping. I agree that the management of colonies in hives doesn’t fit with the vegan ethos. However a plant based lifestyle relies on the mass transportation of bees from monoculture to monoculture which is terrible for bee health and as an earlier comment says is truly exploitation and nothing to do with honey.
Surely it is rank hypocrisy to rely on crops that are the result of this exploitation and decry those who eat eggs or drink milk?
Welcome to my website and thank you for your comments. Good question!! You are absolutely correct that bees are transported and used to pollinate crops that humans eat. Apples, almonds, pears come to mind here. The definition of veganism specifies that we end the exploitation of other species of animals wherever practical and possible. We live in a non vegan world where it is not possible never to exploit. We all leave a footprint and do not have control over current conventional plant growing practices which do exploit others. It is incumbent on each individual, depending on personal circumstance, to look at what is possible in order to reduce exploitation wherever it is found. Here are some suggestions.
1) Stop eating the flesh and secretions of other species of animals.
2) Seek out farmers who grow veganic food which uses no fertilizers or animal products.
3) grow your own food.
4) look for ways to reduce exploitation of others in all industries which do not directly use animals for profit.
5) research and avoid plants which use bees for pollination.
6) understand that asking people to stop ingesting animals and exploiting them in other ways is not decrying them personally, but rather standing up for the victims of said consumption.
If you would like some more information about veganic gardening, click the Guest Post tab on the Home Page of my website. There are several articles there.
If you would like some info about human exploitation of others for profit, type blood cashews into the search bar, to access an article that I wrote about this very subject.
Thanks and take care, Anne