THE DEATH OF BEES

David Wansbrough

What a scene of desolation. To lift the lid of a hive and find a lonely queen and juveniles without attendants. No corpses, no workers. No noise. No warm whirring of wings. What has happened? There are no killer pathogens in the hive. No evidence of disease. Then where are the bees?

In a healthy hive bees live a cyclic life. They emerge and care for other larvae by feeding and cooling the nursery cells and with a blur of wing movements they circulate air. They build and repair the hive. And by the repeated exercises they gain strength because in their last week of life they venture out for the tiring work of fetching pollen and nectar.  And in their final days they only fly to sight new food sources and return to dance to show others the coordinates. But now with our insecticides weakening and killing the foragers, younger untrained bees venture out who fail to find their way home. Have they not seen the dance? Are their wings not strong enough?

Here is a real tragedy.

My theory is this:

When I was a boy being taught bee keeping in the suburbs of New Zealand by that mountain of a man, Sir Edmund Hillary, we watched the little geometricians first building the vertical wax matrix inside our frames. It was wonderful to see the multidimensional wax wall being created by cooperative multitudes of busy bees. Then the horizontal walls became an extension. Now through unconscious greed we insert already machine manufactured wax imprinted sheets into our frames to save time so that the bees can quickly get on with making honey, not to feed themselves, but to satisfy us.

By taking away the possibility of making the mighty vertical architecture we deprive the bees not only of millions of years of evolutionary purpose, but also of the strengthening activity for each organism needed to venture out and return with nutriment for all. We have weakened each bee. We have weakened our own society through the unthinking moral lapse into urgent greed.

Perhaps we should bee worthy of the honey that strengthens our individuality.