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Colony Collapse Disorder and The Disappearing Bees
By Judith Fine-Sarchielli



I made a beeline to the Honeybee Symposium held at the Wright Organic Resource Center in Malibu, California, on September 27, 2008. Thea Soroyan, Event Visionary and Jungian Therapist, was the muse for this unique event. Soroyan was inspired by two dreams that evoked the honeybees and her responsibility to communicate their importance in today's world. The Wright Center was established by Eric Lloyd Wright, the grandson of Frank Lloyd Wright, and his wife, Nan. The center holds environmentally correct events on their property located in a scenic Malibu canyon.

I also believe the honeybees want to communicate their secret to the world. They want to explain how we can save ourselves, along with our planet. The disappearance of the bees, Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD), first recorded in 2006, is an urgent call to arms that we must heed so we can understand the secret contained in their message. We must bring the honeybees back to their hives, and thereby save our own hive that is called "civilization". Yogadanda, the visionary and guru, compared the heart of a human being to a honeycomb that houses the collective consciousness of a society or civilization. Both the honeybees and the human colony are in a cycle shift and transition. We must make it a positive shift and not become toxic with fear and doubt. The honeybees and we are symbiotic.

The entire day at this inspiring event was devoted to stimulating and information-packed presentations by experts from various parts of the USA and California: artists, writers, poets, journalists, beekeepers, scientists, food manufacturers, consultants, the media, an anti-pesticide organization and a concerned and vociferous audience, many of whom are gardeners. I was astonished at the quality of the presentations about all aspects of bee life and lore: the scientific, symbolic, psychological, philosophical and spiritual.

Johan Narin, a 19th century biologist, thought that bees are nurturing insects that masquerade as vertebrate (mammals). He saw bees as a super-organism that has a similar circulatory system, metabolism, and sexual hormones to humans and also nurses its young. From Narin's viewpoint, the honeybees and we are distant genetic relatives.

Scientists worldwide want to know the cause of Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD). They are frustrated and puzzled because they have found no definitive answers to this problem, despite more than ten years of intensive research. Dr. Eric Mussen, PH.D in Entomology, and an Apiculturist for over 30 years at the University of California, Davis, spoke about the biology of the bee and the process of the symbiosis of plants and pollination. He stated that a Queen honeybee needs at least 1,500 to 2,000 worker bees to start a colony. She cannot do it by herself. She must be fertilized by a male (drone). Her worker bees make 12 daily trips back and forth to the hive to gather the nectar that sustains her so she can give birth to the one thousand eggs daily. Not all of these babies will grow into worker bees because some have other tasks to fulfill. Bees work very hard to obtain honey from flowers, trees and other plants to make the nectar that nourishes the Queen. A honeybee visits up to 600 flowers an hour. To make one pound of honey, a colony of bees collect nectar from over one million flowers. The female worker bee only makes 1-½ teaspoons of honey in her life.

Because so many bees die a day naturally, the Queen must constantly be nourished with the precious nectar that the worker bees bring her as they support the colony. The bees' work is seasonal, and the bees can compensate for temperature extremes. They fan their wings furiously to cool the hive and huddle together to warm their environment and protect the larvae. Certain mites will destroy the hive. There are 2000 species of bees in California, whose plant pollination provides a preventive source for reducing watershed and erosion control. We would lose 80% to 90% of our plants if we lost the honeybees, including the alfalfa, which feeds our beef. We humans need the honeybees to continue their laborious efforts on all the diverse levels, which guarantee our own survival.

The experts know that CCD is cyclical and has been recorded since the late 1800s. It is a global occurrence that comes in cycles during the months of October, November and December. This present cycle began in 2004, and mites, their deadly enemy, have devastated many of the honeybee colonies until the present time. Beekeepers, scientists and people all over the world are waiting for the results for the autumn of 2008. If it is a cycle as devastating as many believe possible, the planet will have a major agricultural and ecological disaster in our lives…sometimes called "The Silent Epidemic".

Many beekeepers believe that honeybees can no longer ward off parasites due to years of humans' environmental manipulation. Some of these problems which have occurred due to weather changes, pollution, drought and disease are also partially responsible for CCD. Another cause may be our denial of the honeybees' importance to our own well-being. The Sardinians of the past believed the bees became extinct if they were not loved enough. Three-quarters of the plants on earth depend on animals and insects for pollination. Honeybees annually pollinate over 15 billion dollars of food crops. Not just bees, but all pollinating animals have been disappearing for years.

Other scientists and environmentalists think that the major threat to the honeybees and our entire ecosystem is the prevalence of systemic chemicals such as 24D Neonicotinoids, which often affect the humans who eat these toxic plants. The Italian Minister of Agriculture, Luca Zala, is preparing to ban neonicotinoids from use in Italy. Francesco Panella, President of the Italian Union of Beekeepers, (UNAAP), says "between 40% and 50% of Italy's honeybees have vanished since the start of 2007." Panella states "The authorization of these toxic chemicals was irresponsibly authorized by public powers that bowed to pressure from the chemical industry," said Panella, and added, "This massive die-out would cost farmers 2.5 billion euros." Germany has banned these systemic chemicals, and France has also begun the process to limit them. Some studies suggest that the use of neonicotinoids leads honeybees to stop feeding larvae, which results in a breakdown of their navigational abilities. The honeybees leave their hive to go out and pollinate, lose their sense of direction and can no longer find their way back to their hives.

Two of the speakers at the Symposium were professional beekeepers who addressed the art of beekeeping as a way to honor and protect the bees from harm, instead of using them commercially. Ron Breeland, from upstate New York, is the creator of The Bee Sanctuary. He has been a teacher and lecturer about sustainable beekeeping for many years. Ron has invented a new type of honeybee hive structure that supports and facilitates the honeybee's hive construction and honey-making process with a safe and natural environment.

Delmar Lathers, a lifelong resident of Topanga, CA, and a beekeeper for over 30 years, is a dedicated environmentalist and native plant specialist who protects wild and feral bees of different species. He addressed the sexuality of honeybees, how their hormones affect the honeybees' mission, and the variety of gender-specific tasks that relate to the Queen honeybee and the hive.

The ancient Mayans honored the importance of the bees and developed their social structure around the Stingless Bee. The ancient Egyptians, Greeks and Romans worshipped the honeybees and incorporated bee symbolism in their art and architecture, as well as their myths and rituals. According to another speaker at the Bee Symposium, Nancy Macko, Chair of the Department of Gender and Women's Studies at Scripps College, a practicing artist, is adamant about the fact that, " The bee species lives in a close, matriarchal-based society."

Macko shared that priestesses of the Goddess Gaia, Mother Earth, in ancient Greece were often referred to as Bee Priestesses, or Melissae, and channeled the mysteries and prophecies of the Oracle of Delphi to the Greek priests. These priestesses' were named after Melissa, the goddess of honey. In ancient times, honey was used as a sacramental blessing that originated from the Divine Source. Honey was used in ancient Egyptian and Greek fertility rites and in the Eluysinian Mysteries. The Romans used honey as part of the bride's dowry and as tax payment.

Raw honey is a complete food that contains proteins, carbohydrates, enzymes, amino acids and minerals. It can be used as a healing agent for wounds, as it was during WWI, when Penicillin was in short supply. It is anti-bacterial and will never spoil.

Rudolph Steiner, the 19th century visionary, philosopher, and inventor of biodynamics, believed that the swarming of the bees signified the sacrifice of the bees to humanity. He wrote, in his book "Bees", that the honeybees are actually trying to signal us that this world is finite and if we understand their sacrifice, we will be humans at our finest.

At the end of this information-packed day, I left the Honeybee Symposium having understood some of the causes of the mysterious CCD. Thanks to all the vital information shared by the symposium speakers, I now understand that our planet is the hive called 'Planet Earth', which we must protect and nourish in every possible way. Each one of us builds the walls and cells that support the Source of our existence with different energies. Whether it is through our attitudes, our treatment of others, our global intent or our daily self-respect, the nectar of compassion, understanding and openness we produce is essential to the survival of our small universe. The secret that the honeybees communicate to us with their ageless 'waggle dance', is that we are globally connected to the world's cultures, and we affect these cultures' hives as they do ours. We must be interconnected and interactive in order to sustain our Mother Earth and ourselves.

As the Dali Lama recently shared, 'Mankind lags behind the bees when we speak about a sense of social responsibility and teamwork.' My question is, 'Will we choose to pollinate or pollute Mother Earth?”


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