This is a collaborative entry by Equillibrium , our Core Sales Representative Cara Kruse Gurule, and Pamela Henriksen. Like Equillibrium, Cara seeks to foster education to consumers. In this blog Cara interviews Pamela Henriksen, a studied biologist and bee keeper in SoCal who inspired us to help spread the word. We would be obliged to hear your feedback in the comments section below…
Honeybee pollenating Echinacea in Cara’s backyard in Denver.
Did you know the bees have affected every 3rd bite of food humans eat? This is due to pollination, as she travels from flower to flower. Did you also know the worker bees are always female? That’s right ladies, hats off to you in this species. A colony consists of one queen, all her worker bees and a small percentage of drones (male bees). All of the female worker bees divide their tasks up as: nurse bees, guard bees, housekeeping bees, undertaker bees and foraging bees to name a few. The bees will move through all roles within their short life span (45 days), with the final role as a foraging bee. The drones do not do any work within the hive. In fact, their only purpose to the colony is to spread their genes and mate with a virgin queen. The work and social dynamic of bees is generally amazing. They are integral and efficient pollinators that are an indicator species to our environment and keystone to our agricultural systems. It is very concerning that since 2006 the Bee population has declined 90% in both the US and Europe, igniting scientific communities worldwide to study why…
Many causes have been discovered to be directly affecting bee population such as: disease, parasites, environmental change-related stresses, malnutrition, pesticides and GMO crops. Recent research led us to the study of a specific pesticide, neonicotinoids (neonics), developed in the last decade. Neonics, in large doses, absolutely confuse and can kill bees. This has led to bans in Europe and Canada, though research unveiled recently are showing that alternative chemical pesticides being resorted to by farmers are far worse than the neonics, which were found generally undetectable in the reproductive blooms of many treated plants (Forbes, 2014). This has yet to play out on an agricultural level, as scientists continue to study bee populations and their patterns. It is clear that, outside of diseases, chemical pesticides are killing bees – especially when used improperly.
In order to show some perspective, we conducted an interview with Family of Equillibrium (literally – she’s Deb’s sister). Pamela Henriksen earned her Bachelor of Science Degree (from University of California- Santa Barbara) in Aquatic Biology. She is a studied and experienced biologist and environmental activist. Read what she has to say, see what interests you and act on it. Keep the buzz alive!
Pamela’s Bees, and her “Queen Sierra” in the middle
CKG: What sparked your interest in bees?
PH: I continued to hear and read about Colony Collapse Disorder and that our honeybees were in trouble. Being a biologist and environmental scientist I know how important the honeybees are to our lives and survival. Like a canary in a coal mine, the bees are on the front line and their plight is something we need to pay attention to. It is an indication of a major upset in the ecosystem that affects us all. I wanted to learn more about what is truly happening and what I could do to help.
CKG: What steps have you taken to learn and accustom yourself with the Beekeepers and bees?
PH: To get answers I did a brief search on the Internet and found my local beekeeper association and saw that they had free monthly meetings. What better way to figure out what is going on than to ask the folks that work with the bees themselves. I showed up at a meeting and was almost instantly hooked. Fascinated by what I was hearing and seeing, I kept attending the meetings to learn more. I had fallen in love with the world of the honeybee. I knew I had to get a hive and work with them first hand.
Deb (Equillibrium) and Pamela Henriksen (left to right). Sisters by both blood and kindred spirits…
CKG: How have Neonics affected the honeybee population and what can we do to grow populations? On a small and large level?
PH: I can’t fully answer this question. All I can tell you is that in my research colony collapse disorder can’t be pinned on any one thing but rather a cumulative storm of things. There is no question in my mind that neonicotonoids has had and continues to have a devastating impact on the honeybees but there is soo much more to this conversation that is not being talked about.
What most people don’t know is that the preferred honeybee for commercial beekeepers is the Western or European honeybee, species Apis mellifera. Due to its gentle and docile characteristics, good foraging habits and honey yields, this species has been breed for decades. The overbreeding of this species has not been without consequence. It has created a bee that may not be well suited to today’s ever changing environment. We are rapidly losing our open spaces and native plants with which the honeybee depends on for development.
On top of that, the commercial bees we hear so much about are stressed by being moved from one part of the country to another for pollination of monocrops for months at a time. This has an impact on the bees’ nutritional needs and stresses them out. Imagine, eating primarily one thing for months at a time. You wouldn’t be getting all the important nutrients you need to support a healthy immune system. Add to that, an ever increasing load of toxins due to pesticide and fungicide use, and your already stressed out body would become incredibly susceptible to disease and attack by parasites. This is what is happening to our honeybees. Once the honeybees are under siege by parasites or disease, they are treated with antibiotics and other pest controls which also add to the dilemma. As you can see this is a COMPLEX issue.
What can YOU do about it?
Maintain wild open spaces, plant an organic bee friendly garden (watch out for GM plants), buy organically grown produce, buy honey only from local sustainable sources, support legislature banning neonicotinoids and harmful pesticides and fungicides, join your local beekeeper association, become a beekeeper, get in on the conversation and spread the message! We are all in this together… the first step is awareness. But, action MUST follow!!!
CKG: What about this experience was exciting and inspiring?
PH: It’s all been exciting and inspiring. I have learned soo much from the bees! Each time I visit the hive they show me something new. I take great pleasure being in their presence. Also in listening to the low buzz they emit, feeling their vibration and watching their behavior, they are absolutely amazing!
CKG: Where do you wish to take this on an individual level?
PH: I am currently working at a local urban biodynamic farm in Laguna Beach, Ca and helping them develop a curriculum to teach the community about bees and beekeeping. I hope to bring this awareness to others, peek their curiosity and inspire then to learn more about bees, beekeeping, being a good steward to the land and themselves J
Pamela working with her girls…
As activists like Pamela show, the average person can help in this fight. There are numerous ways, but the easiest way to start is by shopping farm to table and seeking out organics that help bee communities thrive. Here is a list of Farmer’s Markets: Denver Metro Farmers Markets. Check for markets in your area to support local, organic farming. By utilizing the 60% of the United States that is privately owned and organically farming our own gardens, there will be a reduction in chemical pesticide use and a positive impact the ecosystems directly around us. There is a lot of positive impact consumers can make to help stop Colony Collapse Disorder amongst our honeybees, through a mass collective movement to ban harmful pesticides, avoid neonics and buying plants from local, organic farm outlets (NEVER from big box stores!) there stands a chance to sustain our future with honeybees.