After learning where our bees come from these days, I obviously wondered about queens. A piece of my heart was chipped off last year when I found out how they were raised. Like many things in the agricultural sector here, they are mass produced to “support” the industry. — and when I say support I really mean gradually ruin it.
Mass production isn’t conducive to sustaining an industry. It doesn’t take a genius to figure that one out, rather just a bit of brain power. Producing a lot of anything throws off natural balances and outside tools and substances must be used to make up for that. Sometimes this means modifying nature (plants, seeds, soils) instead of practice. Nature can adapt to many things but at it’s own rate. It might work for a while but not forever at the incredible rate we are tinkering with it. And guess what: It’s not working anymore. The bees are in trouble, as are many things but this is a bee blog.. What more does nature need to do to communicate that to us?
There are beekeepers out there that soley breed queen bees. It is an important skill that beekeepers must know how to do but to do it at the rate it’s being done is crazy to me. With most anything I think it’s safe to say that quality drops when the quantity rises – does it not? Think of Burger King vs St. Paul Grill and tell me who has the better burger. Attention to detail is somewhat lost in the madness of having to meet quotas.
In the past couple years we have been having less than ideal luck with our factory farmed queens. I really think it is due to how they are treated and raised. Maybe I am wrong but something just isn’t right. Should I really have to requeen each year? Should I not expect our bees to survive winters? Should I settle for this crap?
As mentioned in the previous post on packaged bees, most bees in the country come from large monocrop pollinations. This means they are fed a steady diet of whatever that blossom is, let’s say almond. When that is over they are fed America’s favorite: corn syrup. Yay for diversity.. I still can’t wrap my head around why the hell silly humans are feeding corn syrup to the creators of honey, nature’s precious nectar. Oh wait! It’s because it’s cost efficient. Why waste your time waiting for bees to collect nectar when you can order a 55 gallon barrel of nutritious corn syrup? Maybe I should stop producing honey and just buy that instead..it might look good in a mason jar! (Oh wait, can’t do that either because China already did and is selling it at the grocery store nearest you. Eyo!)
The reason the bees are fed syrup is so they will have a food supply that stimulates them to work and grow while between seasons or nectar flows. If the workers are well fed they will be able to do their job better; looking after young, cleaning, guarding and rearing queens. It takes much energy to raise a queen bee so these beekeepers that make queens are sure to provide their bees with an abundance of corn in the liquid sugary form. Just to clarify: Yes, they are feeding bees corn. Apparently this is standard in the industry. It doesn’t make sense — please enlighten me if you can vouch for this one.
How is it that this has become acceptable now? When was it okay to turn off your brain and let your wallet think for you? It’s a new year, turn the switch back on and have a great spring. Good luck to the new beekeepers on finding ethical bees this year.