Guest Rant by Xris, the Flatbush Gardener
Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD) has been making the news
rounds for a few years now. It's old, if still current, news. Dire outcomes
from the loss of honeybees have been proffered. For example, PBS recently
introduced an online "ask the expert" feature with this:
Since the winter of 2006,
millions of bees have vanished, leaving behind empty hives and a damaged
Really? The ECOSYSTEM?! Did they not notice that honeybees
aren't part of the ecosystem?
Honeybees are livestock. They are animals which we manage
for our uses. We provide them with housing and maintenance. We even move them
from field to field, just as we let cows into different pastures for grazing.
Perhaps, if CCD can neither be prevented nor cured, disaster
would come to pass. However, the underlying cause would not be the loss of the
honeybees but our dependence on them as a consequence of unsustainable
The old ways of farming include hedgerows, uncultivated
areas between fields. The biodiversity of these patches provide substantial
habitat for native pollinators, as well as other beneficial insects. When even
these rough “unproductive” patches of land are cleared, we set the stage for
the patterns that have come to dominate agriculture: more herbicides, more
pesticides, more machinery. All of these also damage the soil food webs that
support both soil fertility and agricultural ecosystems. Although manufactured inputs provide temporary relief, they
reduce the ecological functions of the land, requiring more and greater inputs to
achieve the same effect. This is the definition of addiction, and it’s a clear
sign that this way of doing business is unsustainable.
Why do we need to ship and truck pollinators around? There
are plenty of native pollinators to do the job, where we haven't decimated
their habitats. There are 4,000 species of bees alone in North America. 226
species are known in New York City. Many of them visit my gardens in Flatbush,
Brooklyn; some have even taken up residence . Many native bees are
ground-dwellers which need only some open ground in which to dig their nests. When every patch of ground is
cultivated, plowed under or paved over, native pollinators disappear. Suddenly,
we “need” honeybees for pollination.
I care about the honeybees. I like my honey and beeswax
candles. I support efforts to legalize beekeeping in New York City. But not at
the expense of the biodiversity that is all around us, even in the city, if
only we care enough to look for it, value it, and nurture it.
Saving [Honey] Bees: What We Know Now [About CCD], [http://roomfordebate.blogs.nytimes.com/2009/09/02/saving-bees-what-we-know-now/],
NY Times, 2009-09-02
 Ask “Silence of the Bees” Expert Dr. Diana Cox-Foster. [http://www.pbs.org/engage/blog/ask-%E2%80%9Csilence-bees%E2%80%9D-expert-dr-diana-cox-foster],
 “Cellophane Bees Return”, [http://flatbushgardener.blogspot.com/2009/05/cellophane-bees-return.html],
Flatbush Gardener, 2009-05-02
Photo of Jade Bee by Xris.