Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Mystery lives in the hive

That the bees are dying should worry us all. This has nothing to do with ecological correctness, and everything to do with survival. Bees are too important to ignore. So far the explanations for the alarming decline in honeybee populations have not been convincing. Attempting to assign blame to things like radiation from cell phones and genetically modified crops seems a little too reductionist.

What would more holistic thinkers like Rudolf Steiner and Leo Tolstoy have to say about all this? Plenty it appears. In 1923 Rudolf Steiner predicted the demise of the honeybee that we may be witnessing today. He zeroed in on the consequences of mechanizing many of the natural processes of the beehive in the name of efficiency and profits. He specifically pointed to the artificial breeding of queen bees. (GW)

Why the bees are dying and how to bring them back

by Josef Graf
Annals of Earth
July 2007

From the perspective of spiritual ecology, four main categories stand in the foreground of the disappearing of the honeybees: EMF radiation; OM crops; diseases and pests; and artificial incursions of modem bee-keeping on overall hive ecology.

At this juncture in time, the first two factors can be summed up in short order: the EMF radiation of wireless technology appears to have an influence, but the evidence so far is inconclusive. OM crops are strongly suspect, but more research is needed.

Overall, artificial interference is a common denomi­nator in the ecology of the honeybee so I will use the var­roa mite to illustrate the disease/pest element.

Varroa, an old story retold

Diseases and parasites, such as the invading Eurasian varroa mite, when looked at in the same light as other modem agricultural issues, actually presents itself as a red herring for anyone in pursuit of the central cause of bee decimation.

While definite losses have accrued as a result of var­roa, it is almost certain to be a temporary phase. The situ­ation is not unlike problems in other areas of modem agri­culture. Using the cattle industry as a choice example, it is not actually pathogenic forces that are threatening stocks but, rather, decades of contrivance and intercession by means of antibiotics, hormones, and other artificial "prop­ping up" of the species that have weakened and degraded the overall constitution of the species. (And let us call events like Mad Cow disease a symptom, not a cause, of the bottoming out of the cattle industry.)

Witness the decidedly hale condition of the bison alongside the debilitated circumstance of cattle. In a word, predation strengthen~ a species, and interference with that predation leads to debilitation. The finest shepherd ever invented, in terms of a keeper for the bison herds, was Ca­nis lupus, the common wolf.

There are times, and this includes livestock, bees, and any other biological form, when a producer has to "take it on the chin" and let the species evolve by allowing the sur­viving, adaptable members of the population reproduce. The result will be an enviable level of wholesomeness in both species and product.

This leads on to the heart of the matter, the fourth ele­ment - too much interference. For example, in a bid to avoid having to work with a species that can become what humankind deems as overly aggressive, we have been cul­tivating a more "docile" temperament in the bee, there­fore, unlike its more combative relatives in other parts of the world, who are able to bite at, mutilate, and dispose of the varroa mite, our more passive breeds are not equipped to handle these intruders.

Tune will heal the varroa situation, if we let the hon­eybee "duke it out" in its own way, under its own terms. As with most predation, the strongest, most fit, will sur­vive to carry forth its capable seed into future stocks.

Excessive interference and the foresight of Rudolf Steiner

In deference to the spiritual science of Rudolf Steiner, it needs to be said that this modem Renaissance man pre­dicted in 1923 that if humanity continued to cultivate the honeybees by artificial means, we would, within eighty years, witness the mass disappearance of the bees.

Arguably the best-kept secret of the 20th Century, in terms of a resource for social transformation, Rudolf Steiner, in his series of lectures entitled "The Bees," gave numerous indications to portray the intricate nature of the honeybee community.

In capsule, Steiner warned against both meddling with the natural process of hive society and artificially manipu­lation of queen bees.

The following list of ways humanity is known to in­terfere with the natural process of bee life, while substan­tial, is no doubt incomplete:

  • The raising of larva in separate quarters, arbitrary feeding of royal jelly to produce queens, then shipping by post to keepers.
  • Selection of bee populations for docility, de-selecting for aggression.
  • In contrast to the normal 5 or 6-year life span of a queen is, "re-queening" after one or two years.
  • The grafting of queens - moving larva to artificial cups, then cages for transport.
  • Supplanting guard bees with protective measures of hu­mans.
  • Keeping hives hyper clean, to reduce production of "nui­sance" propolis.
  • Using chemical control agents for disease and pests.
  • Providing ready-made combs in place of bee-constructed combs, to save work (production time) for the bees.
  • In a similar vein, supplying sheets of wax, so bees don't have to gather and secrete their own wax.
  • Use of ventilators so the bees don't have to tend to this.
  • Use of queen excluders to prevent eggs being laid in in­ convenient areas of the hive.
  • Moving of hives over long distances.
  • Clipping of queens' wings.
  • Agricultural practices consisting of monocultures that wreak havoc on honeybee diets, limiting options once the dominant crop is no longer flowering.

The foregoing list delineates some of the many strate­gies used to manipulate production. Clearly, people are capable of invention. In fact, we are able to wax clever, to the point of genius. However, it appears that when we fail to perceive the whole picture, we fall short of the masterful way that a naturally developing hive proceeds.

Perhaps there are effective ways to work in harmony with the bees, even using a certain degree of creative inter­vention. But just which particular intercessions will time prove to be both wise and productive, in terms of a win­ win for both bee and human?

Who can know, but those who gain utmost understanding of the synergy and multi-dimension of the bee kingdom?

One of the things a researcher quickly discovers when approaching the subject of honeybees is an abundance of material. Volumes have been written about these creatures and their intricate society. The community of bees com­prises a mysterious membership in the ecosystem. Hives are workplaces of rarefied intent.

The scientific perspective states that no microbes can grow in honey because it is too acidic, has a high osmotic pressure (therefore microbe cells lose their water and die), and enzymes. And this is true. Yet, another way to look at it is that honey is immune to earthly forces of decom­position because it is gathered from resplendent aspects of plants (flower blossoms are composed more of rarefied (etheric and astral) energy, than physical substance). And this is also true.

Leo Tolstoy, after his own lengthy study of bees, had this to say: "The higher the human intellect rises in the discovery [of the bees' aim], the more obvious it becomes that the final aim is beyond its reach."

The most essential thing we learn from reviewing the Steiner material is that beekeepers would do well to ac­quire a metaphysical understanding of bees and the com­plex masterpiece of the hive.

Mystery lives in the hive, and within the golden elixir that is honey, mystery we have yet to, or may never, dis­cover.

Spiritual ecology holds that the first step in address­ing an issue pertaining to the realm of nature is to deepen our understanding of the overall synergy of the particular eco-community in question. A useful place to begin the process is a review of Steiner's lectures by Bobby Math­erne. It is a lengthy piece - be prepared to dive into a deep pool.

To access more on this issue, as presented by Earth Vision, visit the site and follow the links:

Information on EMF and GM crops, can be accessed through these links:

EMF radiation

GM crops


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