Delight and Plight of the Honeybees

By Elisabeth Rose

The honeybee is in danger, which has big implications for the billions of dollars of food crops they pollinate. Photo by Elisabeth Rose.

Respect and reverence for honeybees coupled with concern about the global bee crisis and ways to combat it were the focal points of the special “bee event” that took place on July 16th at the John Jay Homestead in Katonah, NY.  Held in partnership with Slow Food Metro North and John Jay Homestead, the event benefitted the Slow Food Metro North Farmers’ Emergency Fund.

The beautiful barn at the John Jay Homestead dates back to the early 1800s and was perfect for the tasting part of the event.

The evening began with a screening of Taggart Siegel’s beautiful and informative film, “Queen of the Sun:  What are the Bees Telling Us?” which highlights how 10,000 years of global beekeeping has changed from a sacred relationship between human and bee to a mechanized and impersonal industry lacking any regard for its “money-maker.”  Opening with Rudolf Steiner’s 1923 prediction that the honeybee would die within 80 to 100 years, the film introduces us to beekeepers, scientists and philosophers from around the world, including Gunther Hauk, Dr. Vandana Shiva and Michael Pollan.  They explain the shocking die off of the honeybee population or “Colony Collapse Disorder,” and explore some reasons for this, including the Varroa mite, the flawed agricultural practice of monoculture and the use of toxic pesticides.  Dr. Shiva reveals that the latter are sometimes made from the same lethal chemicals used in warfare.

DJ Havercamp greeted guests with a quick lesson in the many wonders of honeybees.
Left to right: Kathryn Dysart, board member of Slow Food Metro North; Mimi Edelman, Chair of Slow Food Metro North and moderator; panelists Marina Marchese of Red Bee Honey, Deb Taft of Mobius Fields (and SFMN board member), Doug DeCandia of Foodbank of Westchester (and SFMN board member) and DJ Havercamp of Bedford Bee.

Following the film, visitors listened to a panel discussion with beekeepers Doug DeCandia of The Foodbank for Westchester, D.J. Haverkamp of Bedford Bee, Marina Marchese of Red Bee Apiaries, and Deb Taft of Mobius Fields, who trained with Hauk.  Like the beekeepers in the film, each spoke with love and reverence for the honeybees.  DeCandia said that new beekeepers must remember to stay calm when working with them, and that it helps to have a good mentor, something later reiterated by Taft.  Marchese spoke about her book, The Honey Connoisseur, which describes thirty “honey plants” and why honey tastes the way it does and urged new beekeepers to join a beekeeping club or group.

Guests enjoyed wine from Whitecliff Vineywards, a plate of cheeses from Plum Plums Cheese and honeys from Red Bee Apiaries and other beekeepers for drizzling.

Afterwards, visitors were treated to a honey-tasting experience with wine, cheese, honey and bread from Red Bee Apiaries, Bedford Bee, Plum Plums Cheese, Whitecliff Vineyards and Wave Hill Breads. A spectacular frame of spring honeycomb was shared with guests thanks to the generosity of one of DJ’s new students. What a treat!

DJ Havercamp cuts fresh honeycomb for guests from a frame donated by first-time beekeepers in Greenwich.

The event made clear how imperative it is that we change our ways so that honeybees can survive.  Guest beekeeper Haverkamp spoke about Colony Collapse Disorder in which bees become disoriented and cannot find their way back to the hive.  First noticed in 2006, it is responsible for a 35% increase in bee population deaths.  Haverkamp also pointed out the flawed practice of monoculture farming, along with the genetic modification of crops, genetic “watering down” of the bee population in general and the use of pesticides like the Neonicotinoids, which have been proven to kill bees.  Despite Michael Pollan’s reminder that “Four out of ten types of food come from bee pollination,” the pervasive manufacture, sale and application of these commercially sold chemicals alarmingly continues.

Humans must learn to appreciate the work of honeybees and all that is at risk if their massive die off continues. Photo by Elisabeth Rose.

We must work to ban dangerous and toxic pesticides and to create bee sanctuaries that have many different flowers and a source of clean water.  As beekeeper Ian Davis says in the film, “If we don’t protect the bees, we don’t protect ourselves.”

Take Action:

Tell the EPA: Immediately suspend the use of the pesticides that are killing bees.

Tell Home Depot and Lowe’s to Stop Carrying Roundup Herbicide and Neonicotinoid Pesticides

Thank you.

3 thoughts on “Delight and Plight of the Honeybees”

  1. It is important to recognize that while honeybees are important for our artisan honey produces, they are not important pollinators in the US as they are not native to the US. Other types of bees carry out that pollination in the US.
    And there is no evidence of any kind that genetically modified crops have any effect on the bee population. Finally, just where are these monocultures? There are hundreds, of different varieties of crops grown in the US.

    • James you must be kidding! We absolutely rely on honeybees to pollinate at least 30% of our food crops, including vast monocultures like the almond crop in CA. Have you been following the news? Or are you being belligerent? There are many different kinds of crops grown in the US, but commodity crops like corn, soybeans, canola, wheat, etc. are grown on vast monocultures. That is fact! Furthermore, GMO crops have been implicated in the bee die off because the pesticides sprayed on the crops drift to weeds that the bees use as nectar sources and the latest data has implicated a toxic brew of pesticides and fungicides in the bee die off.

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