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Is Honey Greed Killing Our Bees?

 
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Old Hippie that I am, I've had issues with white sugar for decades. My two youngest were 5 & 6 when they found out some cereal had sugar in it AND some people put sugar on their cereal! This knowledge did not change things in my home much to their dismay. Now it's common knowledge how bad white sugar is.

I took the Beekeepers course at my local extension service and was horrified when the instructor told us they take the honey and feed the bees white sugar water. I just looked at him like he was insane. We know that white sugar has far reaching effects on the immune system as well as decreasing the ability of white blood cells to fight infection. So why in the hell would you feed it to your bees? With all the envirnmental issues they are combating this just seems counter productive to me and cruel. Is it any wonder our bees are dying by the millions? We take this perfect food they make to feed themselves and in return we feed them poison. Human greed is an ugly thing.

There is a reason the ancients called honey the Nectar of the Gods. Honey is an Antioxidant, an Antibacterial, it heals Wounds, Relieves coughs and diarrhea, and stores for years.

Three times I've had the money to set up my hives and three times something came up and the cash was diverted. However, I have been able to guide several new beekeepers in setting up their hives. My most important rules are, do not take your bees honey for the first year maybe two. Keep records of how much they make and what is still in the hive in the Fall and again in the Spring. When the beekeeper does start to harvest the honey, they should always leave enough for the bees. Never feed them white sugar. If they have to supplement their feed use honey water.

No I don't have any hard science on this, just the common sense of a mother. If I would not feed it to my children I should never feed it to the magical tiny creatures who make this healing sweet Nectar of the Gods. The pollinators of our world. I'm quite sure the Goddess Aphrodite agrees with my care of her sacred creatures.
 
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Angelina Gianna,
There is actually a lot of research on what sugar-feeding does to the bees - not only it affects the current generation, but the future generation of bees as well (the bees that were still larvae when the hive was fed sugar). Leading beekeepers as far back as Georges de Layens (late 19th century, author of Keeping Bees in Horizontal Hives) have strongly been advising against sugar feeding. Thankfully, though, quite a few beekeepers do avoid feeding their bees sugar - and you may want to read Keeping Bees with a Smile: Principles and Practice of Natural Beekeeping as a powerful antidote to what they told you in the conventional beekeeping class.  Most beekeepers, though, will continue to feed their bees sugar (sugar syrup is sold in bee catalogs by the TANKER LOAD) - this is because honey is expensive, and sugar is cheap.  If you buy sugar syrup at 50 cents a pound (and feed your bees a 5-gallon bucket of that) and sell your "local honey" at the farmer's market for $10/lb, you can do the math.  That being the case it's actually not surprising (albeit disturbing) that more than 40% of honeys entered in the official 2019 competition for the Best Honey in the World did not pass the lab test (that checked, among other things, for sugar residue in honey).  If a large proportion of the "best" honeys contain sugar, than what's about "the rest of us"?  By the way, another big issue is pesticide contamination of honey (from agriculture AND from what beekeepers put in their hives themselves).  One study found RoundUp in more than 40% of samples of CERTIFIED ORGANIC honey sold in the US.  I wish I could get you some of the real honey from bees that are never fed sugar and kept in a remote wilderness location away from agrochemicals - but I'm completely sold out of my 2019 crop.
 
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What I've learned regarding not feeding honey to bees is that it could have viruses or spores of pathogens that are harmless to humans (so are left in the honey), but NOT to the bees. Unless you know the source of the honey and can confirm its quality, you are not "supposed" to feed honey to the bees.

I would of course like to explore this more, because I would love to also avoid sugar to the bees.
 
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Quick Bee Video where I learned sugaring   https://youtu.be/SWO8E9S8duI,   Quick Bee Article where I protest sugaring: https://nutritionaldiversity.com/honey/  Its how they do it Latin America everywhere man.... I have been thinking a roofed ecology. The excuse phrase is that is "rains too much here" in the tropics (Panama Costa Rica).

Seriously if I went through and planted every flower and plant I could within a week's worth of planning and ordering in natural permaculture canopy I surely could have a good start at a sustainable bee farm yes?

BTW these bees were scary way cracked out!!  This was my first outing and I knew something was ..off.  In this case a few things off. The companies liar owner for one "rare isthmus honey" my .....
 
pollinator
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I would like to get data about the issue of Roundup and honey.
Where can I get that please?
 
John C Daley
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Its my understanding a lot of bees are being killed by a mite which has crept around the world because of sloppy border controls.
I have just forgotten its name.
Australia is one of the few places without it.

But a bigger issue is false honey from China.

They advertise they can supply false honey which will pas any test taken to check what it is.
I believe its synthetic.
Tonnes of it coming into Australia because its very hard to detect.
 
pollinator
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We only buy honey from two people one of them is my father in laws neighbours and the others are around one mile down the road from us, we see their bees on our flowers. Of course bees forage far and wide so they will pick up anything in the area, we are just outside the largest natural park in the country so a good proportion of the forage will be organic. according to the national beekeepers association the average yield from each colony in Denmark is 35kg (approx 70lb) and only 7% of their members are professional (90% of all danish bee keepers are members).
 
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I think what to feed bees is a very important topic. I would say part of the honey greed problem is the paradigm we've been taught to believe in. Even those of us who recognize that Nature's way is the best way, have still been trained in the "bigger is better, more is better" cultural model. Because of that, we are continually pushing the land and our critters toward better production. We offer amendments and supplements, and selectively breed toward that end. I think it's especially challenging for those trying to make their livings from farming, permaculture, market gardening, homesteading, etc. The need to succeed is driven by being able to afford an expected lifestyle.

The only answer (I can see) is learning how to live with less. Instead of trying to figure out how to produce more, I think it would make more sense to understand the natural production limits of what we are working with and learning to be content with that. I'm not saying I've achieved this, but it's the direction I'm working in, and I'm trying to adjust my expectations accordingly.
 
pollinator
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The practices you describe - removing all honey, and extensive feeding of sugar syrup - are predominantly used by large commercial beekeeping operations. Small scale beekeepers sometimes emulate that, but in my experience it is less common.

The big commercial operations are all about maximising profit. Syrup feeding but maximised honey profits and also accelerated build up of colony size in spring, which helps beekeepers fulfil very profitable pollination contracts. These pollination contacts are the big driving force towards harmful practices:

Bees are trucked long distances, and diseases are carried with them
Bees are raised in warm climates, then shipped and sold in cool climates. Bees are unable to adapt to local conditions, so struggle to thrive in cold climates.
Industrial pollination exposes bees to high pesticide levels

For all of these reasons I encourage consumers to buy honey from local small scale beekeepers, and to shun almond products. The almond industry is the largest driving force of profit in pollination, and distorts the practices of commercial berkeepers.


 
pollinator
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I have often suspected sugar feeding was a factor in the worldwide collapse of cultivated bees but it does not appear to be a cause that is ever mentioned in articles. Research by universities and governments appears to be focused more on factors like pesticides, diseases/parasites, climate change, etc. I'm not saying these are not important but it stands to reason that a colony fed a diet of junk food like white sugar will not have the overall health and immune system to withstand all the external challenges over which the beekeeper may have little control. Best to build up the colony's resistance with a healthy diet as we would our own bodies and immune systems.
 
Brandon Eisler
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Leigha this is so true. Learning to live with less and cherishing more the things you do have is certainly needed! If we lived sustainably ourselves it surely provides a more clear avenue to giving the same to our bees.#

Going back to the ecology, I really want to plant the honey bee ecology, everything they like known, and see if they naturally come hang out around the bee paradise I can create. Build disguised hives if any at all (here anything painted out in the jungle here bees or not is gone, it is chained to the floor, it's gone in pieces.)... and then start procreating the whole thing little by little on a horse trail throughout the island here about 500 to 2k yards apart.....  could be interesting, might as well do it for a few species of bees...  maybe one roofed to see if it becomes a "rain season heaven."

Very abstract thought too but could we electronically monitor other hives, companies, and reporting on them through some sort of dedicated and promotional "save the bees" online local, taking the demand away from companies who practice bee drugging (sugar), for honey production!
 
Leo Sharashkin
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John, if you do an online search for the following terms: glyphosate honey   OR  glyphosate honey contamination   OR  glyphosate honey residue -- you'll get more research articles that you'll be able to read. For example, you'll learn that 98% of Canadian honey (organic or not) contains glyphosate.  Even in "pure" places like Hawaii, much of the honey has glyphosate in it: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6040695/     And here's a good survey of RoundUp in honey:  http://www.uvm.edu/~orchard/PollinatorProtection/Conrad_Papers/Guo2015survey-of-glyphosate-residues-in-honey-corn-and-soy-products-2161-0525.1000249.pdf

The fake honey (mixture of special syrups) is indeed another big issue - at the 2019 Apimondia (world beekeeping congress in Montreal, Canada) a substantial part of the program was devoted to it.  It turns out that at least 17% of product labeled as 100% natural honey sold in EU is not honey at all, and the figure is probably higher in the US.  To learn more about it, search for  "honey adulteration".

Back to the question of feeding bees - the best way to feed is to save some frames full of capped honey in the comb, from your own hives (that are infectious disease free, of course) and when you need to support a colony, you just insert a frame in the hive. This is what was advocated by Layens - in his time keeping a supply of capped honey frames in reserve was one of the practices expected of a good beekeeper.
 
AngelinaGianna Maffeo
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Leo Sharashkin wrote:Angelina Gianna,
There is actually a lot of research on what sugar-feeding does to the bees - not only it affects the current generation, but the future generation of bees as well (the bees that were still larvae when the hive was fed sugar). Leading beekeepers as far back as Georges de Layens (late 19th century, author of Keeping Bees in Horizontal Hives) have strongly been advising against sugar feeding. Thankfully, though, quite a few beekeepers do avoid feeding their bees sugar - and you may want to read Keeping Bees with a Smile: Principles and Practice of Natural Beekeeping as a powerful antidote to what they told you in the conventional beekeeping class.  Most beekeepers, though, will continue to feed their bees sugar (sugar syrup is sold in bee catalogs by the TANKER LOAD) - this is because honey is expensive, and sugar is cheap.  If you buy sugar syrup at 50 cents a pound (and feed your bees a 5-gallon bucket of that) and sell your "local honey" at the farmer's market for $10/lb, you can do the math.  That being the case it's actually not surprising (albeit disturbing) that more than 40% of honeys entered in the official 2019 competition for the Best Honey in the World did not pass the lab test (that checked, among other things, for sugar residue in honey).  If a large proportion of the "best" honeys contain sugar, than what's about "the rest of us"?  By the way, another big issue is pesticide contamination of honey (from agriculture AND from what beekeepers put in their hives themselves).  One study found RoundUp in more than 40% of samples of CERTIFIED ORGANIC honey sold in the US.  I wish I could get you some of the real honey from bees that are never fed sugar and kept in a remote wilderness location away from agrochemicals - but I'm completely sold out of my 2019 crop.



Leo thank you for verifying my reasoning. I will get a copy of Keeping Bees with a Smile. I know it's going to be a challenge on my new property to plant a goodly amount of plants to keep them from straying onto pesticide contaminated property. To that end I'm looking for a place surrounded by forest. I'm working on a list of plants and shrubs that bloom in succession after my fruit trees. An old timer told me they are very fond of Mustard blooms. Which are also great companion plants for most fruit trees. I know I can't plant enough to keep a hive fed but I feel every bit counts. I'll bring some wisteria from here because it grows quickly and needs no care once it's in the ground. The bees seem very busy when it's in bloom in NC. I plant wisteria, honeysuckle and wild black berries on my fences. They're free, nasty to get through, provide food for the bees and fodder for the goats. All three plants might require lots of pruning... unless you have goats!.

I'd like to hear your thoughts on keeping hives around chickens. Think is was in Mother Earth News I found an article about chickens keeping the harmful mites down around the hives.
Angelina
 
pollinator
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Feeding the bees sugar was the first thing I noticed in the manual I received from my local "bee expert".  Then they go on to talk about pest management with pesticides because the bees are weak.  Leave the bees some of their liquid gold to eat over winter.  How is this not obvious to everyone?  It's a point of contention that can get me going

Can't wait to read Bee Keeping with a Smile
 
AngelinaGianna Maffeo
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Michael Cox wrote:The practices you describe - removing all honey, and extensive feeding of sugar syrup - are predominantly used by large commercial beekeeping operations. Small scale beekeepers sometimes emulate that, but in my experience it is less common.

The big commercial operations are all about maximising profit. Syrup feeding but maximised honey profits and also accelerated build up of colony size in spring, which helps beekeepers fulfil very profitable pollination contracts. These pollination contacts are the big driving force towards harmful practices:

Bees are trucked long distances, and diseases are carried with them
Bees are raised in warm climates, then shipped and sold in cool climates. Bees are unable to adapt to local conditions, so struggle to thrive in cold climates.
Industrial pollination exposes bees to high pesticide levels

For all of these reasons I encourage consumers to buy honey from local small scale beekeepers, and to shun almond products. The almond industry is the largest driving force of profit in pollination, and distorts the practices of commercial beekeepers.




Michael I find the moving of bees from state to state baffling. Why not simply keep hives in the California orchards? And stop using pesticides!! Surely the beekeepers could find another way to make more money at home. Maybe they could form a group locally and buy or rent fields to plant anything bees need. Lavenders, mints, sage and sunflowers, and marigolds all require little work and can be sold. Just seems to be a better plan then burning fossil fuel, stressing the bees, exposing them to diseases and maybe getting the hives stolen. The price of local honey has sky rocked, and rightly so. I'm going to stop now before I get on my soapbox about most the country's produce being grown in California. Thanks for chiming in.
Angelina
 
AngelinaGianna Maffeo
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Max Menchaca wrote:What I've learned regarding not feeding honey to bees is that it could have viruses or spores of pathogens that are harmless to humans (so are left in the honey), but NOT to the bees. Unless you know the source of the honey and can confirm its quality, you are not "supposed" to feed honey to the bees.

I would of course like to explore this more, because I would love to also avoid sugar to the bees.



Max if humans took less of the honey from each hive they would have enough of their own to eat. Once I get settled I plan on keeping a reserve of their own honey in the event they need honey water.
 
AngelinaGianna Maffeo
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John C Daley wrote:Its my understanding a lot of bees are being killed by a mite which has crept around the world because of sloppy border controls.
I have just forgotten its name.
Australia is one of the few places without it.

But a bigger issue is false honey from China.

They advertise they can supply false honey which will pas any test taken to check what it is.
I believe its synthetic.
Tonnes of it coming into Australia because its very hard to detect.



I'm with you on this topic. Americans need to stop buying crap EVERYTHING fro China. Support you local beekeepers! I've asked Leo for his thoughts on keeping chicken around the hives to fight the mites.
 
AngelinaGianna Maffeo
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Leigh Tate wrote:I think what to feed bees is a very important topic. I would say part of the honey greed problem is the paradigm we've been taught to believe in. Even those of us who recognize that Nature's way is the best way, have still been trained in the "bigger is better, more is better" cultural model. Because of that, we are continually pushing the land and our critters toward better production. We offer amendments and supplements, and selectively breed toward that end. I think it's especially challenging for those trying to make their livings from farming, permaculture, market gardening, homesteading, etc. The need to succeed is driven by being able to afford an expected lifestyle.

The only answer (I can see) is learning how to live with less. Instead of trying to figure out how to produce more, I think it would make more sense to understand the natural production limits of what we are working with and learning to be content with that. I'm not saying I've achieved this, but it's the direction I'm working in, and I'm trying to adjust my expectations accordingly.



Leigh you are so right. More is not always more. I can never understand why humans think they can out smart Mother Nature. She's been at it way longer. Every time they try to pull an end run around her it doesn't end well. Maybe not right away but in the end her way is proven to be the best. Two of my most cherished memories are, sitting in a field of strawberries picking one for the basket and then one for me and walking down the hill when the sun got too hot, to play in the stream and pick lavender and green capped mushrooms. The other is sitting in a tree in the peach orchard eating warm peaches while watching the bees snacking on a peach of their own. Neither of these required electronics, a mall or money... well except for the fifty cents a quart the farmer charged for the berries. Less is often more.
 
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There's a Canadian Orchardist in Quebec who made a movie about building a polyculture commercial orchard. I saw an interview with him critiquing his results after a few years:
1. The honey bees who struggled when his orchard was mostly a single apple species, exploded when all of a sudden they had all sorts of different pollen from spring to fall - honey became a main product of the farm!
2. Before polyculture, he never had to thin the fruit on the trees, as not enough of the fruit got pollinated for it to be a problem. After he started treating his bees, his soil, and nature in general, according to poly-culture principles, he had to start hiring workers to thin the fruit so it didn't break branches!

The reason that almonds have become such an issue is they're being grown as a mono-culture by the hectare. If the almond producers would learn some new tricks that involve permaculture principles and build farms like in Restoration Agriculture by Mark Sheppard, many of the negatives would become positives. Yes, I agree that we need to learn to live with less, but that less doesn't have to be unpleasant if we practice working with nature rather than enforcing our will *on* nature.
 
Michael Cox
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AngelinaGianna Maffeo wrote:
Michael I find the moving of bees from state to state baffling. Why not simply keep hives in the California orchards? And stop using pesticides!! Surely the beekeepers could find another way to make more money at home. Maybe they could form a group locally and buy or rent fields to plant anything bees need. Lavenders, mints, sage and sunflowers, and marigolds all require little work and can be sold. Just seems to be a better plan then burning fossil fuel, stressing the bees, exposing them to diseases and maybe getting the hives stolen. The price of local honey has sky rocked, and rightly so. I'm going to stop now before I get on my soapbox about most the country's produce being grown in California. Thanks for chiming in.
Angelina



The almond orchards are literally forage deserts for bees. The only plants for miles and miles are the almond trees, which all flower at once for a two week period. From memory the growers need something like 3 hives per acre to maximise fruit set. A density of colonies that is never seen in nature.  And when the almonds are done there is nothing for them to feed on the rest of the year.

It is a classic example of the perils of monocrops.
 
AngelinaGianna Maffeo
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Michael Cox

I know what they look like I've driven by them when I lived in CA. They should plant elderberry and lavender among the almond trees. They compliment each other. And maybe stop growing almonds for the whole country there. Why should the US water be use so people in other countries can have almonds? Let them grow their own damn almonds. I live in NC 26 miles from VA. I was just out looking at how heavy the almonds are on my tree. So nooooo,  all the almonds don't have to be grown in CA sucking the Colorado River dry. Oops got on my soap box there. I have many many issues with a salad that travels 3000 miles to a table in NYC. There is no sane reason for it. Thank you for posting.
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