Chelsea Green Publishing

Chelsea Green Blog

Bee There, Do That: Organic Apiculture in a Chemical World

Why keep bees? And why go to the trouble of raising them organically?

Honey…candles…and the fact that bee pollination is the keystone of all life on planet Earth. No big deal.

Colony Collapse Disorder is no joke. There’s little doubt that the chemical loads that have built up in the environment have contributed to an ecological tipping point where bees the world over are dropping like flies—so don’t be too surprised when that expression becomes “dropping like bees.” That is, unless we do something about it.

In this article for the website Grist, Chelsea Green’s Makenna Goodman interviews Ross Conrad, former president of the Vermont Beekeepers Association, about beekeeping, pollination, and the growing culture of small-scale and urban beekeeping.

Makenna Goodman: Your book, Natural Beekeeping: Organic Approaches to Modern Apiculture, offers up a program of natural beehive management, and an alternative to conventional chemical-based approaches. So—why organic beekeeping?

Ross Conrad: History has shown us that the industrialized “economy of scale” approach does not work when applied to agriculture because we are dealing with living biological systems, not an inert assembly line food production system where the economy of scale approach can be applied across the board.  One of the biggest issues is the large number of chemical contaminants that are being found in beeswax and pollen, often at very high concentrations. Toxic chemical contamination has been implicated in Colony Collapse and the reality is that there is no effective regulation of chemicals in Western society. Let me tell you why:

When the EPA was created in 1970 and sanctioned with the task of regulating chemicals, all the chemicals that were already used in commerce up to that time were grandfathered in. Additionally, since the EPA is given very limited personnel and financial resources, the agency ends up relying on the chemical manufacturers for the majority of the scientific data that is used to evaluate the safety of the regulated toxins…a serious conflict of interest. When chemicals are evaluated for toxicity, they are studied in isolation. Little thought is given to the chemical’s break down products which can prove to be more toxic and longer lasting than the original chemical itself, such as in the case of Imidacloprid Olefin, which is produced as the neonicotinoid, Imidacloprid degrades. Once in use and released into the environment, chemicals, and their breakdown products, will combine with other chemicals already in the environment to form new compounds. The synergistic effects of some of these combinations have proven themselves to be hundreds of times more toxic than either compound on its own.

Recent research into endocrine-disrupting chemicals (the kind often used as pesticides), reveals that the timing of exposure combines with the amount of exposure to produce a chemical’s effect. Thus, a certain dose might be very toxic to an organism in its developmental stage, while not having any obvious detrimental affects on the organism once it has matures, or vice-verse. To make matters worse, in some cases low doses of a chemical can be more damaging than higher doses. These new understandings of chemical toxicity have proven wrong Paracelsus’s 450-year-old maxim, “The dose makes the poison.” Today we know that often the timing can make the poison and that sometimes less is actually worse.

Add to this the many studies that now show that a cocktail of “insignificant” doses of several chemicals each acting on their own can combine to have significant results. In other words, exposure to very low concentrations of several chemicals at the same time can cause biological effects that none of the chemicals would have on their own. Thus when an living organism is exposed to a mixture of chemicals, every component contributes to the overall effect, no matter how minute their concentration. The only sane answer to our ignorance in the use of these toxic compounds is to stop using these chemicals, not only in our hives, but in our everyday lives. Thus, organic beekeeping came into being in just the last 20 years as a response to the fact that chemical use in bee hives has became the common way to try to control Varroa mites. Organic beekeeping is not only possible, but necessary.

Read the whole article here.

 

Related Articles:


10 Books to Curl Up With This Winter

William Wordsworth was right when he said, “Nature never did betray the heart that loved her.” Nevertheless, the cold, dark days of winter can still get the best of even Nature’s most tenderhearted admirer. What’s one to do? We here at Chelsea Green have concocted the perfect cabin fever remedy with our suggested winter reading […] Read More..

Draft Power: The Life-Affirming Alternative to “Big Ag”

Farmers young and old are seeking new ways to shrink their carbon footprint and promote more ecologically friendly ways of getting chores done. So, what’s a modern farmer to do? For some, the centuries old approach of using draft animals—especially horses—is offering a very 21st century solution. Read More..

Top 8 Chelsea Green Books the Self-Styled Oregon Militia Should Read

The ongoing armed militia occupation of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in Oregon is showing no signs of ending — so, rather than send them snacks, or sex toys, we had an idea: Send them a book! Better yet, send them several Chelsea Green books. Don’t worry, we’ve picked five key titles that we think […] Read More..

A Book for the Fruit Nerd on Your Holiday Gift List

Have a fruit enthusiast on your holiday shopping list this year? Then give the gift that Booklist calls, “a thorough investigation of one wonderful fruit”—The Book of Pears by Joan Morgan.Sure cherries, plums, peaches, and other fruits have their unique qualities, but nothing quite compares to the pear’s luscious texture, richness of taste, and fragrance reminiscent […] Read More..

Unlock the Secret to the Perfect Salad with Soil Sprouts

As the weather gets colder and seasonal produce only means root vegetables, we begin to dream about fresh greens and colorful salads. Without a greenhouse or expensive equipment, it’s hard to imagine a reality in which you can have fresh and local greens every day. Luckily, Peter Burke has a method: in his book Year-Round Indoor […] Read More..
Follow us
Get every new post delivered to your inbox
Join millions of other followers
Powered By WPFruits.com