How European Honey Bees are Poisoned, Abused and Treated Like Slaves in the Pursuit of Profits

Digging deeper into the issues surrounding the huge percentage of honey bee deaths this past winter and the worry created over our food supply these past few days has led me to try avoiding comparisons to slavery, to animal abuse, to poisoned illegal farm workers, to Bangladeshi garment workers...but i can't. The scientific studies show that European Honeybees are dying enmasse mostly because they are being poisoned by pesticides but they are also highly susceptible to these toxins because they are weakened by being forced to live on a monoculture diet they aren't co-evolved to eat.

All bees require the type of mixed diet found in a natural setting to remain healthy, not exclusively on one type of pollen/nectar for a week or two, then another, then another. Some honeybees get to stay put and eat a mixed diet from local flowers as they progress naturally through the seasons, but not the vast majority of them. For them its a peach monoculture in Georgia for a couple of weeks, then back onto the truck for a 72hr cross continent drive to a huge almond operation in Northern California, then...on to the next huge corporate owned monculture somewhere on the continent.

The corporations finance the bee's abuse from the banks, both rake in their ill-gotten gains by avoiding the cost of providing safe, secure working conditions. Its always the same story be it in Bangladesh or Baton Rouge. Its hardly a mystery malady when at each stop the honeybees are forced to endure different chemicals and pesticides in their weakened state. These marvelous creatures are abused and poorly paid the same way industrial ag. treats the rest of its farm workers. When they die from the toxins and abuse, their masters, big ag, moan about lost profits then, instead of improving the working conditions, they look frantically everywhere for more slaves when the honeybees die.

The second part of the question is about the danger to our food supply. Digging deeper into this meant looking into how different proportions of our foods are pollinated and by what vectors. The first sentence everywhere is: An estimated one out of every three bites of food comes to us through the work of animal pollinators.

About 50% of the food we eat comes from wind pollinated or self- pollinated crops, primarily barley, corn, oats, rice, rye, sorghums, wheat, sugar beets, sugar cane, potatoes, sweet potatoes and grass hay crops fed to animals. Another 10% comes from crops that may receive some benefit from insect pollination but are largely self-pollinating like beans, cotton, flax, peanuts, peas, and soybeans. Another 10% come from the fruits and veggie plants that are dependent on animal pollination like apples, pears, grapes, peas, lettuces, beets, carrots, sunflowers, onions, garlic, peppers, tomatoes, cole crops, (broccoli cabbage,kale, etc) cucumbers and melons, etc. The animal products are about 20% and some of it is derived from insect-pollinated legumes such as alfalfa, clover, lespedeza, and trefoil, the rest from wind pollinated hay and corn crops.  Finally about 10% is made up of fats and oils which come from oilseeds–coconuts, cotton, oil palm, olives, peanuts, rape, soybeans, and sunflower. Most of of these plants are dependent upon animal pollination. Which all ends up at somewhere near 1/3 of our food needing animal pollination.

But that's animal pollination and, like yesterday's blog showed, there are lotta other pollinators out there working their magic on our behalf other than honeybees. There are different estimates as to the proportions but none give European Honeybees over a 20% share, most less, of our pollinated dietary foods [33% of our total diet] so maybe 5%-6% of our total dietary intake is honeybee pollinated  Consequently if last winter 1/3 of the enslaved bees died that's a whopping 2% of our diet not harvested and that 2% is mostly luxury food items, like peaches, coffee, almonds, or vanilla. So it appears all the scary headlines about our food supply are just fear based propaganda by big ag and their bankers for the upcoming price 'adjustment' not to improve the bee's lives, but to increase profits from their deaths.