This May Day, A Special Salute to the Humble, Hard-working Honeybee

This May Day, I want to give a special shout-out to a segment of the working population that may be small in stature, but is huge in productiveness and dedication.

Let’s hear it for the much-beleaguered honey bees!


It is no secret that honeybees, particularly in the developed world, have been in trouble these past few years.

If you’ve been paying attention, you have probably heard by now of so-called “colony collapse disorder,” which first surfaced around 2005—not at all coincidentally, just around the time that a powerful new class of pesticides, neonicotinoids, was introduced to Western commercial agriculture.

Neonicotinoids are pesticides that are incorporated into the plants themselves.  According to their patent-holders, they only harm the kinds of insects that actually chew on the plants.

But growing scientific evidence suggests that these highly toxic chemicals also harm bees, who have to stick their heads into pollen-laden flowers and tassels in the course of their day-to-day work routines, and who bring back to their hives  insecticide-laden pollen to feed the next generation of workers.


European bees just got a huge concession from the European Union, which, as of this week, will be restricting the use of three of the most prevalent neonicotinoids (clothianidin, imidacloprid and thiametoxam) for the next two years, while more stringent studies are conducted.

The United States, where commercial beekeepers are reporting the loss of 40 to 50 percent of their colonies, must do the same.

Not only could the loss of the hardworking honeybee be a total disaster for agriculture, but we also have no idea what the effects on humans may be of eating chemically engineered plants.

Where health is concerned, the burden of proof should rest on the chemical companies to prove their products are safe.

Instead, what we are living—and dying—with now is a deeply flawed version of “innocent until proven guilty.”

imagesHow many billions of bees have to die before the federal agencies responsible for the health of humans, our agriculture and our environment get the message that something is seriously wrong with the toxic brew being inculcated into our crops?

It has been suggested that exposure to such chemicals may be playing a role in the explosion of autism that is plaguing American society, with neo-natal exposure and toxic breast milk a major concern.

Do you want really want to give the chemical companies the benefit of the doubt?  Or would you rather play it safe with the next generation?

This May Day, I serenade the humble honeybee.  If you care about this mighty little worker, and all of us who depend on her production, you can take individual action on her behalf.

Buy organic.

Leave a comment


  1. Interestingly, we both chose a salute to nature on this first of May, but chose such different perspectives: Sometimes when we are fighting so hard to protect the environment or the quality of life, we forget to take time to see the beauty around us. I have to sometimes focus on the positive or I would give up the “fight” in frustration!

    • Jennifer Browdy de Hernandez

       /  May 1, 2013

      I have totally been drinking in the beauty of these light-filled spring days. But as I admire the flowering trees and tulips and daffodils, I can’t escape the awareness that the buzzing of bees, remembered from springtimes past, is eerily absent this year…..

      • leavergirl

         /  May 3, 2013

        Here in Colorado, bees have not been around, or bumblebees, like they were just 5 years ago. It’s so sad to see dandelions without bees on them… and blooming thyme is normally full of buzz… but not last year…

  2. Anna

     /  May 3, 2013

    Native plants will attract bees and butterflies. A few weeks ago my backyard was thick with patches of a purple flowering weed. I was delighted to watch a dozen or more honeybees and a few Monarch butterflies at work in the heady blooms. The yard is full of beneficial weeds. I wish I never had to mow them down and I refuse to use weed killer or fertilizer the grass. I’ve researched and harvested some of the native plants — have cooked and eaten a variety of tender greens and made medicinal oils from flower heads. It’s amazing what will grow wild if given the chance.

  3. @Anna – you are right about native plants. Even a small patch can bring many native bees and other pollinators to one’s yard. If only we could people to replace some land!

    @Jennifer and your readers:
    I am not a fan of this organization, but stay on their mailing list to hear what the “other side” is thinking. Thought you would love this.

    “If you were to rely on media reports alone, you might think honeybees are in short supply due to colony collapse disorder. But as reported in a recent PERC Policy Series, the market response of beekeepers have kept honeybees buzzing. Drawing on PERC’s research, Katherine Mangu-Ward of Reason reports that beekeepers reacted so swiftly that virtually no changes were detected by consumers.”


  4. Anna

     /  May 6, 2013

    I live in a small rural neighborhood where the typical yard is about one acre. Most of the home owners are OCD about maintaining their lawns with fertilizer, weed killer, and plenty of water — and they spend more time and gas than necessary riding about and around on their oversized tracker mowers.

    Fortunately the property where I’m living has always been owned by a family member who decided long ago not to invest in a riding mower, fertilizer, weed killer, or sprinkling system. As a result the lawn is home to many native plants that attract birds, bees, butterflies, ladybugs, dragon flies, mantises, beautiful yellow garden spiders. . . Manicured lawns are dull in comparison to what grows wild in the backyard.

    Lady Bird Johnson had a great idea when she began beautifying the nation’s cities and highways by planting wildflowers. Her motto is perfect for these times, “Where flowers bloom, so does hope.” That’s one way to start a glorious riot of color on behalf of the vanishing honeybees!


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