Honey will you ‘bee’ my savior?

Human beings have greatly impacted the Earth’s ecology for thousands of years. The aboriginal Polynesians, for instance, are believed to have caused the extinction of over half of the bird species on the Hawaiian Islands when they settled  there around 2,000 years ago. Man-made fires, beginning about 7,000 years ago, may have also had an effect on the Earth’s climate, effects that can be observed today. Humans are hypothesized to have hastened the extinction of the Neanderthal peoples. These historical events are mild in comparison to the transformations humans have precipitated over the last 100 years. The burning of fossil fuels has been linked to climate change. We have created bombs that could spread nuclear fallout over the entire planet. We have covered huge swaths of land—at the expense of other species, both plant and animal—for our modern habitats. It is time to consider what responsibility we have as sentient beings to protect our environment, and stop using planet Earth as if it were a disposable commodity.

When environmentalists get together at their gatherings in the woods they are usually divided into two camps: conservationists and preservationists. Generally speaking, a conservationist believes that humans must practice stainability because we have no other option. Conservationists see the natural world simply as a resource for humans to use—it must be preserved in order to insure our survival because we depend on it for food and shelter. Preservationists, on the other hand, believe that there is intrinsic value in the environment—that all manner of species, in some way, deserve to live and should be kept around because they are enjoyable and have as much right to live and thrive as we do. Although each environmentalist “camp” has a different philosophical stance, they can find a common cause and common ground in beautiful creatures like the humble honey bee.

Bees have an interesting place in this argument because they fly on both sides—they are nature’s little pollinators, so useful for humanity and our planet. Without the existence of honey bees it is estimated that up to half of the world’s food supplies would not exist. Honey bees are also some of the most interesting creatures on Earth. Honey is the only food that contains all of life’s necessities (enzymes, vitamins, minerals and water) and honey can be preserved for centuries—hypothetically indefinitely.

Honey bees are also dying, and in huge, unfathomable numbers. It has gotten so bad that on June 23 of last year, President Obama signed a memorandum giving incentives to farmers and ranchers who establish honey bee habitats on their land. In an ironic turn of events, it is now believed that neonicotinoids, a type of pesticide, is thought to be the leading cause of unprecedented bee death; in an attempt to produce more food, humans are killing of the number one pollination system on earth. What can we do to save the honey bees, and in turn, save our planet?

As some of you may know, there is a new beekeeping club right here on the  Colby campus! This is the perfect opportunity to learn about these wonderful, tiny creatures and aid in the survival of the honey bee—I appeal to the conservationist or preservationist in all of you—join us! You can learn the art of beekeeping: how to maintain a hive, visit local apiaries, harvest honey, identify the queen, and be a part of all the honey-making, pollinating magic.

If you are interested in joining Colby Beekeeping please buzz us at ihyoung@colby.edu, amcaughr@colby.edu or wzebrows@colby.edu.

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