The dangers of anthropomorphism for honey bees

Dr. David Tarpey, who I highly respect, penned a recent article comparing what we’re doing to reduce the spread of COVID-19 to honey bee management practices:

While I appreciate his work and concerns, the establishment, perhaps as a result of corporate pesticide funding (see my previous post: has missed a great opportunity to promote a directed evolution approach to varroa control through queen breeding which is safer, more effective in the long run, and the right thing to do from a natural standpoint.

Here’s my response to his article:

I'm glad you mentioned seeking hygenic bees, but the treatment-first approach to varroa control with the fear mongering 'don't spread to your neighbors' and anthropomorphized comparison of human disease to the honey bee is troubling. Treating for varroa without immediate queen replacement of better genetic stock is a dangerous chemical treadmill that favors only the makers of toxic pesticides. You also didn't happen to mention that keeping genetically weak bees alive with treatments will invariably lead to the spread of weak genetics, resulting in increased varroa spread. These weak genes will not only spread to your neighbors hives, but to the feral bee population which is thriving without treatments on its own. This is a wrong headed, short term, chemical approach to an evolutionary problem--and one that will likely only be solved when everyone stops treating their bees and increases their apiary from the 30% or so hives that have genetic traits which mitigate disease and parasite resistance/tolerance naturally. If we don't allow weak colonies to die, we're exacerbating the problem we created by spreading mites and disease around the globe in the first place. Breeding and/or simply making increase from the strongest most disease free hives in your apiary is a globally proven approach to eliminating varroa management from your workload, and it's well past time we started promoting this directed evolution approach over treatments.

Vote for sustainability, with your wallet.

It’s easy to get frustrated with our seeming inability to make positive change for the good of the environment (and thus ourselves) when powerful corporate lobbyists seem to have unlimited funds to buy politicians. But as consumers, we actually have a lot of power collectively.

Clean water is a critical natural resource that is in danger of compromise by misguided legislation coming out of the executive branch of government at present, even though there are indications we’re already not doing a good enough job protecting clean water:

How can you combat regional water degradation? Support a local, organic farmer!

This initiative by the Rodale institute:

can give you ideas on how to make a difference in your region’s water quality.

Insects and Life

Crane Fly living in our hoop house, late fall 2019.

This little guy, identified by the NCSU Extension agents as a crane fly, has a lot of friends living in our hoop house right now. Frequently, when a farmer talks about insects, we expect them to be referring to a pest or problem. A fun fact I learned at a Xerces society beneficial insect class last year is that only 2% of insects are considered agricultural pests… That’s right, when broad spectrum insecticides are applied to the land, 98% of the insects destroyed were not pests, but potential beneficial insects. That level of ‘collateral damage’ is unacceptable.

Our little friend above, the Crane fly, is one of those not considered to be a pest, though its larvae may chew on your production plant’s roots a little here and there, mostly they just consume decaying organic matter in overly wet conditions, so this little fly actually can act as an indicator for me, letting me know when I’ve been watering my hoop house too much!

Chief Seattle said that we are part of the web of life, and what we do to the web, we do to ourselves. Our over use of pesticides is coming back to haunt us, not only through the toxic effects on our bodies, but through the destruction of insects which are at the base of a complex ecological dependence–of which we are a part. Here are two recent articles worth taking the time to read more about the urgent need to remove toxins from agricultural practices:

From the Ecological Farming Association

And from the Guardian