Beekeeper in protective beekeeping suit

Ethics Of Honey Production

It is well known that bees will only produce honey if they have a Queen. Queen bees are often artificially inseminated, which means the honey industry kills and crushes a male bee to take out his semen and proceed to forcefully insert it into the Queen. Many Queen Bees are sold online and even sent out by mail. They are often killed or injured during transportation, however, more often than not the bee keepers receive the Queen they purchased and introduce her to her new hive. 

By holding onto her legs or squeezing her thorax they proceed to amputate her wings by a process called ‘clipping’. This is so she cannot fly away and escape. They also mark her with an enamel paint pen, which has very high toxicity. This paint pen causes symptoms such as dizziness, poor coordination, vision and brain damage. Which is conveniently how the bee keepers want her to be, weak enough to be defenseless and unable to fly away. Since bees have a very strong bond with their Queen, they will never abandon her.

Bees live in their honeycombs, which is also where they work to create honey. They also raise their young in honeycombs and is where they store their food, which is the honey. Bees make honey by removing nectar from blossoms with their tongues, or glossa. They then store it in their honey stomachs. When they have a full load they fly back to the hive and pass it onto other bees who regurgitate it over and over again. This process makes the honey we know and love, the bees then store it in their honeycombs which is made from a wax they produce, so they have their food all year round.

Bees don’t make very much honey at all. It takes 8 bees all their lives to produce one single teaspoon of honey. In some regions they intentionally kill bees in preparation for winter. The reasoning is that it costs more to upkeep hives during the winter months than the cost of new beehives in the spring. 

This is similar to how bee keepers burn entire hives alive when they get any type of infections that can easily be cured with antibiotics. We know that bees are massively dying and many believe that purchasing honey would help the bee population. 

The EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) stated in their ‘Guidelines for Inspecting Alleged Cases of Pesticide-Related Bee Incidents’ that one of the major causes of the mass death of bees is a chemical pesticide referred to as Neonicotinoids. “The Neonicotinoids are a class of insecticides with a common mode of pesticidal action that effects the central nervous system of insects cause paralysis and death… adverse effects data as well as bee kill incidents have been reported.”

The EPA’s action to protect bees from pesticide exposure includes an implemented policy in 2017 that protects bees known as ‘EPAs finalized steps to better protect bees from agricultural pesticides.’ This prohibited the use of this pesticide and expedited the re-evaluation of pesticide use. They also temporarily halted the approval of new pesticide uses and so on. Which makes us wonder if the EPA are the ones protecting and helping the bee population, then what is the honey industry doing for them? In short, nothing.

The food industry had not been kind to bee populations either. Crops destined for animal feed are sprayed 2 to 20 more times the amount of pesticides used for crops destined for human consumption. 

This means food crops eventually destined for the meat industry are 2 to 20 times more likely to be dangerous to bees than crops destined for human consumption.It also takes 3 to 20 pounds of plant protein to produce just 1 single pound of meat, depending on the animal.

But why the major concern for bees? What do bees do for humans? Why are they so necessary to our lives.

If the population of bees significantly decreased or went extinct we would lose a lot of our food variety, including; tomatoes, grapes, vanilla, blackberries, raspberries, elderberries, chili peppers, cabbage, broccoli, brussel sprouts, cauliflower, tangerines, coconut, watermelon, cucumber, carrots, lemons & limes, figs, avocados, apricots, prickly pear, pomegranates, mangos, apples and many, many more.

Despite how vital bees are to the food system, the food industry and the bee industry only have one thing in common: a desire for profitability. That desire then can, in turn, not only devastate bee populations but the world’s supply of food. As consumers on this planet of the incredible honey that is naturally produced by these little workers, we should all be more aware of the practices and goals of the honey producers we purchase from. 

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