From more than a decade of environmental research it is clear all life on Earth evolved often through tens of millions of years to live naturally and successfully within their environment. As their environment changed each life form adapted, but if the rate of change was faster than they could adapt to – the species went into crisis which it may have survived or maybe didn’t. This has been true of the bees and we humans too.
The bees are suffering around the world from CCD – Colony Collapse Disorder – which is quite a ‘disorder’ as all the bees in affected hives die. Hardly a ‘disorder’ in my book. Maybe it should be stand for Colony Collapse Disaster or be called CCT – Colony Collapse Tragedy. With our infinite human wisdom we still don’t know the cause, though it is thought the Varroa mite could be implicated. But the reality is not just that these amazing insects are trying to live in the same transformed environment that we are, but we also treat them with disdain. In the US many bee keepers keep tens of thousands of hives and move them frequently over enormous distances almost the length of the US. Farmers growing almonds hire in the hives at blossom time which are then put amongst the trees so as many flowers as possible are fertilised, but 2 weeks later the same hives may be in the vineyards. And so it goes on. Hardly what bees evolved to do.
Is there a lesson from recent human history?
We also evolved through millions of years (or modern man through about 150,000 years) to live with the atmosphere, plants and animals and we lived perfectly in harmony with that environment through nearly all that time. I have shown in the first Part of the Climate Book Series that we have been altering the climate since about 12,000 years ago so from an evolutionary point of view things have been changing quite quickly. But since about 1945 we have suffered increasingly from umpteen ‘ailments’ and ‘allergies’ which especially affect our younger generation who seem much less able to continue living in that original harmony. If you believe in evolution, it is simply impossible for us to have ‘developed’ such allergies and problems in that short time frame, so it has to be caused by environmental changes be they from different water, air or food. There is no other option.
In Tranquility we are acting to change as many of these factors as we can, and many can be changed particularly relating to food. I have been amazed to hear how many people seem to have produced ‘wheat allergies’, often ‘confirmed’ by the medical profession, yet we have farmed and eaten the grasses – or wheats – for at least the same last 12,000 years given above. How could it be that in 50 years some of us can no longer eat it? It would require enormously strong evidence to persuade me it isn’t caused by the multitude of chemicals sprayed during the farming activity or added to the breads we buy (over 60 chemicals are approved for adding) through normal retail channels, or just slightly possibly by the types of wheat being grown. If you wonder about the chemicals added, how do you think industrially they get their bread to rise in less than an hour when it naturally takes many? And how does the bread last so long between being baked and eaten by us?
So here I bake all my own bread using almost exclusively the ancient grains (spelt, emmer, kamut or khorassan, and rye) but nearly all the wheat is organic and now made using sourdough. I am indebted to Shipton Mill (who don’t know I am writing this) for teaching me better practices for bread making and for the ‘mother’ for the sourdough.
The ingredients for sourdough bread are flour and a squidge of salt. That is it – no chemicals and nothing to upset us. And I believe many diagnosed with wheat intolerance find they can eat such bread without any problems. Also here all the milk is ‘raw’ or straight from the cow – no pasteurisation or homogenisation, it is organic and it tastes brilliant. And it costs a few pence more a week.
‘We are what we eat’ is an oft used phrase, but that must apply also to the bees.
Back to the bees
Bees have been around for millions of years doing what they do very successfully, but we have altered their world beyond recognition. They didn’t evolve to live in our modern hives, nor to be confronted when they fly for food with vast acreages covered often with a single crop which all flowers at one time and then doesn’t flower until next year. Think Rape! Or even wheat. And the crops have nearly all been sprayed with chemicals to maximise our yield which necessarily means all competing plants have been removed. The bees are therefore force fed what they have not had to eat since they first evolved and all this has happened mostly in the last 60 years.
The air they have to breathe is also the same bad stuff we and our young people have to breathe, and the rain provides the most acid version of it almost ever seen (except after some mega volcanic eruption) and the rain also includes all sorts of man–made chemicals. The rain Ph (measures acidity) here is below 6.0 depending on the wind direction, but neutral rain would be 7.5 so 5.7ish is extremely acid.
Then if we follow the grand American model – we regularly transport them thousands of miles to distant huge mono–cropped acreages where they again have a single plant to feed from and specifically all chemically treated with the same chemical related to that particular crop. Difficult really to imagine a way of treating them that is further from the life they evolved to live.
And then we wonder why on earth they struggle and die. Shock horror!
It is a truism that changing what the bees have to eat, particularly when it includes a vast array of chemicals, necessarily weakens their systems and increases the probability they will succumb to any problem the hive faces.