Okay, so I have a busy week ahead of me, between robotics, trying to get a freelance writing gig with a company I love, and with a hard deadline for a novel coming up in May.
But I’m a beekeeper, too, and the former president of the Ontario-Finger Lakes Beekeepers Association…
…which is why I have no choice but to spend a few minutes fisking the absolute morons at PETA, whose ridiculous website “PETA Kids” put out an article called, 7 REASONS WHY BUYING HONEY HURTS BEES.
This insipid piece of propagandist crap is astounding in so very many ways, none of them flattering. I’d link it, but then you might click it and give them the impression that in some matter, even this small, they matter. And we wouldn’t want to do that.
The original is in italics and bold, my comments are not.
- BEES USED FOR HONEY AREN’T TREATED VERY NICELY.
Just like pigs, cows, chickens, and other animals who are factory-farmed, bees are often treated poorly, injured, and forced to live in cramped conditions, and they must endure the stress of being transported.
Did you bother to do even the slightest, tiniest bit of research before spilling this insipid drivel onto the page? (Spoiler alert: rhetorical questions are rhetorical.)
Bees are not humans, they’re not even mammals—to say that they do not have a well-defined sense of personal space would not even come close to reflecting just how cramped bees prefer to be.
First off, in the book Honeybee Democracy, Doctor Thomas D. Seeley shares his research, wherein we learn that when left to their own devices, honeybees strongly prefer a colony on the order of ten gallons in volume—the size of a single deep hive body. As hives are traditionally given two deeps, with honey supers stacked on top to give them more room, the living accommodations for an average honeybee colony is vastly more spacious than what they get in the wild—with more space added as they want it.
Further, no matter how big the space, bees will pack it full of honeycomb so that there isn’t more than 3/8” of space in any direction anyway. They like it cramped, and if you give them more room, they’ll adjust it until it’s cramped.
Saying that honeybees are “forced to live in cramped conditions” is like saying that sparrows are forced to live in trees, or ants are forced to live underground.
So, that’s strike one. And given the stupidity of that one, and that this isn’t baseball, it should be enough. But dammit, you kept going.
When a new queen bee is about to be born, a process called “swarming” occurs, when the old queen and half the colony leave their home. They set up in a new place that worker bees have found for them to begin a new colony.
Holy crap, this is mostly true! (I mean, swarming doesn’t occur in the case of supercedure, or when the queen has suddenly died for some reason or another, but okay, the natural process of bee reproduction often involves one or more new queens and one or more swarms.
…upon which time the virgin queens mate with—and horribly, horribly kill by ripping their guts out by their junk—somewhere between a half-dozen and thirty male bees, called drones.)
Since swarming means that less honey will be produced, many beekeepers try to prevent it—often by clipping the delicate wings of the new queen or killing and replacing the older queen (1,2,3).
(Aside to the reader: Those footnotes are intended to give the impression that the idiot who vomited forth this useless tripe has any clue what he (or she) is talking about. (S)he does not.)
Wing clipping doesn’t prevent swarming, it just prevents the swarm from going very far, and causes a host of other issues, to the extent that where it enjoyed some misguided popularity in years past, it’s rather rare today. Note that with the one exception of swarming, after her sex-and-murder binge of mating flights, the queen never leaves the colony ever again, and thus never uses her wings.
Killing and replacing an older queen doesn’t prevent swarming, either. Younger queens tend to lay faster than older queens, filling the brood boxes faster, and thus increasing swarming. You really, really didn’t bother to learn even the basics of what the hell you were talking about before writing this, did you? (Spoiler alert: rhetorical questions are rhetorical.)
But older queens do certainly get killed. Do you know who kills older queens, a lot? Bees do. When the queen starts to age and her laying slows down, the worker bees will gang up on her and murder her, raising a new queen from her eggs. This is called “supercedure.” Some beekeepers will accelerate this process because it maximizes the chances that the colony will survive—it’s beneficial to the colony as a whole to have a young, healthy queen, and not just for honey purposes.
But it doesn’t prevent swarming.
- BEES ARE HURT IN THE PROCESS OF COLLECTING HONEY.
When bee farmers collect honey, they’re often careless and end up tearing off the bees’ sensitive wings and legs. Farmers also cut off the queen bee’s wings to make sure that she can’t leave the hive. Can you imagine if someone ripped off your arms or legs? Talk about ouch! =(
Unfortunately, even careful beekeeping kills some bees. I’ll worry about this overmuch when you give up driving, flying, living in buildings, or eating farmed vegetables—because all of these activities kill animals as well, in droves.
We’re talking insects here, so let’s consider that. Ever drive through a cloud of midges at sixty miles an hour? You disgusting insecticidal monster! =(
Ever live in or use a building? Digging that foundation slaughtered countless ants, grubs, and worms. Can you imagine if someone caved in your home and crushed you in the ruins, leaving you to die cold and alone in the wreckage? You disgusting insecticidal and whatever-a-worm-is-icidal monster! =(
Ever eat a vegetable? Ever walk the fields after it’s been plowed, and count the mangled bodies of mice, voles, moles, grubs, worms, grass-nesting birds, and other such critters obliterated by the machinery? Now we’re talking wholesale slaughter on an incredible scale, and we’re making the terrible, terrible mistake of harming CUTE animals. You cute-icidal monster, how can you even begin to live with yourself? =(
- BEES ARE NEEDED IN THE WILD TO KEEP PLANTS GROWING!
Plants make nectar to attract pollinators (bees, butterflies, bats, and other mammals). These buzzin’ bugs (and mammals) naturally pollinate plants and play a huge role in helping new ones to grow. If bees are imprisoned by the honey industry, how will nature’s plants continue to reproduce?!
I’m sort of impressed. The last sentence of this paragraph takes the cake as the dumbest thing ever written down by anyone, ever.
How do you, dear author, reconcile in your tiny little brain the fact that bees collect nectar from plants in order to make honey with the idea that the beekeepers—excuse me, “bee farmers”—imprison the bees so that they can’t do that? Dumbest. Statement. Ever.
(Side note: nectar-collecting bees don’t collect pollen, and pollen-collecting bees don’t collect nectar. The foragers have different jobs, and it’s a myth that bees “accidentally” pollinate while collecting nectar—they naturally pollinate while collecting pollen. But I’m sorry, that distinction might cause you to actually know something, and that wouldn’t be fair.)
Clearly, blathering idiot, you didn’t bother to find out that commercial beekeepers make most of their money—far more than through selling honey—through pollination contracts. Beekeeping is not “the honey industry,” it’s “the pollination industry,” with honey as a beneficial side-product. All those flowers and trees and plants that require pollinators would die out in a matter of a few short years if it weren’t for beekeepers keeping their bees alive to pollinate them. You herbicidal monster. =(
The vast majority of fruits and vegetables we enjoy in the United States aren’t indigenous to the hemisphere, and neither are honeybees. You get that? Those all-natural honeybees are an invasive species introduced by white settlers about five hundred years ago, and have almost completely transformed the ecosystem of the continent, even the parts you think are “wild.” And you want to perpetuate this cultural, hegemonic imperialism by “saving” the honeybee—good thing your stupid plan would backfire and they’d all die, then, right?
That’s right. With all the threats to the honeybee today (most especially varroa destructor mites, nosema ceranae, and American foulbrood—all natural, in case any PETA-induced stupidity keeps you from looking them up), without beekeepers there would be no wild bees in North America, and perhaps anywhere—and so all those plants you’re boo-hooing about would be dead.
See, this is what happens when you don’t know what you’re talking about but want to change the world “for the better.” You slaughter entire species and starve most of the planet. =(
- HONEY IS FOR THE BEES, NOT US!
Bees need their honey to survive in the winter. It’s made with certain nutrients that they must have, and a colony needs around 60 pounds of honey in order to make it through the cold months. Oftentimes, large honey businesses will take a hive’s honey and replace it with a cheap sugar substitute that’s not as healthy for the insects.
This is even kind of true, except for, you know, the parts that aren’t, specifically the “must have” and the “oftentimes.” “Must have” is demonstrably false, because bees can survive through the winter on sugar alone, and have done so many, many times.
Some bad beekeepers will take too much honey and try to make it up with syrup, but this is almost never true of large commercial beekeepers. The large beekeepers make so little per pound wholesaling honey that it’s not even kind of worth the money spent in labor to take too much and then feed syrup to supplement. It hardly qualifies as “oftentimes.” Remember, it’s the pollination industry, not the honey industry.
(Side note: almost all of the large commercial operations overwinter their bees in the south, where they don’t need as much honey—not so they can take more money, but because the warmer climate is less stressful on the naturally tropical bees.)
In colder areas, if the keepers consider it too costly to keep the bees alive through the winter, they destroy the hives by setting them on fire. We don’t know about you, but we would be pretty sad if someone set our homes on fire just because it got cold outside!
What ignorant gibberish are you blathering about, now?
There is not a beekeeper in the world who sets their bees on fire because they won’t survive the winter—even if the bees are probably going to die (which nobody wants), the woodware in which they live is worth good money. You’re probably confusing something—I have no idea what, as I haven’t crawled up your rectum to find your head and ask you—with what happens when a colony gets American Foulbrood.
Most US states (plus Canada) have laws that say if a colony is found that is infected with American Foulbrood it must be incinerated, with all of the woodware as well, because this horrific disease will wipe out every honeybee in the world if it’s allowed to run rampant. AFB is terribly infectious, the spores last essentially forever, a single microscopic spore in a drop of honey is enough to start a pandemic that will destroy an entire colony—whereupon other bees will rob out that honey and thus infect themselves, and it has a 0% survival rate without human intervention.
It has nothing to do with winter survival, or survival of that colony at all—bees with AFB are burned because they’re dead anyway, and they’ll spread the infection if they’re not completely sterilized by high heat.
- HONEY IS SOLD TO MAKE MONEY, NOT TO HELP THE BEES.
Bees are overworked just so that large organizations can make money from their honey. That’s like if you worked really hard to create something and then someone else stole it from you, sold it, and even kept the money. So not cool.
In the wild, worker bees work themselves to death in about six weeks. They work themselves to death in about six weeks in a beekeeper’s—pardon, I mean “bee farmer’s”—colony, too. They never sleep, they never rest—they just change from job to job until they literally can no longer function, and then they fly or crawl away from the colony to die where their body will not cause extra work for, or spread disease to, their colony.
Bees are not domesticated. It is impossible to “overwork” or “underwork” a honeybee—she is going to do what she is going to do regardless of whether or not her home is human-managed or not, except that she’s likely going to die out if a beekeeper isn’t there to keep diseases and parasites in check.
Overworking a honeybee is as possible as overwatering a fish.
- SPEAKING OF HARD WORKERS …
Bees are just that! A single worker bee may visit up to 10,000 flowers in one day. That’s a lot of flowers! But even after visiting so many plants, they produce only about one teaspoonful of honey. That goes to show just how precious honey is to bees.
Bees each have a specific job to do, depending on things like their age, whether they’re male or female, and the time of year. By interfering, humans can really mess up their system.
Without human interference, honeybees will die out. They did die out in North America, over 99% of colonies that were not human managed, while beekeepers spent hundreds of millions of dollars and hundreds of thousands of man hours to keep theirs alive.
Beekeepers do not “mess up” their system, they ensure that these non-indigenous, tropical creatures can survive to pollenate the fruits and veggies that you eat.
- STEALING IS WRONG.
We think we can all agree on that. So why is it OK for people to steal bees’ precious honey from them? The answer is easy: It’s not! Bees need their honey to live, and we don’t. It’s as simple as that!
Yeah! So remember, dear reader, next time this greedy bastard steals an apple, which a tree spent so much effort and energy on so that it can procreate—and hit him in his giant-yet-somehow-tiny head with it until he loses the urge to consume it. Trees need their fruit to live, and we don’t! It’s as simple as that!
HOW YOU CAN HELP
It’s not hard to bee a hero for these awesome insects! You can simply avoid lip balms, candles, and other products that include ingredients like honey, beeswax, propolis (or “bee glue”), and royal jelly.
Yes! Remove the financial incentive for beekeepers to do what they do, and you’ll be a hero! Pat yourself on the back while nosema ceranae, varroa destructor, and American Foulbrood wipe the honeybee off the planet, because nobody is left to keep the bees from dying.
There are also tons of humane alternatives to honey, like agave nectar, rice syrup, molasses, maple syrup, and dried fruits and fruit concentrates that can help keep your diet sweet and bee-free!
Let’s take those one at a time, shall we?
Agave—pollinated by bats and some other insects, but primarily by honeybees, which will die out once humans stop keeping bees. Sorry, no agave syrup, kid.
The WWF reported in 2004 that sugar cane is responsible for more loss of biodiversity than any other crop. How’s that molasses and syrup taste now?
Rice syrup—let’s take this one together with maple syrup.
Maple syrup…. We make seven million gallons of maple syrup a year total. We make about twelve million gallons of honey just in the US. So how’s that math work, exactly?
Maple syrup and rice syrup are energy-expensive products, requiring the burning of tremendous amounts of fuel (generally fossil fuels or wood) to produce comparatively small amounts of syrup. It typically takes 4.1 gallons of fuel oil (three gallons in a highly efficient system) to make a single gallon of maple syrup—so as we replace honey with maple syrup we’re going to burn how much more oil? Another forty million gallons a year? Or at one cord of wood per 15 gallons of syrup, how many more trees are we going to cut down to feed our maple sugar habit? I don’t know how much fuel it takes to make brown rice syrup, but the process involves elevating the heat level for several hours before even boiling it down, so I can’t imagine it’s going to look good on the final outcome here.
Dried fruits and fruit concentrates? Sorry, we’re not going to have any of those, because the fruit will die out shortly after the honeybees once there are no beekeepers to keep them alive. =(
Conclusion: You’re an idiot, and parents should protect their children from people like you who pretend they know what they’re talking about but are, in fact, laughably stupid, fanatical propagandists without any interest in even pretending to use the truth to spread their message.