A waggle-dance warning
By: Melanie Weber; Real Food Challenge Team member
In light of the hysteria surrounding sudden decline in bee populations, I found the documentary More Than Honey one that was compelling, informative and surprisingly emotional. Something I truly appreciated about the film was how it brought to life the different faces of honey production. The audience is introduced to the diverse world of bee-keeping; starting with a traditional bee keeper in the high mountains of Switzerland, who maintains his hive of native bees out of family tradition; to a traveling bee-keeper who transports thousands of bees in semi-trucks, pollinating America’s massive agricultural fields; and even a breeder of bees, who tricks the hive into producing extra queens to ship around the world.
While exploring the spectrum of bee keepers, I also began to piece together the personality of the main character, the bees themselves. Approximately 50,000 bees are buzzing around one hive, but not one could survive on its own. For this reason, scientists have chosen to refer to the hive as the organism, not the individual bee. The efficient delegation and communication in the hive keeps things running smoothly, as the film points out, because there is no one bee enforcing the rules, but each bee performs a task as if it was assigned. Collectively, an average hive has 500 billion neuron cells — five times the neurological capacity of a human. As a human, an independent entity, it is easy to misunderstand the bees’ relationship to their hive. More than Honey provides the known science of bees, but also provides the viewer with a chance to observe the subtleties and emotions within hives.
Honey has amazing properties. It is filtered by the bees themselves, creating a food that is free of impurities. It also slightly acidic, helping your body fight localized infections. Plus, honey has additional antibacterial compounds. Anyone who experiences allergies can eat local honey to help their immune system. I want to still be able to enjoy my honey, but to make sure I was eating honey that was produced by a bee keeper who was respectful to the hive that produced it.
I decided to do some research on a local honey distributer: Honeyville, located just north of Durango. After talking with the folks there, I found out that Honeyville purchases honey from smaller producers all over- extending throughout the Southwest, into Colorado’s Front Range, and even into Wyoming. Something that was pressing on my mind was the use of antibiotics on hives. The Honeyville representative I spoke to informed me that bee keeping is impossible without the use of antibiotics. The bees sacrifice themselves for the sake of the honey—believing that it is for the longevity of the hive—and filter all those things out with their bodies. While I was informed that no significant levels of antibiotics can be found in the honey, I found myself equally concerned about the bees’ exposure.