I recently saw a television documentary about a silent catastrophe happening to the honeybee population of the United States. It’s called Vanishing of the Bees. Now, there are a couple of principles I believe in that I thought were violated by some of the farming practices of the beekeepers. I still believe in the Ten Commandments, one of which is to keep the Sabbath Day holy. I also believe that some of the farming laws established in Mosaic Law (the Torah, the Old Testament) just make good sense, such as providing a sabbatical or fallow year to your lands every seven years. WHY are they shipping these poor bees all the way across the country, during their time of rest and recuperation, only to force them to pollinate California’s almond tree fields? Now, if I was dragged across the country during my short little life, forced to breathe fumes off the Interstate, put through such terrible shock, treated like a slave rather than a partner, I might just drop dead, too.
In our area, we’ve been warned about bee mites. So, as today’s farmers have been trained to do, they throw up their hands and turn to “experts” from the government or chemical manufacturer for help. THIS is the source of their common knowledge now, not the wisdom of their fathers; not the wisdom of their grandfathers and great-grandfathers who farmed the land without having to poison it. (Ever read the book, Gold in the Grass by Margaret Leatherbarrow? Maybe it might be a good idea to do so.) I don’t know if many mite-infested beekeepers have even considered any other option besides a chemical one. Despite all the claims, I, for one, CAN taste the chemicals used to harvest honey IN the honey that some local farmers try to sell to me. One particular local farmer had a batch that tasted so bad, we couldn’t even finish the bottle of honey that we bought from him. What did he use, RAID?
Again the answer comes in small and simple means, means which have already been provided by God since the Creation of the earth: Essential plant oils. According to Jim Amrine, Entomologist and Acarologist at West Virginia University’s division of Plant and Soil Sciences, “Essential oils have been shown to provide effective mite control in honeybee colonies.” His data, which I accessed today, is available at
The essential oil used most extensively was wintergreen. He also studied the effects of catnip, citronella, eucalyptus, melaleuca, patchouli, peppermint, rosemary, spearmint, tea tree, thyme and two kinds of cinnamon oils. While I don’t agree with his use of combining toxic canola oil with these essential oils, I do think the results of his research are very promising.
His studies found that essential oils have two modes of action:
1) “Toxicity by direct contact:
When varroa mites contact essential oils such as wintergreen, patchouli, tea tree oil, et al., mixed into oil or grease, they are killed on contact–usually within a few minutes.
2) Impaired reproduction via feeding syrups containing essential oils:
When varroa mites feed on larvae that contain essential oils, their reproduction is interrupted. If the oil is strong enough, the females are unable to lay eggs. If the oils are in lower concentration, eggs are layed, but development of immature mites is delayed; young mites do not reach maturity before the bees emerge from the cell; consequently, the immature mites die.”
I don’t want to reprint everything here, because that’s his information to share, not mine. However, because of the nature of the Internet, I don’t know how long Dr. Amrine’s information will remain online. Things that are true or which simply buck common belief tend to have a way of disappearing. I wonder why that is?
Here are some other ideas – if the oils work, then perhaps providing honeybees natural access to the plants which produce the oils might assist them to retain their natural immunity. Sure, the honey may taste a little different than the clover honey the palates of spoiled urbanites think they want, but I happen to like the taste of wildflower honey. For the small-time farmer, gardener or homeowner, how about planting THESE plants, and other indigenous plants for your area, to the health and happiness of the bees, butterflies, and little birds where you live? If companion planting benefits garden vegetation, then surely providing animals with their companion fauna serves an equally beneficial purpose.
If I could talk to them frankly, I would say, “Bee farmers, and all farmers for that matter, start showing a little more compassionate husbandry over the animals you keep!” Has anyone SEEN the excrement and mud covered cows at a commercial dairy farm recently, or the sunless, grassless structures where our debeaked egg-laying chickens die out their lives? Maybe if these animals were treated with a bit more of the Golden Rule in mind, then American farmers would again reap the blessings of Heaven for exercising proper stewardship over the animals Divine decree entrusted to their care. One farmer that I know of, Joel Salatin of Polyface Farms, seems to be reaping the blessings for that kind of attitude. I believe this practice of compassionate stewardship should be way more common, especially in America. I’m not talking about giving chickens silk pillows and soaking cows in bubble baths. I’m talking about letting these animals be themselves – outdoors, in the grass , happy, free. It used to be so. Crack open a Little House book sometime, or read Jean Stratton Porter’s Laddie. When Americans become disconnected from their families, their lands and their flocks and herds, then Americans become disconnected, more and more, from any sense of patriotism and loyalty to this land, to the Constitutional law of this land, and to the God of this land, who provided us with it all.
Here’s the bottom line: If we have no bees, we have no harvest, and if we have no harvest, we have no food.
Definition of the idiom, “It’s the bee’s knees”
1. The absolute best. From the English phrase the “B’s ‘n E’s” meaning the “be all end all.”
2. The best part, as bees carry pollen, the best part of the plant, in little baskets located in the mid-segments, or “knees”, of their legs.