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05/11/2012 02:25 PM     print story email story  

Locavore Trend: Hotels Get Into Beekeeping While Colony Collapse Causes Become Clear

SustainableBusiness.com News

On the rooftops of hotels there's a growing trend - beekeeping!

Pretty surprising, but many hotels are giving a home to the species - so threatened by colony collapse - as they provide fresh, local honey to their guests, to satisfy their increasing hunger for locally sourced foods.

Many of the beehives are on the top of urban hotels, but you can find them in France, Hawaii, Vancouver, and even the White House, which serves White House Honey Ale.

Fairmont Hotels, long an environmental leader, has 18 apiaries in cities like Washington D.C., Newport Beach, San Francisco and Vancouver.

A LA Times article says at the Fairmont Vancouver hotel, "I looked down from my 20th-floor room and see six hives - and about half a million bees - in the center of a third-floor balcony herb garden. The bees quietly go about their business within 20 feet of the hotel pool and within 50 feet of the mammoth Vancouver Convention Centre. Meanwhile, I snacked on a selection of the hotel's delicate honey truffles, Bee's Knees. In the dining room, I found a small jar of honey on the table at breakfast."

Decline of the Honey Bee

Colony collapse disorder causes honeybees to inexplicably flee their hives.

Since 2006, commercial beekeepers have reported unprecedented annual losses of 29-36% of bees, more than double what is considered normal. In some areas, losses reach as much as 85%. And it spreading around the world.

There are numerous stresses on honey bees including habitat loss, loss of flowering plants to monoculture farming, and parasites, but the weight of evidence points to certain pesticides.

A class of pesticides called neonicotinoids seems to be the root problem. "Studies, in U.S. and in Europe, have shown that small amounts of neonicotinoids - both alone and in combination with other pesticides - can cause impaired communication, disorientation, decreased longevity, suppressed immunity and disruption of brood cycles in honeybees.

The use of neonicotinoids skyrocketed (five-fold) at the same time colony collapse symptoms were first reported in the US in 2006.

This class of systemic, neurotoxic pesticides, which entered the market in the 1990s, has rapidly taken over the global insecticide market, and are a common ingredient in home gardening products too. It coats 142 million acres of corn, wheat, soy and cotton seeds in the U.S. alone.

It can persist for years in the soil, and, as systemics, they are absorbed by the plant's vascular system, contaminating the pollen and nectar which bees encounter on their rounds.

Neonics are a nerve poison that disorient their insect victims and appear to damage the homing ability of bees, which may help to account for their mysterious failure to make it back to the hive.

Pesticide manufacturers like Bayer, are using "tobacco strategy" to prevent bans on the product. They deliberately sow doubt to delay policymaker action by discrediting dozens of independent studies.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recently accepted Bayer-sponsored studies instead of those by its own scientists, allowing the company to continue selling the products.

US commercial beekeepers filed an emergency legal petition with the EPA to suspend use of Bayer's pesticide immediately. It is backed by over one million citizen petition signatures.

Monsanto and genetically modified (GMO) crops are also in the picture. Its GMO Mon810 corn was banned in Poland this week after beekeepers proved the link with colony collapse disorder.

Interestingly, Monsanto recently bought Beeologics, who the US Dept of Agriculture and other agencies rely on to research the disorder. Could it be to stop researching the links with GMOs, which have been implicated for years?

How to Help Bees:

- support organic farmers - the best and only way to say NO to GMOs.

- cut/ stop using toxic chemicals on your lawn, and better yet, trade your lawn for a native vegie and/or flower garden that feeds honey bees.

- get your own beehive, which is easy to do.

Here's the latest research on colony collapse:

Website: www.panna.org/sites/default/files/Bees&Pesticides_SOS_FINAL_May2012.pdf



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