and threats. Though lots of suppositions exist about why the
honeybees are disappearing, the case remains to be cracked.
A pathogen called Nosema is one candidate. Israeli acute
paralysis virus is another. So is a parasite called the Varroa
mite. Climate change affecting bee nutrition is a possible cause.
Pesticides are a possible contributor. Stress from trucking
commercial bees around the country may compromise bee
immune systems, too. Monocultures are suspected, as bees
that eat nectar from many sources seem to have better immune
systems. Lack of genetic diversity in bees may be another factor.
Though many dismiss cell phones as a possible contributor,
preliminary research from Lausanne, Switzerland, is intriguing.
Other considerations include the effects of pollution.
When reduced to their basic outline, the combination of
three factors—bee diseases, pesticides and bee nutrition—
seem to be causing CCD, according to Marla Spivak, an
entomologist at the University of Minnesota, St. Paul, who is
using her MacArthur Fellowship grant to help bees find ways
to develop their own means to fight back.
be(e) savvy, join the hive
Reports from the United Nations that honeybee colonies are
collapsing not only in America and Europe but in China, Japan
and in Egypt along the Nile, are truly disturbing. Different
combinations and scenarios may well exist in different locales.
Biologists at the Laboratoire Biologie et Protection de l’abeille
in Avignon, France, have even attached microchips to the backs
of honeybees to monitor them and attempt to find answers.
Clearly, saving the bees is a worldwide endeavor, similar to
the coming together of workers in the hive for the common
good. With so many global factors, chefs could feel helpless.
But are we? Not if we join together as committed artists,
artisans and citizens determined to refrain from the use or
practice of suspected causes of CCD until we have solid
Sass suggests buying organic as much as possible. “Some
say the organic label doesn’t mean anything, because you
cannot control rain and irrigation water. But you should try
to control as much as you can to make sure our foods have as
little pesticides as possible.”
Chefs/organic farmers can make lots of important
contributions, too. On his farm in Crofton, Wis., Raymond
uses copper, a natural fungicide, on his peppers, tomatoes
and eggplants, all pollinated by honeybees from his own
hives. “If you hit the plants early with copper, you can
prevent a ton of diseases,” he says.
And he protects the bees by using soap spray rather than artificial
insecticides on the watermelon that goes into his seasonal
gazpacho. “I do not kill my insects. My insects are my life.”
So, as a specialist in the wonders of human nutrition, wouldn’t
you like to help the bees find better food sources, too? By
buying organic, you lower the power of pesticides, a possible
contributing cause of CCD. By buying local foods, you can
diminish reliance on monocultures, another suspected source
of CCD, while encouraging more variegated diets for the bees.
Spivak suggests that the simple act of planting flowers in your
environment can bolster more healthy food sources for bees.
“Early pansies or spring flowers will attract pollinators
for tomatoes, peppers and squash,” Raymond says. “And a
begonia bush placed at the end of a row of apple trees in an
orchard attracts bees.”
Meanwhile, as bees die, the cost of providing and transporting
pollinators could affect everyone’s food costs. Perhaps this is
a strong argument for encouraging those who live in cities to
take up beekeeping.
“I’m experimenting with rosehips to flavor my duck stock,”
says chef M.J. Adams, proprietor of The Corn Exchange
Restaurant & Bistro and The Potted Rabbit in Rapid City, S.D.
Humans eat rosehips, fruit of the rose bush (pollinated by
bees), so do birds, bears, deer, coyotes and moose. Nature’s
lush web depends on bees for the very survival of its variety
Masterton wears an amulet around her neck that contains a
fraction of a teaspoon of honey. “It contains all one bee makes
in its lifetime,” she says. “What seems small and trivial can be
So be(e) savvy. Join the hive.