Today is UN’s World Bee Day. The aim of World Bee Day is to “raise awareness among the international public about the importance of bees and other pollinators for humanity in the light of food security, the global elimination of hunger and care for the environment and biodiversity”, ironically and tragically, while ignoring the need to raise awareness among the international public about the massive exploitation of bees by humanity.
The honey industry sees bees merely as production units. Honey consumers see bees as symbiotic beings who willingly choose to share their labor and resources with humans. And even not all vegans consider bees in their moral circle.
But actually like the other commercially exploited animals, bees are sentient beings who are used as bio-machines to make a product for human pleasure.
Probably because they are insects and because they are seen flying around, bees are considered free of the usual cruelties of the animal farming industry. However bees undergo treatments similar in their essence to those endured by other commercially exploited animals. They go through routine examination and handling, artificial feeding regimes, drug and pesticide treatment, genetic manipulation, artificial insemination, transportation (by air, rail and road) and murder.
Despite the non-incidental, convenient, common assumption – bees can feel. All the evidence available indicates that they, as many other invertebrates who have a centralized nervous systems (which includes a brain), do have the capacity to feel suffering and pleasure.
Invertebrates, it seems, exhibit nociceptive responses analogous to those shown by vertebrates. They can detect and respond to noxious stimuli, and in some cases, these responses can be modified by opioid substances.
Enkephalin-like substances and their receptors have also been found in insects, and opiate agonists and antagonists have been shown to modulate nociceptive-type responses in several species of arthropod, including mantis shrimps, honeybees, and praying mantes.
Bees are highly adaptive and sophisticated beings with a bit less than one million neurons, which are interconnected in ways that are beyond our current understanding, jammed into less than one cubic millimeter of brain tissue. The neural density in the bee’s brain is about 10 times higher than that in a mammalian cerebral cortex, which most of us consider to be the pinnacle of evolution on this planet.
Bees display complex behaviors such as communication with other bees using different types of body movements (the famous bee dances) informing them about the position of flowers and where to pick pollen. They also have a great memory which allows them to remember where the flowers and the hive are.
Bees suck nectar from surrounding flowers, hold it in their primary stomach and fly back to the hive. There, the nectar is chewed and regurgitated by other bees until its complex sugar breaks down to 2 simple ones – glucose and fructose. Then the bees deposit the nectar into cells in the honeycombs they build. They fan it with their wings until most of the water content evaporates in the warm temperature of the beehive, and what’s left is thick and gooey honey. The bees then cap each cell with bees’ wax, storing it for future use. The honey is very essential to feed the bees and their young in the winter when pollen is less widespread. Therefore bees work continually throughout the other months to hoard supply.
Bees can only gather a tiny amount of pollen from the flowers in each trip, 55,000 miles of travel and pollen from 2 million flowers are needed to gather just one pound of honey. They do all of this work to create food for their own consumption, not for human beings.
For humans to consume honey, first it must be robbed.
To make the theft easier, humans usually remove the bees from their hive by shaking, heating, smoking, gassing or using forced air to blast them out the hives.
Many bees are injured, squashed or otherwise killed during the conquest of their home.
When the honey is taken from the bees and they are not killed, the bees are left without their food. As a substitute for this, bees whose honey have been taken away are fed water with sugar, a deficient substitute which significantly harms the bees’ health since it lacks the essential nutrients, fats and vitamins of honey.
Honey bees are adapted to warmer climate, and therefore ‘beekeeping’ during winter, especially in cold countries, puts them in much strain. The bees’ technic of keeping the hive warm is simply vibrating to generate heat, like shivering. This requires a lot of energy, but their food –honey – was stolen, leaving them even more vulnerable.
The “winter loss” the industry deems “acceptable” is about 15% of hives, and some years it’s twice as high.
The industry creates new generations of queen bees by artificial insemination.
The favored method of obtaining bee sperm is to pull off the males’ heads: decapitation sends an electrical impulse to the nervous system, causing sexual arousal. The lower half of the headless bee is then squeezed to make it ejaculate, and the resulting liquid is collected in a hypodermic syringe to be inserted into the female.
Small metal instruments are used to open the queen’s “sting chamber” and insert the syringe, which makes this experience very stressful for her. The queen is actually being raped.
Bees cannot escape from captivity by just flying away because single bees cannot make it on their own, and a whole group cannot escape since the “beekeepers” are preventing what is called swarming – which is when the queen leaves the colony with many worker bees – by clipping the wings of the queen. Clipping is often done using a “baldock cage”, this is a ring with sharp spikes on its perimeter and a mesh covering the opening of the ring. This is used to trap the queen in one place, her wings are then cut with scissors. Other methods for wing clipping include using a plunger and a tube with a mesh end which the queen is held against as her wings are clipped.
“Beekeepers” often kill the old queen and replace her with a new one (older queens are much more likely to swarm than younger ones).
Preventing swarming is particularly important for bee exploiters since not only would they lose about half of “their” bees, but also since bees do not produce honey during the intense preparation of swarming.
The queens are bought from commercial ‘queen suppliers’. Hundreds of queens are kept in cages waiting to be shipped around the country. After arrival at the post office or shipping depot, they suffer from overheating, cold, getting banged around and exposed to insecticides.
Queens can live for five years but most “beekeepers” kill and replace them after one year. The reasons are to gain control over the colony and to keep honey production at maximum. Artificial pheromones are also used to keep the colonies under human control.
As is the “norm” with animal exploitation industries, humans try to squeeze any possible profit from the beings they exploit. Bees are exploited for much more than honey:
- Bee Pollen is collected from flowers and brought back to the hive as a load on the hind legs. It is an important food source for the bees, which is needed for survival. The collection of pollen involves fitting special traps in the hive, in order to scrape the pollen from the bees’ backs.
- Bee Venom is the sting of the bee. Its collection involves the stretching of an electrically-charged membrane in front of the hive. When the bees fly into it they receive an electric shock and sting the membrane, thus depositing the venom. Venom is mostly used in medical substances and some beauty and “anti-aging” products.
- Royal Jelly is a creamy-white sticky fluid, which is made from a blend of two secretions from the glands of the worker bees. It is the sole source of nourishment for the queen bee throughout her life. Since royal jelly enables the bee to become a queen, some people believe they can recapture their youth by eating it.
- Beeswax is secreted by bees to build their hives. The grayish-brown wax is secreted by the bee to construct honeycombs. Beeswax is used in some candles and many “natural” cosmetics (which are marked as “no animal products”) as well as some food products and pharmaceuticals.
This compels the bees to keep working to produce more and more wax to make up for the wax stolen from them.
- Propolis is a resinous substance gathered by bees from trees. It is used to fill holes, and varnish and strengthen the hive. Bees also use it as a natural antibiotic, antiviral and antifungal agent. It is gathered by humans either by scraping it off the hive or by collecting it on specially made frames. It is used by humans for medical uses as well as the production of cosmetics and special varnishes. Again, their extraction compels the bees to go and pick more for the hive to be kept safe.
- Bee Brood is made of the bodies of bees in the different early stages in their development including eggs, larvae and pupae. The bodies of these bees are simply eaten.
- Pollination is the most lucrative part of bees’ exploitation. It takes 6 million honeybee hives to pollinate just the almond trees, in the U.S alone, each spring. About a million of which must be trucked in from out of state. 60% of the annual income of 1,500 “beekeepers” comes from pollination. “Without the almond industry, the bee industry wouldn’t exist”, said one large-scale “beekeeper”
Honey is a classic example of the human character.
Humans commercially steal bees’ winter food source, merely to sweeten their own food.
Sweeter life for humans; genetic manipulation, artificial insemination, pesticides, poisoning, artificial food, rough handling, smoke, chemical repellents or air blast, transportation by air, rail, road and even by mail, and murder – for the Bees.
It is so natural for humans to steal from bees who have sweeter “sugar”.
It is so natural for humans to steal from the weak something so basic in order to provide something so marginal to the strong.
Humans don’t even understand how can it even be possible to steal from a bee.
For them the bees are giving humans the honey. Like chickens and eggs, cows and milk, sheep and wool, geese and down and so on. No questions. No criticism.
With all this violence being so natural and obvious for humans, isn’t it time for some questions and criticism over conventional activism?