In search of the truth, Special Agents William Neal and Patrick Cuccaro explore the mysterious Green world of sustainable special events and catering. What myths will they shatter? What will they uncover?
The Truth is out there…so we’re told.
In Episode 15, William and Patrick looked toward the warmth of spring to investigate some popular celebs who “go Green” in their daily lives and who planned sustainable weddings. They also highlighted a local treasure, the Atlanta Botanical Garden. This week, our special agents look at the connection between bees, our food system and ways to expand our commitments to environmental responsibility.
PATRICK: What in the world are you doing over there in your office, Agent Neal? What is that crazy buzzing noise?!?
WILLIAM: I’m buzzing, Agent C! I just got my new issue of “Beekeeper’s Weekly“, and I’m imitating the sounds of the quite fearsome African bee!
WILLIAM: No, silly sleuth! You left the door open this afternoon and I’ve got bees buzzing around my glazed donuts!
PATRICK: Well, don’t kill any of them because each and every bee preforms a vital function in the environment, and we would starve without them!
WILLIAM: What do you mean? I feel an Agent Cuccaro investigative dissertation coming on…
PATRICK: You bet, and here is what I have uncovered about bees…
They’re a critical part of nature’s delivery service, of pollen that is. Pretty much everyone is aware of the process of pollination and its importance to the plant, tree, fruit and vegetable world. But there are much bigger and more important facets to the equation, all directly related to sustainability.
WILLIAM: One of our trusty vendors here at Affairs, John Batson of Batson Consulting Group, who happens to keep bees as a hobby, laid some interesting stats on me. More than 211,000 beekeepers maintain about 3.2 million honeybee colonies in the United States. Commercial beekeepers often use their bees for pollination of crops rather than for honey production. In fact, one-third of our food production is the direct result of pollination by bees.
He also told me about some of the problems bees face in modern times and the effect it is having on global health. Pesticides that have long been used to control bugs that damage vegetables, fruits and other edibles have ravaged bees over time. And if that wasn’t enough, even some chemical and non-chemical compounds commonly used to protect commercial bee colonies from bacteria and mildew have just become too much over time. “No bees = significant food reduction”—that is the potential crisis.
PATRICK: Right you are. As I understand it, there are other factors stacked against bees that you might not know about (one example). For instance, the cumulative impact of many chemicals other than pesticides, many of which are considered benign on their own, can create a toxic brew for bees and other living creatures.
The past decades have seen a large portion of the worldwide honeybee population experience colony collapse disorder, and it seems to be getting worse. Variations in weather naturally play a factor in many areas of the world. But, land development, which removes bee habitat, has accelerated colony destruction, as well.
But here is where it gets scary: Bees have survived this planet for millions of years, but their steady decline is an environmental indicator of what humans could face if certain things don’t change course. This recent article puts it in context: Bees and the Environment
On another note, if people can’t make the connection of colony collapse disorder to their dinner table, then maybe espousing some of the wonderful health benefits of raw honey will help them understand the importance of bees.
WILLIAM: I love local honey. I have enjoyed honey in my tea and on my toast for years! Love that stuff!
PATRICK: Raw honey and the crystal clear processed honey you find in the store are as different as compost and man-made fertilizer. Raw honey is filtered, but not pasteurized like commercial brands. In raw honey, nearly all the healthy enzymes, nutritious compounds and probiotic bacteria remain intact making raw honey one of nature’s “superfoods”. In commercial brands that line the shelves, there is little to no health benefit because these substances have been cooked out, so some sources report.
WILLIAM: I’ve heard that if you eat local raw honey on a consistent basis that you won’t suffer from allergies. Is any of that true?
PATRICK: Like so many other things, the real answer is, “It depends”.
Some studies, over the past few decades, have shown evidence that when raw honey containing pollen from your area is taken in small doses over time, the body gradually develops immunity and tolerance to pollen related allergens.
At the same time, other studies say that yes, local, unprocessed honey does contain small amounts of pollen from the environment, however, the pollen in honey is mostly from the flowers where bees are found and that flowering plant pollen is less likely to cause allergy symptoms, and honey has lesser amounts of allergenic, airborne pollen from trees, grasses and weeds, which more commonly affect people.
This scenario reminds me of our tagline—”Not everything about Green is black and white.” I’m a skeptic here. As usual, I pay close attention to who funded the study I’m reading and I’m not a doctor so, I’ll leave the treating of severe allergies to the specialists.
WILLIAM: I wonder though, with the rise in popularity of “home grown” practices like gardening, support for farm-to-table eating AND even with urban farming and beekeeping, won’t we help bees in some way directly or indirectly?
PATRICK: I suppose, but as we have spoken of in other investigations, it’s the collective impact of a majority that can create positive change and healing of the environment–but that’s a double-edged sword.
Our consumer appetite has pressured farms to produce–in any way that increases their yields. That’s not always harmonious with what Mother Nature has in mind.
WILLIAM: I wonder what some of our local farmers and vendors who supply us with raw products have to say on the subject?
PATRICK: I am sure they would validate the importance of bees to their crops, and I imagine that they are very concerned.
One of my favorite local growers is 3 Porch Farm, just outside of Athens. I single them out because they grow edible flowers and herbs. Part of their inspiration comes from the nationally recognized Floret in Washington State, which is known as a classic example of a small family-owned and operated flower farm that has made it big.
For local and national businesses like these, and hundreds of others, flowers are critical to their commerce overall, and bees are there to help ensure that there is a healthy bottom line.
WILLIAM: Once again, when the connection is made to the pocketbook AND to health AND the dinner table with environmentally safe practices, THEN people take note.
PATRICK: Yes they do and yes they should.
WILLIAM: So, Agent C, we will have to be more cautious and take care of honeybees in the future because of their importance to our environment.
PATRICK: Yes. Hey, can I have one of those donuts now?
To be continued…
If you have the room or balcony space, are you willing to plant bee-friendly flowers and not use chemical pesticides? Which is your favorite organic, local honey? Please share with us and other readers in the comments section below!
Join us next week as William and Patrick discuss their latest investigations in the world of sustainability and how our lives are directly impacted. Next, they dig deeper into the garden of knowledge and continue to discuss how we humans get ready for the advent of spring!
This week’s 3Rs…
REVEALED: Beekeeping Class at the Garden
REVILED: Ignoring Colony Collapse Disorder