What’s with all the BUZZ on honey bee colony declines?

In light of National Honey Bee Day, recently celebrated on Saturday, August 17th we thought we’d bring you a little ‘buzz’ that is occurring in the honeybee world – honey bee colony declines.


You might have heard it in the news lately but according to USDA ‘there are multiple factors playing a role in honey bee colony declines, including parasites and disease, genetics, poor nutrition and pesticide exposure.’ This decline has been released as CCD, Colony Collapse Disorder. Recording back from 2006, slow declines have been reported by beekeepers in Western countries due to weakened protein production. Later in the USDA report, Agriculture Deputy Secretary Kathleen Merrigan states “there is an important link between the health of American agriculture and the health of our honeybees for our country’s long term agricultural productivity.”

Recently, I got the opportunity to sit down with The Sanctuary’s Executive Pastry Chef, Lawrence Brubaker and found myself in awe of how in depth this crisis was, especially to our culinary industry. Here is what I learned…

“I first heard about this around five years ago.  As an outdoors man and an advocate of the farm to table movement, I’ve always tried to keep one foot grounded in the food production industries such as farming, fishing and wild foraging.  These “salt of the earth” industries rely heavily, if not completely, on consistent Earth cycles.  Whether it is the seasons, the tides or something that happens on such a small and unnoticed level like pollination, all of these cycles are intertwined.  Now we are quickly beginning to see just how connected all of these cycles are. The disappearance of the honey bee is a symptom of something much bigger going on in our planets’ cycles and the wake-up call is spreading through the culinary community.   I can recall during the early 1990’s when I was an apprentice that a new message was being embraced by the next generation of Chefs, sustainability.  Quotas were being placed on fish such as wild striped bass and swordfish and we were beginning to understand that the sea’s bounty was not endless.  We would have to treat the sea and its creatures as a valued resource and limit our catches or risk losing the resource.  Fortunately, the limited quotas have helped those fish populations bounce back.  But now we have another keystone species at risk with the bees and this one has enormous impact on our society.  Not being a scientist doesn’t prevent me from trying to understand what going on either.  My industry, food and beverage, is inexorably tied to the honey bees’ future.  The size of the food and beverage industry around the globe is supported by the amount of food that can be produced for it.  And bees, humble little bees, pollinate vast tracts of land across the globe that allows these crops to be grown.  Should that cycle be interrupted or stopped, vital columns supporting our industry will have been torn out.  If a positive can be taken from the bees’ plight, it would be that more and more people are becoming aware of our connection to this world and how important it is that we take care of it.  I just hope we are not too late.”

Thankfully we have people like Ted Dennard out there trying to protect and rebuild this population. Dennard is a local and lifelong beekeeper and owner of Savannah Bee Company. Ted has recently started a nonprofit called ‘The Bee Cause Project’. The project is an initiative related to the importance of beekeeping. The purpose of this project is pretty clear when visiting his website, ‘saving the honey bees’ one school at a time’. Ted is visiting schools within the region, about the importance of honeybees and the process of safe beekeeping. Their goal, to successfully install observation honeybee hives in 1,000 schools.

Being a company who is largely into the farm to table movement, we rely heavily on purchasing local produce from our own backyard. Without pollination and conservancy of our honeybees, large consumers, such as ourselves, would need to look elsewhere.