November 22, 2011

Visiting bees - a tribute to the bees and those who tend them

Honey Bee busy at work
Looking at the media coverage, one might think that it is politicians like Obama, Putin, Hu Jintao, Merkel or entertainers such as Ronaldo and Rihanna that make this world go around. However, by the importance of their work, the people and animals that make our food deserve the biggest focus. Today I would like to focus on the bees and the people who tend them.

At least a third of global crop output depends on insect pollination, largely by bees. The massive contribution of the bees to our well-being is largely unknown to the public. These humble servants work endlessly and quietly for no recognition or money - they pollinate apples, nuts, avocados, soybeans, asparagus, broccoli, celery, squash, cucumbers and most fruits, berries, and spices. For a more complete list of the crops they pollinate, click here.

The numbers of bees have dramatically reduced in Europe and the US since the 1960s. However, in the last decade the losses have increased exponentially, and the problems have also reached China, Japan and certain African countries. In certain areas of China the problem is so severe that farmers are forced to pollinate their crops by hand.

Hand pollination in the Sichuan province of China

Up in the trees - human pollinators in China
Photo:  Li Junsheng/ImagineChina

In the US the average annual losses of bees have been reported to be around 35% since 2007 - an alarming number. There is now talk about Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD). As it is only recently recognized as a major problem, research is just starting to deal with it and the results are inconclusive. Most likely there is a variety of factors working together - but most of them related to humans - some suggested causes are use of pesticides, malnutrition due to monoculture diet, loss of genetic diversity, genetically modified crops, use of antibiotics, mite attacks and electromagnetic radiation.

 The honey bee is nature's work horse, and we took it for granted. 
 -E.O. Wilson, renowned biologist

Human beings have fabricated the illusion that in the 21st century they have the technological prowess to be independent of nature. Bees underline the reality that we are more, not less, dependent on nature's services in a world of close to seven billion people.
                   -Achim Steiner, Executive Director of United Nations Environmental Program

In Norway today we have around 3000 bee-keepers - most of them work on a hobby basis. In July this year, I went to visit the bees who make the honey I eat. The man who owns the bee farm is Per - he graciously invited me to come along to his bee farm in the countryside. Here I will show you some pictures from my visit to the bees.

Please enjoy!

The honey bee farm - in the forest beyond the field

The honey bee farm - house

The honey production unit

Going to work - properly dressed

The hives

Per and I

Preparing the smoke to smoke out the bees

Ready to use

Preparing to take out the frames

Smoking out bees

Taking out a frame


Preparing a sheet for honey release

A machine for loosening up the frame and the honey
The Set Up: Honey tumbler machine

The honey frame tumbler machine

Tumbling in progress

Fresh honey pouring out

And finally, a short video from the pouring of fresh honey:

Bon Appetite! 
Here are a couple of articles worth reading:
Decline of honey bees a global phenomenon
- Einstein was right - honey bee collapse threatens global food security


  1. This is Great! How we take all things for Granted without realizing their contribution. All the pieces in the puzzle matter for its entirity. I showed this to Per and he was extremely Happy! You made his day today.

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  3. Takk for denne! Jeg venter i spenning på neste innlegg...