Since I’ve already explored the harm of high fructose corn syrup to humans, I wanted to investigate potential damaging effects on one of our world’s most important assets: bees. They’re responsible for most of the world’s food; their furry little legs collect pollen, some of which falls off and pollinates other flowers on which they land.
Sadly, there are multiple human-derived factors to blame for their recent endangerment– a fact that’s obscured by frequently shifting reports. And though it’s commendable for otherwise reputable sites, whose sole purpose is to distinguish fact from fiction, to learn new details and adjust their statements accordingly, precision of language doesn’t always denote accuracy as they merely reflect the claims of their sources.
In November 2018, my trusted go-to fact checking site (disclosing their name would distract from my point) that has recently stated false information on multiple instances, stated bees were officially classified as endangered. When I rechecked in January 2019, the site had clarified that only a couple of species were endangered. Fair enough. But what do we make of the Media’s endless claims and counter claims?
As far back as 2010, the United States was “still losing 1/3 of its colonies” each year. In September 2016 the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service recognized that 7 species of Hawaiian yellow-faced bees were in danger of extinction along with the rusty-patched bumble bee. By October 2018, an international non-profit conservation group was seeking federal protection for California’s Western, Franklin’s, Crotch’s and Suckley cuckoo bees. Hardly the minor incident we’re supposed to brush off as alarmist propaganda.
Typically, I prefer to reference research articles that are as current as possible. Lately, as it pertains to bee health, I’ve been digging up and dusting off what I would normally consider outdated material; prior to the height of the big scare, research was focused on observation and discovery rather than cherry- picking factors to test what would best support a favorite theory.
Here’s what I found: back in 2011, the results of a comparative study of propolis (a.k.a. “bee glue”– a resin-like mixture of saliva, wax, honey and tree sap) and honey were published in a Apicultural journal (i.e. not in a mainstream news article). Concentrations of toxic elements, Zinc, Copper, Lead, Arsenic and Cadmium were significantly lower in honey, which isn’t alarming since propolis is like “bee penicillin.” However, honey’s concentration of Lead was already more than double a safe level!
Further still, a 2009 survey of bee pollen, comb and wax that spanned 23 American states and 1 Canadian province during the ’07 – ’08 growing seasons, found a whopping 98 agrochemicals (pesticides/ miticides)! This represents over half of the maximum pesticide incidences reported by apiaries. Though the study did acknowledge the severe harm of bees’ exposure to neurotoxins, it admitted more research was necessary to determine the full extent of their effects.
One seemingly uncontested contributing factor to bees’ demise is their lack of resources. A study published in 2017 showed that a change in location and/ or landscape didn’t directly affect bees’ ability to forage because they simply widened their search radius. However, it’s hard enough to find food when land development fails to take into account the necessity of flowering trees and plants. It’s even more difficult to forage without an adequate supply of water.
Granted, in urban areas there’s no shortage of dumpsters and parks with picnic areas provide an endless supply of discarded beverages, especially soda pop. And in rural areas, bee keepers typically supply corn syrup to ensure their colonies have enough food during Winter.
But despite the obvious potential problems associated with pesticides, the introduction of high fructose corn syrup could be unknowingly harmful. Perhaps this is because bees utilize various naturally toxic substances to fend off parasites and ants. Nutritional deficiencies (HFCS lacks the necessary nutrients provided by nectar) contribute to an inability to metabolize toxins, such as pesticides and pathogens by deactivating an immunity gene. (Please recall my genetics primer.)
If “natural” sweetener can wreak such havoc– at a genetic level– just imagine what a toxic chemical could do! Note: unfortunately, it’s challenging to find credible information about controversial chemical, glyphosate because most of the research done on its affects is funded by its major proponents: companies that use it to make herbicides/ pesticides and their financial backers.
Propolis Counteracts some Threats to Honeybee Health
Sugar for Bees according to “Bee Culture” Magazine
Diet- Dependent Gene Expression in Honeybees: honey vs. Sucrose or HFCS
Glyphosate perturbs the gut microbiota of honeybees
effects of field- realistic doses of glyphosate on honey bee appetite behavior