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Bees at work (V): Why are bees crucial for human civilization.

Have a lovely Friday of Mid January 2022. Today is our aim to continue with the theme number V of our outline: Why are bees crucial for Human Civilization?. And the answer is simple: Bees are (in between other species) the sentinels or guards at the watchtowers. Let´s keep reading to understand why?

What is a watchtower? A watchtower is a high tower built especially around the edges of prisons and army camps, sufficiently at the top of which provides a good position from which to see anyone who is coming close. Its main purpose is to provide an elevated, safe place from which a sentinel or guard may observe the surrounding area. So, I am sure you will ask me, how could it be that a tiny bee is a guard at the watchtower?

The bees are the sentinels of the environment, feeling, watching, sensing from watchtowers.

Bees are the most accurate and sophisticated natural radar of our ecosystems. I believe there are no other species in the world with such a love history between men and fauna. As we mentioned in one of our previous posts, bees have been the subject of observation and study for millennia of years (maybe before 6,000 BC). Each great civilization from the Old World, dedicated resources and erudite people to observe, investigate and analyze them, and we got plenty of know-how about bees art hanging on murals, or historic monuments. Also, there is an abundance of information about the bees inside books that were kept as treasures for centuries and centuries… Men know more about the bees even before understanding things about their own organisms.

Generation by generation, studious scientists about bees have dedicated all their lives so we can grasp the what, how, when, why, and whereabouts of the pretty bees. These bees’ experts realized a long time ago, through experimental pilot studies and then with full-scales investigations (Can you see they applied Design-Based Research!), that bees were important, more than for honey purposes, but because they are pollinators of our food.

For bees, choosing the right dwelling place is a life-or-death matter. In my last post, I show you a drawing of a nested architecture in its natural format (a hole inside a tree). Nevertheless, many bees do not only live in a tree but in nest boxes of a specific cubic size. For example, the man-made wood Langstroth hive design is a wooden frame that allows beekeepers to easily harvest honey. Regardless if the honeybee colony lives in a wooden man-made box, inside a tree, or hanging from a strong sapling branch, they have learned to discern and they communicate in between them (as a collective intelligent swarm) to decide a spot that is located near a rich source of pollen or nectar (flowers) and water. In addition, the nest is located strategically, to supply the demands of the bees. The bees are picky. They measure and prefer their nest box or hive with extreme and detailed conditions. The bees have requirements for their homes: location facing their hives to the south, entrance size, entrance direction, entrance height above the ground, entrance height above the cavity floor, cavity volume, and shape, and the presence of combs in the cavity. In addition, they also wish to know if they will be safe if it rains or if it’s too dry.

The Langstroth design hive is the most popular man-made home for the bees. The scalable system of this apiary makes it easy to add boxes on top to separate the areas in which the bees require brood frames: the area of the queen in which she partakes her own brood box chamber to lay eggs (named the queen excluder), and the upper reusable frames that allow worker honeybees to fill with honey. Apiarists have developed the skills and the capabilities to acknowledge the best bee’s man-made honeybee colony design that allows honeybees the best home, in their quest to produce plenitude of honey.

Despite the nicest man-made hives for the bees, beekeepers are worried. However, the same apiculturists that have been caring for the bees, caring about their homes, caring about how to keep them happy, are also nervous and preoccupied. They have been recording and reporting the “bee decline” and the possibility of “colony collapse disorder” since the 1990s. Scientists, government officials, conservation groups, industry professionals, beekeepers are asking themselves plenty of questions about why beekeepers (both commercial and hobbyists) are seeing increased colony losses. Practically an average of 31% of the honeybees in their hives die year over year (YoY). This annual baseline loss (percentage of yearly bee losses) began to exceed the long-term average of these losses, uninterruptedly and continuously, when compared with the data from the 1980s. Three decades of observation are enough for beekeepers to sound the alarm to all of us. Something wrong is happening.

Bees are showing symptoms of “something wrong is happening”. According to a recent article published by the Department of Agriculture at Purdue University Agriculture, “The complex life of the honeybees”, just in the United States, in national surveys, beekeepers consistently report that they can compensate or counteract for bees´ losses of between 15 to 17 percent; however, overwintering losses the past decade have averaged 31 percent, and more recent estimates of total annual losses have indicated a loss rate of 42 percent. Both latter estimates are well above what beekeepers have indicated as “economically sustainable”. The reasons or causes that the bee industry has determined, when it comes to the decline of honeybees are related to several factors. We will visit this section in detail when we land on subject number 8 of our outline. For the time being, we will only enumerate these factors:

  1. Pathogens: As parasites like tracheal mites, varroa mites, small hive beetles and wax moths.
  2. Diseases or Illnesses: caused by bacteria (such as the fungus Nosema Ceranae), and virus (such as the deformed wing virus)
  3. Pesticides:  In the United States, even though there is an agency (EPA) that is trying to keep the bees safe, there are levels of pesticides toxicity that seem to be right to use them without harming the bees, but the hazards statements maybe uncaring to be applicable if the farmers don´t understand the complexity of the bees’ activities and their foraging happenings.  Bees are constantly challenged in the dynamic surroundings that may be affected by pesticides above what they can resist.
  4. Pollution: Breathing toxic fumes due to exposure to heavily polluted air is one of the key contributors to early death of the bees too.
  5. Scarcity of resources: When bees are deprived of their sources of food, either because there is not enough, or it doesn´t comply with the correct nutritional mix, the colony is confronted. Even if the hive is in a perfect property location, and the bee, initially, determined excellent resources (plentiful and diverse flower patches, water, and resins) up to 10 kilometers from the hive, climate conditions may vary if we live in uncertain climate change threats. Bee scientists have detected worker bee robbers, which are more likely to burglarize nectar or pollen from other colonies when these resources are limited.
  6. Inappropriate Beekeeper Practices: Apiculturists all over the world must be observers of the bees all the time, not just for honey production, but to constantly watch the sensory responses of the bees when they manipulate, transport, and exploit the making of honey. Bees are extremely sensorial. Bees are exquisitely endowed to perceive a wide range of stimuli from their environment at different levels: mechanical, visual, chemical, temperature, olfactory and by dancing they also communicate it to us. When the climate changes, the waggle dance of the honeybee changes, and beekeepers may overlook these messages, proceeding to apply their management and transportation practices, ignoring or even hurting the forage bee’s food collection messages.
  7. Communication technologies: Beekeepers are observing that the radio-frequencies of the internet businesses are hurting the bees.

Bees are like a thermometer of our earth. The sentinels in our environment watchtowers. The nature of the animals is extremely complex. God made each species with features that we can´t replicate by ourselves. In the case of the bees, these are telling us that something wrong is happening in the ambiance. Something wrong is taking place in the water when is poisoned. Something wrong is occurring in the air. Something wrong is ensuing what bees smell. Something wrong is coming to pass in what bees perceive as weird temperatures that are changing in different ranges than before. Something wrong is going on with the sun lights exposure (with the ultraviolet radiation). Do you know that just speaking about the visual receptors of the bees, the bee is endowed with color vision, and its visible spectrum differs from us? The bees are highly sensitive to ultraviolet radiation with wavelengths as short as 300 nm?

Do you know that bees waggle dances perceive the airborne sounds produced by their own and other bees dancers by sensing induced vibrations of their antennas that are being affected by the resonance frequencies of the Internet and communication companies that are planning to expand their services to each square meter in the planet?

The bees are the premonition of what is coming next for our civilizations. To dismiss their signs is like repeating once again, the same mistakes of ignoring the warnings that our ancestors smartly took the time to write on thousands of old books, which they authored to prevent us to commit the blunders that we are performing with our new technologies, our pollution, our pesticides, our lack of caring for the environment.  

This is it for today. We will continue our journey with the bees, next Tuesday with chapter number 6. Bees Swarm Intelligence.

Our outline. Updated today.

Strategic Music Hints Section:

Why did we choose the U2 “But I still haven´t found what I am looking for”? U2, the Irish band performers of the song, was a smash hit for several years after it was released. The band has been nominated 46 times, winning 22 Grammys until today.  We picked up this song because as a Salvadoran Corporate strategist it is interesting to observe how a prestigious rock band saw our situation of war at that time (1987). Bono has stated that even though he is not a communist, but a Christian of strong convictions, he felt touched by the experience. Bono has expressed “I remember the ground shaking and I remember the smell I suppose of being near a war zone”.

In our personal case, at that time I was simply a senior high school student. Looking back, and after 30 years of the Peace Agreements, please be sure that we don´t want another teenager to suffer a civil war like the one we suffered as youngsters. Peace must be privileged as our first-place championship, and all the Salvadoran youth must trust us enough, to continue defending the flag of peace, at all costs. Trust us please, to live in a place where war was occurring is just more than horrible. It is a dreams killer. I never participated in any politically exposed activity (I was too busy studying) but as a teen spectator, from the windows of my home, we could feel, smell, listen and see the war. We were living in our homes as imprisoned because it was risky to go out. We saw from the far, the bombings, the “balaceras”, assassinations of innocent people, the murders of priests, the damage and harm to all the business models of productive industries located out of San Salvador, like coffee, beekeeping, cotton, sugar, pisciculture, cattle raising, and multiple farming in rural areas. And it is horrendous, atrocious, horrific, dreadful, and repulsive to inhabit a country under those terms as a youngster.

It is a duty for the next generations of El Salvador to keep the peace at all costs. No one of us wants to return to those times. A civil war is worse than organized crime or gang’s troubles. Trust us. To shield and defend the El Salvador peace as our most treasured heritage. It should be our priority, always. Let´s not descend to a level of crazy irrationality of those who pretend to ignore the horrors of the past. Let´s not descend to the ignorance of those who have never experienced what is the meaning of living below bullets in the sky. Always, peace is worth it. Trust us. Always.

30 years after the fire of the war in El Salvador ceased.

Today´s Song: “Dynamite” by BTS. We picked up a Korean group that was nominated for the 63rd Annual Grammy´s awards 2020. Three versions of the same song: The first one is the original video from BTS. The second one is by Korea-Japan Big Band Bridge Orchestra. And the third one is an interpretation by “Rise Up Children’s Choir”. Guess why we choose this song? Please think exhaustively why?.

Thank you for reading to me, our next Tuesday episode will continue doing waggle dancing with our bees’ journey.  

Sources of reference used for this publication


Disclaimer: Illustrations in Watercolor are painted by Eleonora Escalante. Other types of illustrations or videos (which are not mine) are used for educational purposes ONLY. Nevertheless, the majority of the pictures, images, or videos shown on this blog are not mine. I do not own any of the lovely photos or images posted unless otherwise stated.

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