Saturday, June 28, 2008

Bees in the Corn

This morning I did a hive entry check because last night, while I was sitting on the porch as a thunderstorm went right around us, AGAIN, I thought I noticed fewer bees hanging on the front of hive number 1. Fewer bees could have been caused by the cool, damp breeze blowing in or it could be a sign of trouble. Anyway, I stood around in front of the hives today and I saw lots and lots of bees with enormous panniers of pollen. See the little yellow pocket to the right of the bee. Go ahead, click the picture for a better look.

I did a quick look around and realized the corn had bloomed and the bees were sneaking over the fence to partake. The bees love this stuff, though harvesting corn pollen has no economic benefit since corn self-pollinates.

Hold up a minute. Let me climb on my stump.

Many commercial beekeepers forget this important, natural step in the hive year. When the beekeepers become paid pollinators for crops requiring insect pollination, the needs of the bees are neglected. Years ago, bees were more viable because there were more backyard keepers and farmers who kept their own pollination hives, which allows them to stay on the property for the entire year. During the stationary hive year, the bees are allowed to forage for the nutrients needed to keep healthy, while those on the road are fed inferior replacements.

If we let the bees gather corn pollen, would we be any better off? With all the genetically modified corn out there, I'm wondering if the bees need to be left to their own devices. Could the genetically altered corn be the one thing that is killing the bees?

We grow only organic, non GMO, corn here, so I let (like I am in full control of all my 120,000 plus bees) my bees eat all they want, but I do wonder about the other, not so lucky bees (I'm also lucky, none of my neighbors are corn growers). If corn is genetically altered to produce Bt in the pollen, which it is, then is not the pollen an insecticide?

Perhaps cheap corn isn't as cheap as it seems.


m~ said...

I never thought that bees would gathering genetically modified vegetable pollen, nor have I even given any thought how it would affect them. Thanks for getting up on that ole stump of yours!

ZILLA said...

I honestly can not remember the last time I saw a honey bee, let alone a honey bee with pollen-laden panniers; just wasps and hornets and the occasional bumble.

I am SO intrigued. I'm off to research whether or not New Zealand is experiencing much colony collapse disorder, as I understand they work pretty darn hard in that country to keep GMO crops OUT.

It makes sense that the issue has to do with the food supply rather than with cell phone towers. If that's the case, I'd bet dollars to Krsipy Kremes that someone has figured it out and the facts are being withheld due to some skee-jawed notion of "economic interests."

Have you looked into this yet, outside of your own back yard?

Good eye, W.

Wisteria said...

I honestly just had the thought yesterday. Last year I noticed how greedily my bees foraged the corn, but hadn't thought about the implications of the GMOs. Just this week I read an article about the GMO corn affecting the monarch and when my bees were being so greedy, I thought it could be a possibility. I, too, will research.

Melora said...

Great picture!
I didn't realize that there was an alternative To bees being left to their own devices. I thought they just went out and collected pollen from whatever was in the area. But your idea about the genetically modified corn (which I assume is modified to be in some way unappealing to insects?) is interesting!

Angela said...

Thought provoking post. I think I will be picking your brain when I am teaching hte lessons on honeybees and ecology this year in my science class! We need to make the kids aware!

Kate in NJ said...

Thanks for hopping up on your stump...I haven't seen a single honey bee around here either.