A few words about bees

Bees feed on pollen, but honey is their only source of food in adverse weather conditions during the winter months, and it contains nutrients intended for their own consumption. Honey is also an insulating material for their hives.

Bees visit up to 1,500 flowers in order to collect enough nectar to fill their stomach. On returning to the hive, they regurgitate the nectar, in a process that results in the creation of honey.

Each bee produces the equivalent of barely one-twelfth of a teaspoon full of honey throughout their life – and every gram is essential for the hive.

Also, bees fly approximately 55,000 miles and visit two million flowers to produce 450 grams of honey.

Commercially bred bee populations sometimes succumb to a disease called “colony collapse disorder” – which scientists associate with “bee management stress”, “pesticide poisoning” and “inadequate foraging/ malnutrition”.

Bees are bred and raised with the sole purpose of producing honey. However, breeding sometimes involves transporting different species of bees to the same hive, which increases their susceptibility to disease and death. These diseases are then transmitted to thousands of other pollinators, on whom we and other animals rely for survival.

Due to the mass breeding of bees, the number of bumblebees and many species of birds has decreased.

Bees are highly social and collaborative insects. They use a unique and complex form of communication, based on sight, movement and smell, which even scientists do not fully understand.

It is known that they communicate with each other through complex “dancing” movements.

Research has shown that bees have the ability to think abstractly, as well as to pick out members of their family from the other bees in the hive.

Beekeepers use and exploit bees for 2 reasons:

– For the production of honey they [beekepers] can sell and make a profit.

– For pollination of plant or tree species (e.g. almond trees), an activity which also brings them profit.

[Honey, beeswax, pollen, royal jelly (bee milk), propolis and bee venom are all products of labor-intensive activities of work animals.]

Unethical practices in beekeeping

  • Beekeepers trim the queens’ wings to prevent them from leaving the hive and creating a colony elsewhere – something that would hurt their productivity and profit.
  • They artificially fertilize the queens with the well-known machine (from livestock rearing) called a rape rack, which is also available in tiny size. In short, they rape them. 
  • Each time beekeepers remove honey from the hive, many bees are killed or badly injured (for example, their legs might be cut off) by careless handling. It’s inevitable.

Whenever a queen is transferred to a new colony, she is sent with bee-“bodyguards” to protect her who are always killed by bees native to the new colony.

Most beekeepers do NOT leave any honey for the bees as they normally should, in order to help them survive the winter, and give them sugar water instead. This cheap sugar substitute does not contain the nutrients, fats and vitamins that honey has. This unethical practice forces the bees to work harder to replace the missing honey.

In very cold areas, if the beekeepers decide it is too financially damaging to keep the bees alive in the winter, they kill the insects with cyanide gas.

How are queen bees sent when sold to other beekeepers?

Queen bees are sent to their buyers in a box by post.

Worst of all, in order to fertilize the queens, beekeepers get sperm from the drones by crushing them, killing them instantly.

First, their head and chest are crushed, causing contraction in their abdominal area and bringing “the inside out”. The rest of the body is then crushed.

During their lifetime, the queens mate with 7 -17 drones who die after mating. There is a difference between having dying after mating – having lived free all your life – to being imprisoned in order to one day be killed and harvested for sperm. Especially if we think about how many thousands of kilometers bees normally travel and how many flowers they visit while living free.

Therefore, these hard working animals do not deserve to be exploited. They deserve to keep the fruit of their labors.

Honey can easily be replaced with vegan alternatives, such as rice syrup, agave nectar, maple syrup, barley malt, molasses, organic beet sugar, carob syrup, Sucanat, sorghum or fructose.

Elisabeth Dimitras

Translation from Greek: Eric Karoulla – team member of the Respond Crisis Translation