You can pull’em, till’em, poison’em, or burn’em. They don’t require fertilizer, cultivation, irrigation or human care of any sort. They’ve had the luxury of not a single harvest or being needed by us for anything at all. Weeds, ya know. Those pesky critters we sneer at when planting our gardens of genetically perfect produce and bloom. I had that epiphany of realization while propping up my heirloom corn, blown over after a 3 day soaking rain which of course left the weeds standing strong and wanting more. The bugs had just finished snacking on my lettuce and were headed to the tomatoes in a conga line with a jar of mayo. Good thing I wasn’t growing bacon, I thought! All around weeds are marching, encroaching and persisting with a natural vigor that no human created veggie can compare to.
Over there, not 20 feet away, are my 25 colonies of honey bees that are more like our cultured gardens than the weeds, now ‘a days. Bees used to be like weeds. Not now. Through generations of human interference we have domesticated these bugs into just another dependent farm animal which, we believe, are ever more reliant on our helicopter love, less they fall victim to Darwin’s law. It’s survival of the fittest that puts weeds ahead of gardens, wild animals ahead of domestic and certainly feral bees ahead of our creation, Apis Woosy. Some beekeepers are waking up of late though. Some are touting the advantages of feral this and northern that. While it offers hope that our eyes are beginning to open, human attention in many ways is firmly rooted in the old adage “the road to hell is paved with good intention.” Weeds and wild things with fur, fin and feather do quite well at adapting to adversity without a push or pull from us. Far too often, when we try to “correct” a problem in the natural world we inadvertently create an unnatural consequence. It puts meaning into “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” Darwin’s definition of Natural Selection may be dispassionate but human interference defaults to chaos far too often.
A plethora of chemicals, intended to cure, have poisoned our bees while beetles and mites adapt. We close borders and quarantine imports of bees from other lands while invasive species slip through customs unnoticed. All sorts of marketable invention are sold to beekeepers that empty pockets quite well but do little to correct problems. We breed for hygienic traits which are quickly lost to field mating of queens. Of course we intend only the best but the devil is in the details and we are, far too often, introducing unneeded, new details. The survival of the honey bee is necessary because of our dependence on the sheer volume of food required to feed a burgeoning human population that is growing, growing, growing. In nature species expand and contract in proportion to required resources.
It may be time to take a page from Mother Nature’s book and relearn the art of being patient, how to observe before we react, how to think with the future in mind instead of being blinded by the “now” and miss the bigger picture. Life, all life, is a perfect system of checks and balances. It will teach us all we need to know if we would only pay attention in class and stop talking long enough to listen to what is being shouted at us. We beekeepers desperately need to form and follow our own version of the Hippocratic Oath to cause no harm as we are fatefully driven to act as physicians to honey bees. In the bigger picture, the fix is already in. It just takes time and much less interference from us.
“I will prescribe regimens for the good of my patients according to my ability and my judgment and never do harm to anyone.” (Citation- Hippocratic Oath late 5th Century B.C.)