been a big U.S. flap over the fact that honeybees seem to have gone
missing. North Americans are becoming alarmed that without pollination,
foods such as almonds, apples, blueberries, peaches, and other goodies,
will vanish, too. Honeybee pollination is also needed to make alfalfa
and clover which feeds beef and dairy cattle. The New York Times
even published an article about the collapse of bee colonies called
Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD). When a problem in nature is given
its own name and then the name is turned into initials by the New
York Times, it must be really important. Can you sense a price rise
On the other hand, my landscape-designer daughter found an answer
to the missing honeybee mystery in Farm & Market Report, an industry-related
publication. U.S. media is again fomenting fear: global warming
will melt all the ice cream in the world, can Hillary Clinton convince
Texas she's not lying, and where's the honey for my tea? My solution
to the mystery of the missing bees is they fled to Mexico and are
living as bee expatriates. It costs less than it does to live in
the U.S., and they don't have a pension plan.
One has to wonder why humans who believe in spraying, shooting and
slaughtering insects and animals, fail to look to themselves when
nature goes awry. If the North Americans treated honeybees as they
are treated in Mexico, maybe they wouldn't leave home.
This brings to mind a story in A Treasury of Mexican Folkways by
Frances Toor, who writes about how the Mexican culture treats its
honeymaking friends. She tells us bees have been kept since before
the Conquest, their honey highly prized as a sweetener and for medicinal
purposes, and their wax for ritual candles. -
"According to the Huichols, bees were created by the gods of the
sea for the purpose of securing wax for candles when the wooden
ones would not light. Tata Dios watches over the bees for the Tarahumaras;
the Mayas of Chan Kom believe their bees are protected by pagan
deities to whom offerings must be made for taking their honey. The
Virgin Mary takes care of the bees for the Mayas of X-Cacal, who
make her offerings of zaca or corn meal upon taking the honey from
the hives; they also offer zaca to the wild bees when they take
their honey, as otherwise the bees might inflict punishment upon
them by causing a tree to fall or an ax to slip."
It seems that Mexican respect does not stop at religion, foreigners,
and each other. It also extends to the honey bee. Is this just another
indication that North Americans could learn a great deal from the
Mexican culture? Or is it simply that the Golden Rule should be
extended to all living things?
Toor tells us how the natives of Amecameca, a large Aztec town near
Mexico City, domesticate bees: "Several men go out together to get
them, one going ahead ringing a small bell and wafting incense as
they do during Mass in church. Another man has an ayate or a square
fibre carrying cloth. When the comb is taken from the tree it is
placed in the middle of the cloth and carried by the four ends.
Upon reaching the house, the comb is put in a box and the bees settle
in it to the ringing of the little bell. After they reproduce, the
queens with their bees are put into separate hives. Flowers and
water are placed near the apiaries; when there are no flowers the
water for the bees is sweetened."
Maybe it's hurt feelings that caused the honeybees to vanish. If
so, and the U.S. doesn't make amends, they may cause the vanishing
of related things -- spelling bees, wannabes and human pollination:
the birds and the bees.
If the U.S. treated honeybees as they are treated in Mexico, maybe
they wouldn't buzz off.
Copyright Maggie Van Ostrand
"A Balloon In Cactus"
February 14, 2008 column
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