One of the sad truths about today’s world is the loss of the vital bee colonies that pollinate ⅓ of our edible plants.
When bees get sick they leave the colony so that they don’t spread their sickness. Basically, those sick bees just disappear. When it’s a single sick bee that doesn’t return, it’s better for the hive because most hives are self-sustaining—more healthy bees are born everyday that are immediately ready to go to work—but when the whole group of foragers doesn’t return, the colony is at serious risk.
A few years ago whole hives started disappearing in huge numbers and we lost 25-30 percent of all the colonies in North America—this was aptly named Colony Collapse Disease.
The numbers are so low that bees need to be regularly shipped to North America from other countries, like Australia, and colonies are being transported by truck all over the country to pollinate crops.
What is Causing the Colony Collapse Disease?
Scientists aren’t completely certain what is causing the colonies to collapse. Previous incidents of mass bee colony death were caused by predators like mites. However, when a mite infestation takes over a bee colony, there’s evidence of mites and dead bees littering the ground around the hive. In the current collapse conditions, the bees are just disappearing.
Science has been studying everything from toxicology to human disease to figure out what the cause could be. Scientists searched through bee DNA to search for a potential virus but they found out that bees actually carry a lot of viruses so they switched gears and started comparing healthy colonies with collapsing colonies. What they found was that something is affecting the bee’s immune systems.
One serious consideration for the collapse is pesticides. Studies show that pesticides affect the memory and cognitive function of the bees—which means that they could be getting disoriented and forgetting their way back to their hive and considering that a honeybee can travel up to three miles a day away from her hive to find her source of pollen, a mass disorientation of poisoned bees could account for their disappearance.
Another scary thing that science has discovered is that even when a pesticide is banned from a country, the bee populations continue to decline. Scientists, being naturally curious, got to testing those hives and found some disturbing news. The chemicals are in the hives. So the entire colony, along with the new healthy baby bees, are exposed to harmful pesticides from day one and it's affecting the immunity of the entire hive. While studies are still being done to prove the exact cause of the colony collapse, the dangerous chemicals in the hives are really not helping. Not to mention, if it’s in the hive, it’s in our honey.
Being that we whole food and nature lovers, we’re really sensitive to the issue of colony collapse. Our products are made with herbs and oils that are pollinated by bees so this affects us as individual consumers of whole foods and as company. We have been searching for a sustainable way to help heal the collapsing colonies and we (literally) bumped into an amazing company that is working to save the bees.
Beekeeper’s Naturals: A Helpful Solution
Our COO, Rachel, met Carly, the founder of Beekeeper’s Naturals, at Expo West in Southern California. Rachel had a sore throat from a long day of chatting with vendors at the event and when she mentioned it to the woman standing next to her, the woman offered her a propolis spray (obviously that woman was Carly). They got to talking about herbal skin care and saving the bees and it was a match!
It turns out, Carly founded Beekeeper’s Naturals (BKN) in 2014 after a long battle with tonsillitis was solved by a daily dose of propolis, a resinous mixture that the bees make with tree sap, their saliva, and beeswax to coat their hive and protect it from invading pathogens. She couldn’t find a propolis product in her local stores so she reached out to a local beekeeper to find the product, and picked up a new passion along the way. She got herself a steady propolis supply and BKN was born!
Since then, the BKN team has been steadily growing their bee product supply. They offer the propolis spray (of course), several different types of honey, raw bee pollen, and a couple of awesome formulas that are made to help boost the immune system and brain function.
How Beekeeper’s Naturals Keeps it Clean
Beekeeper's Naturals works with remote farms and apiaries to support bee colonies all over the Canadian North. They work exclusively with small scale green beekeepers who have over 5 miles surrounding area of organic grounds (bees forage for up to 5 miles so they ensure the bees have pesticide free food sources.)
They interview sustainable beekeepers all over the globe to share tips and tricks of the trade. One thing they all have in common is putting the bees first and the products second. They know that bees make their honey and propolis for the hive, not for humans. They make sure to keep their bees in places without chemicals and encourage people to plant organic flower beds for the bees to pollinate.
BKN sources raw ingredients from their partner apiaries and they have a lab to create and test their products to develop their line of products. Because bees don’t create ingredients for people to use, I asked Carly how they ensure that the collection process for ingredients like propolis doesn’t hurt the bees. She told me that instead of scraping the propolis off of the hive and potentially causing lasting damage, their beekeeping network actually uses mesh lining on top of the hive so that they can just remove the lining and use the propolis from the sheet. This means that they get less product in the end, but the bees stay happy and safe.
There aren’t any “sustainable beekeeping guidelines” offered by the Canadian government so a huge part of BKN is education around sustainable beekeeping. Carly and her partner Daniel educate and seek bee educators to talk about things like leaving enough honey in the hive for the bees to eat (and not replacing it with sugar water), not using too much smoke, and how to support local farms and apiaries.
Beekeeper’s Naturals is still in its infancy, but as they grow they are working towards creating their mission statement and the guidelines for sustainable harvesting.
A Coupon for the Annmarie Skin Care Community
For this month’s We Heart, Beekeeper’s Naturals is offering 15% off all of their products. That includes their bee products along with their clothing and accessories (I’m obsessed with my “Don’t Hate, Pollinate” shirt!). Just use this coupon code at checkout:
We know we can’t change the world alone, so every month we highlight another amazing company in the clean-living community that we’re creating! We share transparent companies with integrity, that we’ve fully vetted because we believe we’re all stronger when we work together to create a cohesive Earth-based, sustainable society.