If I slow down, just a bit, it is possible for me to notice, and then consider, how amazing is the natural world of which I am a part. I invite you during this holiday season, when Christians celebrate the emergence of the divine into human history, Jews celebrate the festival of light, and the northern hemisphere marks the receding of the darkness to the advance of the light, to slow down, just a bit, and notice and consider how amazing is this place we call earth. I’ve been thinking about one “bit” of this living earth, a small bit but a profoundly important bit. At CFET we honor this “bit” in our own way through our Midas Touch.
What is Midas Touch? Well, it is our honey, made by the honey bees we tend in our fruit orchard here in Waterfront South, Camden, NJ. For the last three years we have been tending our bees, and this year they have given us such an abundance of honey that we harvested near 90 pounds from the hives. 90 pounds is about 180 bottles, of Camden-pure honey, that sweet, healthy elixir of the good life. Hence the name, Midas Touch!
They produced more than 90 pounds, but it is critical to leave enough behind in the hive so that they have something to eat over the cold winter. They are now well into their hibernation, slowing down their metabolism, and generating heat enough in their cramped quarters to ward off the bitter cold of winter. What is amazing to me is that these bees produced so much honey. Each bee weighs .00025 pounds, which means that it takes 1,000 bees to weigh ONE POUND! There are between 20 – 80, 0000 female worker bees in a hive. This year we had two working hives. If we take the average, we had 100,000 worker bees collecting nectar from the wild flowers of Waterfront South, and turning it into delicious sweetness for our tea, our oatmeal and our cookies, and, yes, for our peanut butter sandwiches. Talk about a midas touch! These bees, doing what bees do, provide a compliment to many a dish or drink that we enjoy. You, too, can have some of this Midas Touch. Be in touch with our farmer at firstname.lastname@example.org to purchase a jar. All proceeds go back into our eco-intern program, the young people who tend the bees, harvest the honey and prepare it for us.
As much as the honey of bees is a delicious contribution to our food supplies, what is an even more important contribution to human wellbeing by honey bees, and all kinds of other bees, is the pollination of our food crops. Without the bees doing the all important work of pollination, our food supply would shrink precipitously, leaving us without the food we need to survive. How does that happen? Bees need to forage for nectar, which is the source of nutrition for their colonies. The worker bees travel from the hive, in search of nectar, and they carry it back to the hive. While they are working away, extracting nectar, their legs dip into a pollen sac, so that when they fly away, they carry the critical pollen to another plant. So, unknown to the bee, they play an integral role in the propagation of vegetable and fruits that human beings depend on for survival. Isn’t that amazing!? The bounty of the earth, in fruit and vegetables, is bound up in the success of the bee in its foraging activity. The bee makes possible the reproduction of fruit and vegetables. That is something to consider, and to be amazed at!
The bee is under assault as changes occur in their habitats including the use of pesticides and herbicides that impact the quality of nectar or the biology of the bees, the destruction of natural habitats that supply bees with their source of food, and the changes in the climate which have impacted the active/passive cycles of all colonies of bees. There are many sources of more information on this situation, but a good one is the National Resource Defense Council.
In our little corner of the United States, on this magnificent planet, CFET has committed itself to raising bees, not only to harvest honey to support our work, but to provide our young people in Camden an opportunity learn about the honey bees, and all of their cousins, who play such a critical role in feeding us humans and so many other animals on the planet. We welcome you to become our partners in this great work, by contributing your time, talent and treasure. Be in touch with us, in this time of quiet and reflection. Join us!
All of us at CFET wish you and yours a blessed and peaceful holiday season! May your generosity to us here in Camden be a blessing to you, as it has been to us!
Mark Doorley, Ph.D.
President Emeritus, Board of Trustees
The Center for Environmental Transformation