Oh, honey, there’s a hive of activity this weekend | AspenTimes.com

Oh, honey, there’s a hive of activity this weekend

Stewart Oksenhorn
The Aspen Times
Contributed photoGunther Hauk presents the Honeybee Weekend Saturday and Sunday at the Waldorf School on the Roaring Fork near Carbondale.

CARBONDALE – In October 1996 The New York Times published an article, under the headline “The Hush of the Hives,” describing how Varroa mites were decimating American bee colonies.It was a cold greeting for Gunther Hauk. A Yugoslavian native with 20 years’ experience of keeping bees, Hauk had just moved from Stuttgart, Germany, to Spring Valley, N.Y., to establish the Pfeiffer Center for Biodynamic & Environmental Studies when the Times article appeared.Recognizing the work ahead of him, within a few months he had organized a workshop in sustainable beekeeping. Hauk intended to demonstrate that there were methods that could prevent the bee catastrophes set out in “The Hush of the Hives.””The article showed me that we can do things different than just invent another chemical to fight the mites,” the 68-year-old Hauk, who now lives in Floyd, Va., said. “‘The Silent Spring’ – Rachel Carson’s influential 1962 book about pesticides – made it clear that the critters we want to kill do adapt. The first chemical used on the Varroa mites – apistan – proved to be ineffective against the mites in five years. We go from one chemical to the next, and the chemicals accumulate in the wax, and it stays there. “It’s a time bomb.”Hauk has continued to spread his warning about pesticides and other threats to the health of bee populations, like the use of plastic foundations for hives, and to steer people toward more natural methods of beekeeping. In 2002, he published “Toward Saving the Honeybee,” and in Virginia, Hauk founded the Spikenard Farm Honeybee Sanctuary.But Hauk’s efforts have not prevented the increasingly precarious state of honeybees in the United States. Over the last few years, colonies across the country have been wiped out in an epidemic termed colony collapse disorder.Still, Hauk presses on. He presents his Honeybee Weekend workshop this weekend at the Waldorf School on the Roaring Fork, near Carbondale. The event opens Saturday evening with a screening of “Queen of the Sun,” a new documentary by Taggart Siegel about colony collapse disorder that features an appearance by Hauk. An all-day workshop, Practical Beekeeping from a Spiritual Point of View, is set for Sunday. Both events are open to the public, and all proceeds go to the Spikenard Sanctuary.This is Hauk’s second appearance in the valley, and he said that since the first workshop here, a year and a half ago, there has emerged a local culture of small-scale beekeeping.Hauk said that honeybees – like chickens raised in crammed cages and cows living on massive feedlots – are generally being treated as factory machinery, manipulated for maximum food-making efficiency. He noted that half of the commercial bee colonies in the States are trucked to California each year, to pollinate crops. Some bees, he noted, travel 20,000 miles in a year. Often, they are fed corn syrup, “which throws their whole digestive system off,” as a substitute for their own nectar and honey.”The honey is a complete food. It’s an exquisite food. It should be considered medicine,” he said. “And corn syrup is not.”Bees aren’t the only species that thrives on natural honey. Hauk advises people, especially those over 55, to put honey in their diet. “It gives you strength and the silica forces that are so important to our sense organs – eyes, ears, skin, taste buds,” said Hauk, who ran the full-time gardening program at the Waldorf School in Stuttgart.Hauk believes bees are essential to the health of the environment – and not only for their well-known pollination abilities; he notes that other species have the ability to pollinate. But honeybees fascinate Hauk for other reasons, including their skill as builders.”An architect can only marvel how it’s done. It’s an instinct, but it’s wisdom,” he said about the construction of beehives, which involve sophisticated and precise angles.He lamented the advent of plastic foundations for hives, which make it easier for people to keep bees and harvest their honey.”When we go against their nature, it hurts the bees. The suffering that goes on in our conventional beekeeping is all for our convenience. And we eat that suffering.”Among those who have been alarmed at the condition of the world’s honeybees, and what a decline in that condition means for the earth, Hauk has good company. Rudolf Steiner, the Austrian philosopher and agriculturist who created Waldorf education, saw the potential for something like colony collapse disorder nearly a century ago. And Albert Einstein supposedly weighed in on the precarious state of bees (even if proof of his thoughts has not been found).”Einstein is supposed to have said, ‘If the honeybee goes, we have four years left after that,'” Hauk said.stewart@aspentimes.com