The Strange Disappearance of the Bees

Yesterday I wrote about going to pick strawberries at a farm in Isehara about one hour out from Tokyo. While I was there, I was anxious to ask the farmer about the story going on concerning the dying out of the bees that we so often read about.

I became interested in the bees and honey story because my wife and son have allergies this time of year and one well reviewed natural remedy for allergies is locally produced honey. The rationale for using honey to treat allergies is that bees process the same pollen that causes the allergies in making the honey. So, by eating the honey, one can build up a resistance to the pollen – somewhat like immunizations use dead viruses to create. (Also add loads of vitamin C and vitamin D3!) It seems to work well for my wife and son.

My wife’s uncle is a farmer in Isehara and he grows rice and tangerines. Since he has tangerines, he also produces honey from bee hives he keeps and sells it as “Tangerine honey.” It does have a different tangerine flavor (or so people tell me. I can’t tell the difference!)

(L to R) Shigeru Yamada and Mr. Tsuzuki, rice and strawberry farmer

Over these last few years, there is much talk about the bees disappearing and or dying off. In the photos above, you can see two large jars of locally produced honey. The jar on the left sold for ¥2,000 (about $24.18 USD) two years ago. My wife and son just discovered the wonderful relief that honey gives to serious allergy sufferers and they went through (actually my wife) went through a jar that was 1/2 that size in three years. Now we are back to buy a new jar of locally produced honey and the jar on the right, when you can get them, sell for ¥5,500 yen (about $66.50 USD) today. So the price has gone up a lot… I am told that the price increase is due to problems with the bees.

Well, we’ve all heard that the bees are dying off, right? Well, according to my wife’s uncle and another farmer, Mr. Tsuzuki (farms strawberries and rice) the bees are not dying off per se. They are, are you sitting down? (cue Twilight Zone music) “disappearing.”

I wasn’t sure what they meant and asked for clarification. I asked Mr. Tsuzuki at his farm,

“Did you find and dead bees around the hives or lots of dead bees in the fields?”

“No,” came the answer. He continued, “It wasn’t the bees dying as such. They would fly away and disappear.”

Fly away and disappear!!?? Wait! What?

There were dozens of bee hives just like this at Tsuzuki strawberry farm

That’s right. According to these farmers the bees weren’t dying off, they were disappearing. This is a quote, “The queen bee would fly away from the hive and then they wouldn’t come back. I  think, perhaps, they flew around above the hive for so long that the birds would come and eat them.”

Now, before you panic and think that this could be the end of civilization, Mr. Tsuzuki told me that he knows all about the bees dying off in America – everyone does. But he said that while they had a similar problem in Japan for a few years, the local farmers switched back to fertilizers, insecticides and herbicides that they were using before the problem started and now the bees are coming back. He said that they’ve had no problems this year at all.

Fact of the matter is that, Mr. Tsuzuki rents his bees from another farmer named Mr. Aigara to pollinate his strawberries during season. He gives them back after strawberry season ends.

In Mr. Tsuzuki’s farms, inside the hothouses where no chemicals are used at all, he said that they’ve never had any problems with the bees. Mr. Tsuzuki says it’s not a problem with Japanese produced bees or American produced bees. In fact, he imports his bees from the United States as he says bees from North America are larger, more productive and more robust than Japanese bees.

Mr. Tsuzuki says that the problem with the bees disappearing is, as I have already written, due to pesticides, fertilizers and herbicides used at farms. He also says that buying quality bees from a quality bee farmer that feeds the larva and pupa quality foods.

These guys looked very healthy

This makes sense if you keep track of the continual degrading of food quality in the United States. US produced beef and meat products are pumped full of chemicals and hormones to make them grow. Chickens and other animals on massive farms in the USA are fed concotions of chemicals and not natural grains. This is suspected as being the prime reason for earlier puberty in American youth. Dr. Mercola says the reasons for earlier puberty and be directly blamed on: Hormones in food; pesticides in produce; obesity and phthalates in plastics.

Understanding this as well as how the FDA and US government seems to be a part of the revolving door with chemical manufacturers like Monsanto, it shouldn’t come as any surprise to anyone that the bee population in the United States is under serious threat… But, in spite of what you’ve heard, according to two farmer’s I spoke to in Isehara, while they need to be ever vigilant, they believe that they know what the problem was with the bees and have taken actions to correct it by using more natural remedies for weeds and pests as well as more natural ingredients for breeding bees.

While the bee farmers – and everyone else (including me and you) – needs to stay alert and cut down on use of chemicals at home and outside, I think a little common sense and a return to natural remedies for ailments like allergies or natural remedies for pests and weeds will serve us all.

Let the disappearance of the bees in the USA be a stark warning to us all all over the world.

“It’s Great to be Alive!” A message of positivity on a cold and rainy Tuesday morning

Today, it is cold and rainy here in Tokyo. Most people would say the weather is terrible. Not me. I like this weather. The rain makes the air smell so clean and fresh!

Yesterday, I met a young woman who had just defeated cancer and returned to work. She was beaming!

Even though she wore a cap to cover her head, probably because she had lost all her hair due to chemotherapy, she was so happy to be back at work. When I met her for the first time, she was incredibly enthusiastic, like a sixteen-year-old, and just so happy to be there.

I said to her,

“So, are you happy to be back?”

She replied, “Oh you don’t know the least of it, Mr. Rogers. I am just so happy to be back here. Some of my friends said to me, ‘Why do you want to go back to work?’ But I am just so happy and thankful to be here. What I went through was a massive shock.”

I smiled at her and said, “Oh, I know exactly what you mean. It is wonderful just to wake up every morning and see the sun or the rain. It is wonderful just to be able to walk the streets and go about your business. Just being here is so wonderful.”

“Oh? She replied, “You’ve had health problems too, Mr. Rogers?”

I smiled.

“People just don’t know how well they have it. There are people who say they are afraid of dying but they get bored and don’t know what to do with themselves on a rainy Sunday afternoon.”

We both laughed. I continued,

“It’s wonderful to just be here and to be wanted and to have a job and health. More people need to realize that.”

“That’s absolutely correct. Just being here is an incredible gift!” She replied.

Since she had cancer and the scare of her life and a brush with death, I know, because of that, she knows exactly what I mean. She knows I know, too. There is a sort of brotherhood to people who have this sort of shared experience.

Sometimes I meet people who tell me that they work constantly and never have the time to spend with their families. I think that is sad. Of course work is important, but don’t lose sight of why you work.

It’s wonderful to be alive today. Don’t you think so?

Tell your family that you love them and, when you walk out the door, smell the fresh air and see something new. Be positive. It is great to be here.

Note: Most Men Die With Regrets

Am I the Only One Who Thinks Fuji Rock is Boring?

Rock music, for the most part, is totally and completely boring. No wonder many young people under 35 don’t listen to it. Today’s corporate Rock music is for old people.

Average Fuji Rock fan

I just saw the news release for this year’s artist line up at Japan’s famous summer festival, Fuji Rock. May I say, “Boring!” No. Make that BORING! B-O-R-I-N-G! There’s not one new and exciting artist on the top lineup at all… Here’s the announced line up for Fuji Rock 2012 so far:

Beady Eye (Oasis retreads – Oasis were OK 20 years ago)

Elvis Costello and the Attractions (Loved Elvis… in 1979!)

Stone Roses (Loved them in the 80s & early 90s – but that’s more than 20 years ago)

Radiohead (Ditto to above)

Jack White (White Stripes, Dead Weather, ho hum… At least Dead Weather has been in the last decade)

The Specials (Loved them – When I was a university student)

Buddy Guy (Buddy Guy? Wait! What?)

I said there were no cool new artists on the bill, but I take that back. Galactic is playing. Galactic is cool. Galactic is relatively new and doing something fresh with music.

Galactic – Heart of Steel

But that’s about it; Galactic.

Look, I like(d?) rock music as much as the next guy but this playing old artists all the time is just killing rock music (it’s already dead?) I certainly loved Elvis Costello and the Attractions. I went to see them in 79 (or was it 80?) in Santa Barbara. The Specials, Stone Roses? Sure. A long time ago. I even saw Buddy Guy play at a 300 person venue in Shibuya called Club Quattro in the late 80s…

I know that Fuji needs to draw an audience and I know that older people are the ones that have the most money, but Jeez Louise, how about at least trying to propagate new artists and new music for the future? There’s tons of good new artists… How about playing one or two of them?

I liked these other artists that Fuji has lined up. I’ve played them all on the radio – a lot. Still do sometimes. But there’s no way I am going to pay $1000 USD to spend a weekend with my girlfriend at Fuji Rock watching artists that should be playing in cozy 500 seater venues in downtown Tokyo. Especially since the sound at outdoor festivals is terrible and seeing any band at Fuji Rock is about as fun as lining up at Disneyland for an hour and a half just to ride Dumbo for two minutes.

No thanks.

With a boring line up of old artists that they have set up for this year’s Fuji Rock, I’m surprised The Who aren’t playing. At least with the Who, you know you’ll be getting a tired band on stage that hasn’t written any new songs in 35 years. No surprises there…

♫ People try to put us down…

Talking about our ge…ge…geriatrics ♫

I’ll make a prediction here:

No more Fuji Rock in 15 years. They can’t survive. At this rate their average audience will be on Social Security by then.

With this type of line up, the Fuji Rock fan appeal is, let me put this nicely (or as Spinal Tap’s Ian Faith would say) “the band’s appeal is not waining… it’s becoming ‘more selective.’”

Yeah, more selective to people over 45-years-old… Or is that exaggerating? OK. More selective for people over 55!

I’m not a particularly big fan of Katy Perry, Lady Gaga, Kelly Clarkson or Adele (actually Adele is okay) but at least these artists appeal to people under 30. The Fuji Rock lineup? What? Is this designed for the geriatric crowd?

Maybe this year’s Fuji Rock can get sponsorships from companies that make and sell products that do things like lower cholesterol levels or other companies that sell adult diapers or medicine for constipation.

Oh, did I mention that Fuji Rock’s lineup this year is boring?

I also have Kenny Rogers’s name in the title of this article. Most people know who Kenny Rogers is. Kenny Rogers is a very famous country music artist in the USA. He might even be the most famous country music artist in history. He has had more than 120 hit singles in his career. What Michael Jackson was to Pop Music, Kenny Rogers was to country music.

But one thing many people don’t know was that, at the start of his career, Kenny Rogers was the lead vocalist for a late sixties psychedelic rock band named the First Edition. In fact, the First Edition was a famous group that had several smash hits – on the pop/rock and country music charts in the sixties psychedelic era!

Kenny Rogers’ band, the First Edition was formed in 1967 and broke up in 1976. It was then that Kenny Rogers made an important career decision: He dropped pop and rock music for a career in country music because of his age. He thought that rock music was music for young people (it was) and at his age, if he was going to continue in music, he’d have to go the route of country music that found it acceptable to have older artists. Rock was a young person’s arena. Country and Western had many popular artists who were in their late sixties, like Ernest Tubb, and some, like Earl Scruggs, who is in his eighties and still performing country music today!

Too bad for Japan’s rock music fans that Kenny Rogers quit pop and rock music for a career in country. Now, at his ripe old age of 74 years old, Kenny would fit quite well on the main stage of Fuji Rock….

In fact, Kenny wouldn’t even be the oldest one to perform on stage if he were invited to Fuji Rock this year. That would be reserved for Buddy Guy, who is two years older than Kenny Rogers.

Fuji Rock? My what a cool and cutting edge lineup up… If you were born in the 1950s. Pretty soon they’ll be having to give senior citizen’s discounts for Fuji Rock.

Don’t forget to get in line for that… Oh and don’t forget, senior citizens get a 20% discount.