Morgan Freeman Becomes a Bee Keeper*
By Claire Bernish
After an annual survey of beekeepers in conjunction with the US Dept of Agriculture revealed the worst colony die-off in nine years, the pollinators are once again receiving the crucial attention they deserve. However you feel about celebrities, they undoubtedly have a broad audience base zeroing in on every detail of their lives. Fortunately, for the movement promoting bee health and spreading awareness about colony decline, Morgan Freeman is not only a voice, he’s actively involved.
With his 78th birthday just passing on June 1, Freeman’s guest spot on the Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon from last July, in which he revealed his apicultural skills, is once again making the rounds.
In the interview, he describes turning his 124-acre Mississippi estate into a bee haven complete with 26 hives.
“There’s a concerted effort to bring bees back onto the planet. We do not realize that they are the foundation, I think, of the growth of the planet, the vegetation. I have so many flowering things, and I have a gardener too. Because she takes care of the bees too, all she does is figure out, ‘OK, what would they like to have?’, so we’ve got acres and acres of clover, we’re planting stuff like lavender, I’ve got like, maybe 140 magnolia trees, big blossoms,” said Freeman, according to The Toronto Sun.
He described ‘resonating’ with the bees he imported from Arkansas, and explained how he feeds them a sugar and water combination, inserted directly into the hives, to familiarize them with their new surroundings. Because he becomes “one with the bees”, Freeman doesn’t feel the need to wear protective gear typical of beekeepers, such as a face net.
“I’ve not ever used (the beekeeping hat) with my bees. They haven’t (stung me) yet because right now I’m not trying to harvest honey or anything; I’m just feeding them… I think they understand, ‘Hey, don’t bother this guy, he’s got sugar water here.’”
Bee populations have fallen by 40%-60% since April of last year alone, and though the exact cause hasn’t been decisively proven, neonicotinoid pesticides seem to be a likely culprit. ‘Neonics’ are the most widely used insecticide, in part for their simplicity. Farmers need only immerse their seeds in the substance and resulting crops continually absorb it during the growth cycle, with benefits lasting the entire season. Bees are naturally drawn to the sugary, highly toxic neonics, which makes them more susceptible to pathogens and parasites — including Nosema, which has been implicated in Colony Collapse Disorder. It’s estimated up to 95% of corn in the US has been treated with neonics, which actively persist in the environment for months or years after only one application.
Further studies about the declining bee population are ongoing, so Freeman’s efforts in both tending hives and speaking publicly are a most welcome addition to movement.