Written by Jennifer Anderson via portlandtribune.com
You’ve heard of eco-roofs and rooftop gardens, but the latest twist to hit Portland comes with a sweeter payout: rooftop honeybee hives.
New Seasons Market recently installed a honeybee hive atop its store in Happy Valley, a picturesque suburb 15 minutes east of Clackamas that’s a mix of newer homes and farmland.
“They’ll go to all these neighborhoods, start pollinating everyone’s gardens and yards, the fruit trees and farms,” says Portland beekeeper Damian Magista, surveying the skyline from the grocery store’s roof. “It’s a great environment here. There’s plenty of food.”
In other words: Happy bees make lots of honey.
By late August, Magista expects the bees to produce enough honey to start selling it at the Happy Valley store.
But that’s not the primary motivation for New Seasons’ “Bee Part of the Solution” campaign.
The company aims to educate people about the honeybee’s critical link in the ecosystem, and the fact that they are dying out worldwide, due to what’s known as Colony Collapse Disorder.
The number of managed honeybee colonies in the U.S. has decreased from 5 million in the 1940s to 2.5 million today, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
A May 2 report by the U.S.D.A. and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency points to a variety of stressors, including parasites and disease, genetics, poor nutrition and pesticide exposure.
Scientists at the Oregon State University Honey Bee Lab have been focusing on two factors in particular.
They’re studying the impact of a honeybee pest called the invasive varroa mite, as well as poisoning by pesticides applied to crops or to hives to control insects, mites and other pests.
New Seasons sees it as part of its mission to educate people about the phenomenon, because of the direct link to the food chain.
“There is an important link between the health of American agriculture and the health of our honeybees for our country’s long-term agricultural productivity,” said Agriculture Deputy Secretary Kathleen Merrigan, upon the release of the latest federal report.
New Seasons could install a second rooftop hive at its Sellwood store in Southeast Portland in June after a process required by Multnomah County to notify neighbors.
The initial hope was to install honeybee hives on all 12 of the local grocery chain’s rooftops (a 13th location opens late August in Northeast Portland’s Eliot neighborhood). But Washington County won’t allow it, so the Progress Ridge store in Beaverton may miss out.
The rooftop hive idea was sparked by an incident last summer, when a swarm of bees made its home above the New Seasons sign at its Raleigh Hills store in Southwest Portland. Local TV cameras came and documented the removal of the swarm, which was safely relocated.
A few other grocery store chains have begun rooftop hive projects, including Bi-Rite in San Francisco, which New Seasons used as a model, says Mark Feuerborn, the Happy Valley store manager.
Feuerborn, a home beekeeper who’ll manage his store’s hives, is excited for what’s to come. A “bee cam” will let people peek in on the hives and the honey harvesting. Shoppers can draw a direct link to the products in the store through new displays of honey-based products — everything from lip balm and candles to jars of pure, unprocessed honey made in Portland.
“Two miles away is Saelee Farms,” Feuerborn says. “We can see our bees pollinating their products, ending up on our shelves. This is a way for people to remember that.”
Lots of local buzz
Interest in urban beekeeping has soared in recent years.
“Portlandia” could even write an episode called “Put a bee on it.”
There’s a Portland Metro Beekeepers’ Association, whose members keep bees for hobby and business.
The Portland-based Xerces Society, a nonprofit invertebrate conservation group, launched a “Bring back the pollinators” campaign. That’s attracted more than 1,000 people who signed a pledge to do four things: grow a variety of bee-friendly flowers that bloom from spring through fall; protect and provide bee nests and caterpillar host plants; avoid using pesticides, especially insecticides; and talk to neighbors about the importance of pollinators and their habitat.
There’s also a Portland Urban Beekeepers group, which aims to promote the public’s awareness of “apiculture” and the overall health and diversity of bees in the Pacific Northwest. Club president Tim Wessels says his group started with a dozen or so people meeting informally in 2010. Last spring they’d grown so large that they created officer positions and began meeting monthly. Today there are 115 members who pay the $15 annual dues, plus another 240 members on Facebook.
As president, he’s asked people why they’re drawn to bees, and he more or less gets the same answer: “Well, the bees are hurting, aren’t they? We just want to help out and see if we can bring the population back.”
Others just like honey, and he’s cool with that, too.
Wessels and fellow beekeeper/business partner Glen Andresen are working with a grad student at OSU’s Honey Bee Lab and retired entomologist Dewey Caron on an effort to breed a local queen bee. Most of the purchased queens here come from Southern California or Kona, Hawaii, Wessels says. Unsurprisingly, they’re not able to survive Oregon’s winters.
Wessels believes it’s possible to breed a Portland honeybee with “hygienic behavior,” which is their behavioral mechanism of disease resistance. After the queen lays an egg in a cell, if a worker bee somehow determines mites are in the cell, it would remove the mite. The result is that the mites aren’t able to reproduce.
It might sound like a far-fetched idea, but Wessels and his team have about 100 hives around Portland, and they’re collecting swarms that did survive this past winter.
“If we are successful in developing a more locally adapted honey bee, perhaps others can use this model in other cities,” he says.
Sweet new products
Magista, the beekeeper working with New Seasons, owns a startup company called Bee Local, which harvests and sells micro-batches of artisan honey varieties — with flavors made distinct by the flora and fauna of each neighborhood. He works with backyard beekeepers in the Mt. Tabor, Laurelhurst, Powellhurst and Brooklyn neighborhoods, and the buzz is spreading.
Beekeepers estimate there are about 500 hives being kept by people in Portland, many on rooftops, since bees are attracted to trees at about the 15-to-20-foot height.
One of those rooftops is at Noble Rot restaurant in Portland, and more could soon follow. That’s good news for honey connoisseurs.
“What dictates the taste is the flowers and forage in that particular area,” says Magista, who won a 2013 “Local Food Hero” award in March, presented by Ecotrust.
“It’s more than just the honey, it’s really about getting people to be more in touch with their immediate environment. What can I do at my home, in my yard to make a difference?”
[read original article via portlandtribune.com]
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Bee shortage threatens farmland: Mites, diseases, and pesticides are all suspected of contributing to bee colony collapse disorder. The bees are dying at such a fast rate that farmers who rely on bees for pollination are now reserving them five years in advance. NBC’s Anne Thompson reports.
By Adel Heine via dailynewsegypt.com
The current trend of eating a healthy diet has inspired many to switch to organic produce. And while supermarkets now offer organic options, some are taking it a step further and are growing their own vegetables in their gardens, rooftops and balconies. Nawaya, a not-for-profit initiative that promotes true sustainability, organised a workshop recently that introduced yet another possibility to produce your own food: honey.
Urban beekeeping is becoming more popular around the world and according to Sara El Sayed, one of the founders of Nawaya; the workshop fits perfectly with the organisation’s goal of bringing people closer to producing their own food.
“Bees are vitally important to farming, they are needed to pollinate crops,” El Sayed said. “Keeping your own bees will allow you to have access to your own honey, of course,” she added.
Producing your own raw honey is also healthier, according to El Sayed. “Bees collect nectar in an area with a radius of three kilometres so the honey they produce comes from your direct surroundings. The immune system boost that honey provides is greatest when it is directly related to where you live,” she explained.
The workshop provided an introduction to the practicalities of keeping bees and how the bees live. “We do not have any in-house experts on beekeeping so we brought in two, each with a unique practice in beekeeping,” El Sayed said.
The first expert, Sheikh Said, works at St. Catherine’s in Sinai and his bees feed on plants that are endemic to the area. “The plants that grow around St. Catherine’s are used by the local population for their medicinal qualities and the honey that bees produce have these qualities too,” El Sayed said. “Sheikh Said brought one of his colonies with him and showed us how to maintain the lifecycle of the bees.”
Islam Siam, the second expert, works with Sekem and his bees produce a traditional kind of honey from the area around Assiut in Upper Egypt. “His colonies consist of bees that are native to Egypt, as opposed to many other beekeepers that keep an Italian variety of bees,” El Sayed said. “Also the bees are not kept in boxes but in traditional clay columns.”
Most honey is obtained by centrifuging the combs, but the honey Siam produces is made a little differently. “He uses the traditional way of crushing part of the wax in the honey, which means some of the pollen and the antibiotic that the bees produce to keep their own kind healthy is part of the honey. This makes it very healthy and a great boost for the immune system,” El Sayed explained.
Raw honey is believed to help with a variety of health issues besides strengthening the immune system. It is said to be good for many skin diseases as well.
“This workshop was an introduction to what it means to keep bees in an urban environment, how to do it and how to taste the different honeys. We plan to follow it up with how to build and maintain your own colony,” El Sayed said.
When asked if neighbours would not object to people hosting a swarm of bees on the balconies El Sayed said: “Bees are everywhere, we just do not notice them. Having a colony on your balcony might not be ideal but it would be very possible on a rooftop, especially one that is not used very often. Bees will not sting you unless you annoy them.”
To produce your own honey you would need to keep a colony for around one year but it shouldn’t take up too much of your time. “You need to monitor for disease, make sure the temperature for the colony is OK and that there is enough honey to get the bees through the winter months,” El Sayed explained. “It is not hard to do, it gives you a product that is very healthy and you help the environment because you will help to ensure that pollination takes place in your area.”
There are no concrete plans yet to organise the second beekeeping workshop but of those who attended the first one, more than half expressed an interest in having their own colonies. According to El Sayed, beekeeping also serves a greater purpose.
“Besides all the personal benefits we also felt it was necessary to raise the issue of the danger beekeeping is in. Not many people are aware that bees are under threat in many parts of the world due to the use of pesticides and without bees there will be no pollination which means no produce,” she said.
Bees pollinate much of our food supply, but a pesticide threatens their survival
BY RICHARD SCHIFFMAN
If you are an almond farmer in the Central Valley of California, where 80 percent of the world’s production is grown, you had a problem earlier this spring. Chances are there weren’t enough bees to pollinate your trees. That’s because untold thousands of colonies — almost half of the 1.6 million commercial hives that almond growers depend on — failed to survive the winter, making this the worst season for beekeepers in anyone’s memory. And that is saying a lot, because bees have been faring increasingly poorly for years now.
Much of this recent spike in bee mortality is attributed to Colony Collapse Disorder, a mysterious condition where all the worker bees in a colony simply fly off as a group and never make it back to the hive. Scientists have been studying this odd phenomenon for years and they still aren’t sure why it is happening.
But a slew of recent studies have pointed an accusing finger at a class of pesticides, the ubiquitous neonicotonoids (neonics for short), which include imidacloprid and clothianidin, manufactured by Germany’s agro-giant Bayer, and thiamethoxam, made by Syngenta. The neonics, the world’s leading insecticides, are applied on a whopping 75 percent of the farmlands in America, according to Charles Benbrook, research professor at Washington State University’s Center for Sustaining Agriculture and Natural Resources. Neonics are a so-called systemic pesticide. That means that they are taken up by the plant’s vascular system and get impregnated into all parts of the plant that an insect encounters, including the leaves, seeds, nectar and pollen. Corn and soybean seeds are typically coated with the pesticide before planting. Fruit trees and many vegetables are sprayed.
Few researchers believe that the neonics alone are to blame for the bees’ troubles, which appear to result from a perfect storm of contributing environmental factors. Pollinators have been called the canaries in the coal mine for ecosystem health. The declining numbers of both wild species and domesticated bee colonies worldwide is regarded as a troubling barometer of the state of the environment, reflecting habitat loss, the spread of agricultural monocultures, infestation by viral pathogens and bee parasites like the Varroa mite, climate change and even electromagnetic radiation, which seems to interfere with bees’ homing ability.
But the neonics, which contains a chemical related to nicotine that attacks an insect’s nervous system, have been demonstrated to kill bees — and especially the queens — when applied in high enough doses. And a growing body of research suggests that at sub-lethal concentrations, these agro-chemicals mess with their navigation, foraging and communication abilities, throw off their reproductive patterns, and weaken bee immune systems, making them susceptible to sudden colony collapse.
One study published by scientists at Purdue University in 2012 showed high levels of clothianidin and thiamethoxam in bees found dead near agricultural fields. Other bees at the hives were observed exhibiting uncoordinated movement, tremors and convulsions, all signs of insecticide poisoning.
In yet another study conducted by scientists at the Harvard School of Public Health, which I reported on in Reuters last April, researchers actually re-created colony collapse disorder in several honeybee hives simply by administering small doses of a popular neonic, imidacloprid.
These and other recent studies led the European Union to call on Monday for a provisional ban on neonics for two years to see what impact this has on Europe’s endangered bees. The use of the pesticides had already been temporarily suspended in Germany, France and Italy.
The vote in Brussels was split (15 of the 27 EU countries voted for the ban). The British Newspaper the Observer said that there was “a fierce behind the scenes” campaign to prevent the ban. The paper reported that agricultural multinational Syngenta, facing what it called “serious damage to the integrity of our product and reputation,” threatened to sue individual European Union officials involved in publishing the damning report about the dangers of neonics. The U.K. voted against the ban, alleging that the science is inconclusive and that barring the pesticides would be hugely expensive and potentially cripple food production.
But the ban had lots of public support, including a petition signed by over 2.5 million Europeans. And it was universally applauded by environmentalists, who have been fighting for it for years. Andrew Pendleton of the U.K division of Friends of the Earth said: “This decision is a significant victory for common sense and our beleaguered bee populations. Restricting the use of these pesticides could be an historic milestone on the road to recovery for these crucial pollinators.”
Pressure has been building in the U.S. to restrict the neonics. A coalition of beekeepers and environmental groups filed suit in March against the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for its failure to ban the pesticides, saying that the agency didn’t consider the impact of the pesticides on vital pollinators. The American Bird Conservancy published in March a review of 200 studies on neonics, including industry research obtained through the U.S. Freedom of Information Act, which concluded that the neonics are lethal to birds and other wildlife and to the aquatic systems on which they depend.
These threats to wildlife are significant, but the world’s attention is rightly focused on bees, which are responsible for pollinating nearly a third of our food supply. These industrious insects are in serious trouble. And if their decline continues unchecked, we humans may soon be in trouble too.
“It’s not so much about making honey. It’s the education,” Tjiersland said. “Bees are an indicator species. They can tell you if there’s something impacting the world they’re trying to pollinate. If you educate the community that the pesticides you use in your yard impact the bees and colonies, you can send the message that it’s OK to have a few weeds in your yard or to allow the dandelions to grow.”
Magista said his work keeping around 25 hives is geared toward addressing the problem of bee colony collapse disorder, a relatively new phenomenon wherein a colony’s worker bee population suddenly disappears, and the hive eventually dies. Researchers have found a number of possible causes, including a parasite, a virus, pesticide poisoning, stress from bee management, and poor nutrition from inadequate forage plants.
“The honey is lovely, and that’s really great, but the secret core of what I do is education,” Magista said. “By bringing bees into the community, you’re starting the conversation about bees, and it starts filtering down into colony collapse disorder.”
…Magista said he blames the problem of colony collapse disorder on industrial agriculture, which relies on commercial beekeeping to pollinate plants but limits bees to foraging on monoculture crops that have been treated with pesticides and herbicides. He’s hoping people will not only change their use of pesticides and herbicides at home but also change the way they choose the foods they eat.
“What we start talking about is we have this very large agricultural system, and to support it we have to use commercial beekeeping,” he said. “We need to find a different way to produce our food and take care of our environment. We can grow our own food. We can keep our own hives and they can be healthier than they would be if they were in the commercial food system.”
[read the full article via opb.org]
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By EMMA COWING via scotsman.com
“It’s bound to create a buzz in the arts world. An ambitious plan to keep bees and produce honey on the roof of the Scottish National Gallery is taking flight…
“Urban beekeeping is becoming very popular, especially in London, and Edinburgh in particular would provide fantastic food sources for bees as it’s such a green city.”
Bees housed on The Mound site would be able to forage in the extensive flower beds of Princes Street Gardens, which would give the honey a unique “Edinburgh” flavour. Contini says he hopes to get the plan off the ground later this year…
Phil McAnespie, president of the Scottish Beekeepers Association, said he thought the scheme was a good idea: “Urban beekeeping has really been on the rise for the past two to three years and it’s very good to see. There are far more flowers and plants for bees to forage in the city than there are in the countryside, where there tends to be a lot of farming and more pesticides.
“On the roof of the National Gallery you’re going to get the sun, you may even get a sheltered spot – it would be an extremely good situation for bees and they should be able to get a decent amount of honey from them. It’s great to see the National Galleries and other museums becoming aware of the issue of beekeeping and being able to help,” he said.
The bee population is expected to decline this year because of the long winter, and the association is keen to encourage more amateur beekeepers to have a go at urban beekeeping in an attempt to keep the population up…
A number of cities worldwide have embraced urban keeping on the roofs of landmark buildings: in New York there are hives on the top of the Waldorf Astoria hotel, and in Paris on the roof of the Opéra Garnier. In London there are around 30 commercial sites that keep beehives on their roofs, including Fortnum & Mason and Harrods, as well as the art galleries…”
[read full article via scotsman.com]
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