In 2015 the bees are still dying in masses. Which at first seems not very important until you realize that one third of all food humans consume would disappear with them. Millions could starve. The foes bees face are truly horrifying – some are a direct consequence of human greed. We need to help our small buzzing friends or we will face extremely unpleasant consequences.
By Sarah Knapton via telegraph.co.uk
Beekeepers have joined forces with Winnie-the-Pooh to encourage children to bake with local honey, visit nearby apiaries and throw seed-bombs
Winnie-the Pooh might be a ‘bear of very little brain’ but even he has become troubled to learn that his beloved treat of honey is under threat by the continuing decline of Britain’s bees.
New figures from the British Beekeepers Association (BBKA) showed the colonies declined by 14.5 per cent last winter, 50 per cent more than the previous year, despite efforts to tackle to the problem by banning pesticides.
Now the BBKA has teamed up with Pooh illustrator Mark Burgess, who coloured E H Shepherd’s original black-and-white drawings, to produce a brand new story – Winnie-the-Pooh and the Missing Bees – as well as a guide to saving the honeybees.
In the new story, Pooh and Piglet decide to visit the honeybees after noticing a honey shortage in The Hundred Acre Wood.
Speaking to Piglet, Pooh says: “I have been very careful with it, Piglet, as there hasn’t been much honey lately. But you can only be careful for so long before you run out altogether.”
Beekeepers are also h oping to engage children by encouraging them to bake with local honey, become beekeepers, visit nearby apiaries and throw seed-bombs to help the spread of wildflowers.
New illustrations show AA Milne’s characters Christopher Robin, Piglet, Tigger, Eeyore and Pooh making a vegetable patch in the Yorkshire Dales, building a bee box in the shadow of the Angel of the North in Gateshead, and planting a flowering tree in the shadow of Warwick Castle.
Planting a bee-friendly tree beneath Warwick Castle
The friends are also pictured dropping bee-balls in Birmingham, painting in Sherwood Forest, Nottinghamshire and visiting a honey show in Glastonbury.
Nicole Pearson, Associate Publisher from Egmont Publishing which publishes the Pooh books said: “Winnie-the-Pooh is famed for his love of honey, so who better to encourage families to get out and about and take part in fun activities that can help support our honey bees.
“We’re very excited to be working with the BBKA to support such a worthwhile cause.”
A survey by the BBKA found that 58 per cent of people wanted to help stop the decline of bees but do not know how to go about it.
“While many people are aware of the plight of the honey bee, there are many that don’t know what they can do to help,” said David Aston, President of the British Beekeepers Association.
“We hope that by supporting our ‘Friends of the Honey Bee’ initiative with the brand new guide inspired by Winnie-the-Pooh, families across the country can get involved, making a practical contribution and supporting bee health research.”
Planting a bee friendly vegetable patch in the Yorkshire Dales
The BBKA annual study surveyed 900 British beekeepers selected at random, to establish the impact that last winter has had on honey bee colonies
Some regions have been more greatly affected by bee decline than others. The west has seen drops of 18 per cent, the North East 15.5 per cent and the East of England 14.7 per cent,
While the exact cause is unknown, scientists have speculated that pesticides, pathogens, mites, poor weather and changing beekeeping practices have all contributed to the decline.
Last month scientists in California suggested that a tiny parasite could be behind the rapid colony collapse while researchers at Keele and Sussex Universities claimed aluminium poisoning could be leaving bees with a kind of animal Alzheimer’s disease.
A survey of school children carried out by the BBKA found that most youngsters are aware of the threat to the environment from the decline of bees but do not know what steps to help. environment. However less than a quarter (22 per cent) of children are aware of any steps they could take in order to help.
The ‘bee-friendly’ guide can be found at www.friendsofthehoneybee.com
Pooh’s guide to saving the bees
- Plant your own window box
- Create your own vegetable patch or tub together
- Plant a flowering tree in your garden
- Make some ‘seed balls’ and throw them into the wild
- Use arts and crafts to educate the younger generation on the importance of bees
- Learn to become a beekeeper yourself by attending a course through the British Beekeepers Association
- Bake together at home using local honey
- Build bee habitats
- Volunteer for your local beekeeper association or visit your local apiary
- Don’t panic if you see a swarm of honey bees, stay away and contact your local swarm collector
By Noah Wilson-Rich, Ph.D. (The Best Bees Company) via blog.kidsgardening.org
Los Angeles is the only major city in the United States with illegal beekeeping. Why eliminate pollinators, you might wonder? The answer will definitely surprise you.
Bees are vitally important to our local ecology, and also to our local economy. As pollinators of over 100 fruit and vegetable crops, bees contribute over $15 billion to the U.S. economy each year, and that extends to over $100 billion globally annually. Even the little known, alfalfa leafcutter bee contributes an estimated $7 billion each year, just for its role in pollinating hay and alfalfa crops, upon which our entire cattle industry relies. Fewer pollinators mean higher prices at the markets, and less availability of nutritious foods. The cost of California’s almonds has doubled in the past five years, due to myriad causes, in part affected by declining honey bee populations.
Beekeeping was banned in Los Angeles on June 10, 1879. Policy makers received dubious information regarding bees attacking and damaging fruit. They decided that the best way to preserve our crops was to ban bees. Even today, Angelinos must kill beehives upon site.
In 1917, there was an article in the LA Times calling the no-beekeeping policy, “an ancient and still-unrepealed city ordinance.” A century later, Los Angeles continues to carry this legacy.
We now understand pollination. We know that more bees actually lead to more fruits and vegetables. The future for beekeepers in Los Angeles may be bright, however, with City Councilor Katie Peterson and other policy makers working to legalize beekeeping soon.
Bees Do Better in Cities
In my 2012 TEDxBoston talk, I shared data showing that urban beehives produced more honey than rural beehives. Furthermore, urban beehives also had higher survivorship than in the countryside. This trend continues today (see figure on right of 2014 data).
Despite the evidence showing that bees in cities are more productive and survive better than in the countryside, policy barriers are often in place prohibiting this from taking place. Policy makers are increasing their legislative actions to be more permissive for urban beehives, with beekeeping allowed in Seattle in 2008, New York City in 2010, Boston in 2014. San Francisco totally allows beekeeping unrestricted, while Denver limits to 2 hives in the rear 1/3 of a zone lot. Los Angeles is slated to be the next major metro area to allow beekeeping in residential areas. Even Washington, DC now has its first beehives at the White House grounds, in step with President Obama’s 2014 memorandum, “Creating a Federal Strategy to Promote the Health of Honey Bees and Other Pollinators.”
Urban beekeeping took flight in New York City in March of 2010. It was made illegal by the Giuliani administration in the 1990’s, along with a list of dozens of prohibited animals. In the years since its legalization, the island of Manhattan became a pollinator haven. After my recent talk at the March 30, 2015 meeting of the New York City Beekeepers Association, local beekeepers asked if there were too many beehives in the city. Beekeepers in London talk about this, as well. Is there a saturation point, with too many beehives in the City? That’s how common beekeeping is in New York and London. (One way to measure this is based on the Great Sunflower Project, whereby everyday citizens record the number of bees visiting a flower for 10 minutes each day, as a means of gathering data to measure pollinator abundance; this hasn’t yet been done for cities.)
Access to urban beekeeping is a social justice issue. It gives everyone access to local, healthy food. It allows for companies like The Best Bees Company to create new jobs. What’s more is that is allows for a new avenue of corporate sustainability, with businesses opting to put beehives on their rooftops as a display of their commitment to the environment.
Simply reusing a towel or having an herb garden on the rooftop is not necessarily enough these days for a hotel to rise to the top of the sustainability ranks. Beekeeping and pollinator protection are the next step for sustainability branding.
Urban beekeeping is happening across the globe, and it’s a good thing. We should change laws to allow more of it to happen and also educate the public so they can also raise bees on their rooftops to allow for a more sustainable future for both humans and bees, alike.
11 City Buildings Where One Would Least Expect Beehives (But They’re There)
- InterContinental Hotel Times Square (New York)
- Wells Fargo building (Denver’s tallest building)
- Columbia Center (Seattle, tallest building west of the Mississippi)
- The White House
- NAME PROTECTED (Los Angeles)
- Chicago City Hall
- Prudential Center (Boston)
- 888 Brannan (San Francisco; AirBNB & Pinterest headquarters)
- San Francisco Chronicle building
- Fox News building (New York)
- Brooks Brothers headquarters (New York)
Noah Wilson-Rich, Ph.D. is the founder of The Best Bees Company and author of The Bee: A Natural History, now available through Princeton University Press. For more information about Best Bees’ services, or to schedule a complimentary site consultation in and around Boston, NYC, DC, Chicago, Denver, Seattle, SF, or LA, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
[view original article via blog.kidsgardening.org]
By JENNIFER BERNEY via parenting.blogs.nytimes.com
Several years ago, reports of the declining bee population inspired my partner to keep bees in our yard. Her reasons were mainly practical—not only did she want to support the vanishing bees, she hoped our plum trees might increase their yield. But it took less than one season for my partner to fall in love, and over time the number of hives in our backyard has multiplied from two to 10. At my house this week we know that spring has arrived because my 2-year-old points out the window and yells excitedly: “Bees!”
I consider both of my children lucky to know the honeybees so well. Living with a beekeeper has afforded me a chance to observe how children interact with bees. From what I’ve seen so far, they fall into two distinct camps: those who are fascinated, and those who are afraid.
There are kids who watch in wonder as the honeybees land on the stones in our birdbath and drink water through their delicate tongues, and there are kids who cover their hair with their hands and run away screaming. There are kids who knock on our door to buy a jar of honey and ask to see our bees, and there are kids who will poke a long stick through our fence and bang it against the roof of a hive.
I worry that the child who runs from bees in fear will grow up to be the adult who spots a healthy swarm in her backyard and sprays it with insecticide. I worry that the child who bangs on a hive roof will grow up to be the teenager who knocks over a neighbor’s hive in the middle of the night. These are two kinds of transgressions that happen often in my community, and they are undeserved. Unlike the many varieties of wasps, bees are gentle creatures. They pollinate our crops, make honey, and rarely sting unless provoked.
In recent years, beekeepers have continued to report high annual losses. An annual survey of beekeepers conducted by a partnership that includes the United States Department of Agriculture, released Wednesday, suggested both that significant losses in colonies continue, and that the loss rate in summer has increased. We compensate for this by breeding and replacing our lost colonies year after year. Scientists are no longer concerned that the honeybee’s extinction is imminent, but we are not yet off the hook. The disappearing bees have reminded us that our survival is interdependent. We live in collaboration with other species. A child who squashes bees or runs from them is a child who hasn’t yet learned their value, and it’s our job to teach them.
This might begin by teaching our children what a honeybee looks like. Before my partner brought home our first colony of bees, I was like many adults in that I could not distinguish a honeybee from a bumblebee, and had only the vaguest notion that wasps were a different species entirely. The yellow jacket who is harassing you at the end of summer, trying to take a bite of your ham sandwich, has little in common with the honeybee who is gathering pollen and nectar. Children are capable of making this distinction; like adults, they just need a little guidance.
Teaching children to value the honeybee might also include explaining the phenomenon of swarming, which, contrary to popular belief, is not an angry behavior. Honeybees swarm when their colony has grown healthy enough to divide in two. One half of them remain in the hive to welcome a new queen, while the other half leaves in search of a new home. They fill their bellies with nectar and travel in a cluster to shelter their old queen. The sight of a cluster of bees on a branch in a yard or a park is an opportunity for observation, a lesson about the intelligence of the insect world.
And that is the real lesson the bees offer: as smart as we humans are, we don’t know everything. At my house we can dance to Beyoncé in the living room, but we can’t wiggle our butts in a sequence so precise that it communicates the location of a nectar source three miles away. Bees can.
My partner has a practice that many beekeepers would find silly. Though a typical worker bee lives for only six weeks, in the evening my partner often picks up bees who have grown cold and fallen just outside the entrance to their hive. She collects them in a jar, brings them inside our house to warm them up and later, once they are restored, she returns them to their home. I used to tease her about this. Bees are members of a complex system. They are not individuals, and it struck me as foolish to attend to them as such. But then last week I saw my 6-year-old son crouch in front of a hive at dusk to gather languishing bees in his small hand. In that moment I realized what the bees had taught him — it’s the very lesson we all need to learn: that every small part of the system counts for something.
[Read original article via parenting.blogs.nytimes.com]
By Sandra Barrera | POSTED: 04/20/15
If you’re looking to become more eco-friendly this Earth Day, think about getting involved with one of these organizations in the L.A. area.
1. Surfrider Foundation: Water quality and encroaching development threatening a favorite surf spot sparked the founding of this grassroots organization by Malibu surfers in 1984. While a certain level of pollution is still tolerated in the ocean that isn’t tolerated on land, Surfrider Foundation is working to change that through advocacy and awareness programs like Ocean Friendly Gardens, Blue Water Task Force and Rise Above Plastics. The organization dedicated to the protection and enjoyment of the world’s beaches is backed by 85 chapters across the country that have helped rack up more than 300 victories since 2006 — it helped to defeat the Hermosa Beach oil drilling measure on March 3.www.surfrider.org.
2. Friends of the Los Angeles River: There’s concrete to remove and riparian habitats to restore before all 50-plus miles of river — from the San Fernando Valley to the ocean in Long Beach — can be returned to its former glory. But it’s on its way thanks to the efforts of this nonprofit organization that has served as the voice of the river since 1986 when it was founded by Lewis MacAdams, who is now its president. For the past 26 years, Friends of the L.A. River has organized “La Gran Limpieza: The Great L.A. River Cleanup”; a “work party” takes place at the Lower River’s Lower Compton Creek and Willow Street Estuary and Golden Shore Marine Reserve in Long Beach from 9 a.m. to noon April 25.www.folar.org
3. California Native Plant Society: Nothing says California like the boisterous riot of saffron-colored poppies in the Antelope Valley or coastal live oaks scattered across rolling canyons. From the Palos Verdes Peninsula to the far reaches of San Bernardino County, the 50-year-old nonprofit organization’s 34 local chapters advocate conserving their region’s unique native plants and natural habitats through education, appreciation and activities such as garden tours, plant sales and field trips. www.cnps.org
4. HoneyLove: This nonprofit conservation organization has changed the way Los Angeles looks at its honeybee colonies by advocating for backyard beekeeping throughout the region, and even shows folks how it’s done through hands-on workshops. Colony collapse disorder, predators and people’s fear of being stung are all threats. HoneyLove works to educate people by promoting bee-friendly gardens managed without the use of pesticides. http://honeylove.org
5. TreePeople: Supporting a sustainable Los Angeles by growing a green, climate-resilient urban forest has been the mission of this environmental nonprofit organization since it was founded by its president Andy Lipkis 43 years ago. Trees cool our climate, clean the air and slow and absorb runoff, as well as prevent soil erosion. Supporting people to plant and care for trees can only do so much, so TreePeople also works with all levels of government to create laws, policies and incentives with the goal of sustainability. www.treepeople.org
[Read original article via dailynews.com]
Bees prefer the buzz of a town: Urban sites found to have more species than rural areas
By Fiona Macrae via dailymail.co.uk
- Agriculture and mass crops blamed for decline of bee numbers
- Towns and cities have wider variety of plants and flowers in autumn
- Pesticides, climate change and disease causing bee numbers to fall
We think of them as thriving in wildflower meadows and rolling fields. But new research suggests Britain’s bees are happier near towns and cities.
A study of wildlife sites across four English counties has found that most are home to fewer species of bee today than they were in the past.
It found that the expansion of farmland has actually been more damaging to Britain’s bee population than the concreting over of the countryside for housing.
For instance, heaths and meadows near Milton Keynes now boast more species of bee than sites in more rural areas.
Reading University researcher Deepa Senapathi believes intensive agriculture is to blame.
While the gardens, parks and churchyards of towns and cities provide bees with a variety of plants to forage on and an extended flowering season, popular crops such as oilseed rape only bloom for a few weeks.
She said: ‘While concreting over the countryside may appear to be bad news for nature, we’ve found that progressive urbanisation may be much less damaging than intensive agriculture.
‘Urban areas may benefit bees more than farmland by providing a wide variety of flowering plants, providing a cosmopolitan menu for insects from spring through to autumn.
‘Over the past century rural landscapes in Britain have become increasingly dominated by large expanses of monoculture – the growing of a single type of plant, which has helped boost crop production.
‘But without a mixture of habitat and food sources, rural areas can sometimes be little better than green deserts for biodiversity.
Scientists around the country are trying to work out why populations of bees and other insects are plummeting.
Pesticides, climate change and disease may, like intensive farming, be playing a role.
[view full article here: dailymail.co.uk]
By HoneyLover Susan Rudnicki
One of the most delightful and informative ways beeks can advance their understanding of bees and beekeeping is by attending conferences. The American Beekeeping Federation conference was held in Anaheim this year in January and I went to several presentations. This was a completely academic conference, combined with a large trade show—no live bees to work with. This group also reflects a strong conventional management and commercial pollinator representation. There are always things to be learned though, and I found the time well spent.
However, a number of smaller and more appropriate conferences for us treatment free folk also occur every year. The 8th Annual Organic Beekeeping conference at Oracle AZ, put on by Dee Lusby allows participants to visit the 9 bee yards kept by Dee in the remote Sonora desert near the Mexican border. These bees are never moved (no migratory pollination) are at least 4 deeps tall, are not re-queened or supported with any feeds, and are visited (on average) just 5 times a year. Dee’s honey is very dry and dark, reflecting the dry climate and mixed desert flora the bees have for forage. These flowers include many desert shrubs, cactus, wildflowers, and introduced weed species too numerous to mention. The Spring rains this year have been abundant and well spaced, so we saw lots of wildflower and cactus blooms. The desert smelled wonderful—fresh, sage-y scented with alternating bright blue skies and looming smokey thunderclouds.
Rob McFarland (Co-Founder of HoneyLove) and I drove to Oracle, which is in a very remote area. The conference is sited at the YMCA, with cabins and bunk beds for sleeping and 3 full cafeteria meals a day. Some of the best time is spent at meals in talking with other bee keepers from all over the US and even other parts of the world.
The conference lasts 3 days, with speakers on a range of subjects—apitherapy (using bee stings for health reasons), introduction of a new national on-line register for swarm calls to beekeepers, the beekeeping management calendar year from a extreme climate perspective, and new information on genetics and breeding of queens. Michael Bush and Sam Comfort, our great friends in treatment free beekeeping not only spoke individually, but on the last night gave us a melodious, heartfelt performance for almost a hour. Michael plays guitar and sings, Sam plays ukelele and banjo and a MEAN harmonica!! It was stupendous and had people’s roaring approval.
Our final day was devoted to driving on dirt roads to Dee’s remote beeyards—she has 700 hives. The day was a bit windy and cold, with threatening rain, but we went anyway, and the desert was glorious with color. The desert bees were very ferocious in defending their colonies, reflecting the weather and forage conditions they must deal with. We were fully suited and gloved to help restore some hives that were tipping wildly from the undermining of the bottom board by tunneling rodents. The hives had to be totally unstacked, the bottom board leveled and supported by fresh soil and the hives re-stacked—each at least 4 deeps.
I urge all that wish to really know beekeeping and infuse the relationship with new knowledge to attend these bee conferences.
By Ann Barczewski via keepingbackyardbees.com
When the bees start flying I can’t wait to get out there and dig in the hives and the dirt. There’s a huge variety of herbs that are not just great for cooking and medicinal purposes, they’re great for the bees. Planting herbs that attract honey bees is something that anyone can do.
You may not have a large plot of land for an herb garden but most people can tuck a few herbs in somewhere, even if they only have a postage stamp yard, balcony, hanging basket or doorstep. Container gardening can be just as rewarding and help your local bees.
If you are purchasing already grown herb plants instead of starting them from seed, please remember to purchase from an organic supplier. We get ours from our local CSA which is good for the bees and our local economy. Many big box stores sell plants that have been cultivated with the use of insecticides which are toxic for bees. So while you are trying to do something nice for the bees you may actually be doing harm.
Here is a short list of herbs which the bees love and so will you!
Borage – This powerhouse herb produces a lot of nectar, it’s easy to plant from seed, blooms well into the fall, will self-seed once you get it going and it’s readily available. Historically, it’s been planted to increase honey production. It’s great as a companion plant alongside tomatoes and cabbages because it helps to ward away harmful insects and worms. It’s also believed to improve the health of the plants that grow around it. The flowers and leaves are not only beautiful but they’re a welcome addition to any salad.
Chives – These wonderful plants flower early in almost all regions, conditions and climates so when the weather is warm enough for your bees to fly, the chives are already producing nectar for them. They are also perennials so they will produce for many years to come. If you haven’t had chive infused butter, you have been missing out!
Comfrey – an amazing herb which will enrich your soil from deep below the surface. It leaches high levels of potassium and nitrogen into your soil. Both of these elements are key nutrients and will ensure you have a healthy garden. Its leaves are high in allantoin, a substance that causes cells to multiply, making it a great addition to your herbal medicine cabinet to treat burns, wounds, bug bites and even bee stings! It’s great topically (like our St. John’s Wort & Hemp Salve) but is toxic to humans when consumed so don’t eat it! But best of all, the bees LOVE it!
Lemon Balm (Melissa) – Lemon Balm is known by many names, Melissa, the genus name means “honeybee” and it is definitely a favorite of the bees. It’s also a wonderful herb to have on hand. The leaves are antibacterial, anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, antiviral, sedative and aromatic. It’s used to treat many conditions. Internally it’s good for insomnia, migraine, hyperactivity, Flu, and anxiety. When used topically (like our RESCUE Salve) it can help with cold sores and shingles. In short, it’s pretty much good for all that ails you and it tastes beautiful!
Rosemary – a perennial which likes sun and well-drained soil, this plant will be a wonderful addition to every garden. It also lends itself to being grown in a pot as a bonsai (and how cute is that?) It’s a culinary herb which attracts bees from far and wide. You can also use rosemary infused in apple cider vinegar as a rinse for your hair to help with dandruff and itchy scalp. For herbal recipes you can check out our blog on Ann Bee’s Naturals, The Natural Buzz.
Dandelions — And of course, don’t forget to let your dandelions, plantain, and clover grow, they are some of the first sources of nectar for the bees. While you’re at it, remember that many plants which are considered weeds are beneficial to honeybees. So let the multiflora rose, wild asters and goldenrod bloom before you hack them down. The bees will thank you.
by Dr. Noah Wilson-Rich
LA is the only major city in the United States with illegal beekeeping.
City planners must remain forward-thinking. California is a huge agricultural state. To make any pollinators illegal is to limit agriculture. That decreases job availability, limits food production, and prevents access to education. These are social justice issues, and policy makers must take action to allow access to these resource for all residents. In 100 years, is it possible that we could have modern, urban farms on rooftops or underutilized properties? It is, if policy allows it so. Our population is growing, but our available land is not. We must be smart about how we plan for the future of urban living. We must legalize pollination, and honey bees are the best generalist pollinator available to humans… Furthermore, corporate real estate companies are rolling out regional and national beekeeping programs to increase their sustainability image. Beehives can even help make skyscrapers more sustainable and earn an additional LEED certification point by the Council for Green Buildings.
The 2014 Farm Bill provides reimbursement for Beekeepers who experience greater than 17.5% loss of beehives. The national average remains between 30-40% loss of beehives each year, and this is in the post-CCD world (see my Sept. 2014 piece in the New York Times). Bees are dying from myriad diseases for which there is no cure, and data published in the most recent Science magazine and highlighted in BBC show that there are host jumps to other bee species, specifically to bumble bees as Mark Brown and colleagues showed. Bees do best in urban environments, and so we must allow bees to live in habitats where they are thriving. This is of vital importance for our future in urban living, where we will have more and more people to feed from less and less land.
The Best Bees Company is now offering our beekeeping services in and around Los Angeles. Our proceeds fund our research to improve bee health. One of our current research studies is investigating urban beekeeping, comparing honey production and hive health in cities compared to the countryside. We are currently seeking special permissions to set up observational research hives in Los Angeles to provide local data, but our multiple emails to LA policy makers have remain unanswered. For more information about getting beehives, scheduling a complementary site consultation, bee research, speaking events, or hiring local beekeepers, please contact us at INFO@BESTBEES.COM or (617) 407-8979.
Check out this cool site—Wildflower.org—lots of great native plant descriptions/photos!
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