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Tag Archives | agriculture

Small beekeepers could be the solution to Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD).

“We can thank the honeybee for four of every 10 bites of food we eat, so for area beekeepers, their efforts aren’t just about the honey. Many beekeepers feel they are doing their part in helping the survival of what is likely our most important domestic species.

The Lou Marchi Total Recycling Institute at McHenry County College (MCC) hosted a screening of the documentary Queen of the Sun: What are the bees telling us? Oct. 25, followed by a panel discussion with beekeepers from the Northern Illinois Beekeepers Association.

The critically-acclaimed film by Taggart Seigel tells the story of the mysterious disappearance of bees through stunning photography, humorous animations, and some very entertaining and colorful beekeepers.

The film looks at the 10,000-year history of honeybees as a domesticated species, from ancient times when honeybees were considered sacred to today’s corporate agriculture practice of shipping honeybees thousands of miles in flatbed trucks to pollinate almond groves in California and blueberries in Maine.

In recent years, honeybees have been disappearing mysteriously; America has lost millions of colonies. The sudden death of honeybee colonies is called Colony Collapse Disorder. Beekeepers and scientists in the film point to chemical pesticides, single-crop farming or monoculture, and the industrialization of beekeeping as reasons for CCD.

“Their crisis is our crisis. It’s colony collapse disorder of the human being too,” said Gunther Hauk, a biodynamic beekeeper who operates Spikenard Farm, a honeybee sanctuary in Virginia.

Experts in the film see bees as a barometer of the health of the world. Queen of The Sun refers to Austrian scientist Rudolf Steiner who predicted the collapse of honeybees in 1923.  “The mechanization of beekeeping and industrialization will eventually destroy beekeeping,” Steiner predicted.

“We have to wake up early enough to make a change,” said biochemist and beekeeper David Heaf, in the documentary.

The film considers reasons for the crisis and presents solutions as well. Helping the honeybee survive can be as simple as growing bee-friendly flowers, shunning pesticides, and buying local, raw honey. Those really interested in helping honeybees should learn beekeeping.

“I really think that small time beekeepers are one of the solutions to the problem,” said Larry Krengel, a McHenry County beekeeper and panelist after the screening. Krengel is a member of the Northern Illinois Beekeeper Association and teaches beekeeping at MCC and other area colleges…

Like chicken keeping, many suburbs don’t allow beekeeping. However, big cities like Chicago and Milwaukee do allow both backyard chickens and beehives. Chicago’s City Hall even has beehives on its rooftop garden…”

[click here to read the full article on grayslake.patch.com]

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Honeybees, the new urban dwellers

“Honeybees play a vital role in many areas of our lives – they pollinate our crops and medicinal plants – but their population has decreased by 30% since 2008. Could our towns and cities now provide them with a safe haven?


Major cities around the world such as London, New York, Hong Kong and Paris are encouraging bees to set up home in the city. Rooftops, small urban gardens and even balconies are providing potential safe-havens for honeybees, our newest and, in many ways, most-important urban dwellers.

The future of mankind is dependent on the survival of the bee.

Honeybees are responsible for pollinating 80% of our food crops worldwide, therefore risks to their health threaten our own food security. Many medicines, an enormous part of our textile industry and, of course, perfumes and cosmetics also rely on flowers and plants that are pollinated by bees.

In short we have the honeybee to thank for the basic components of our daily lives, from the food we eat and the drugs we need, to the clothes we wear – and that’s without beginning to consider items of luxury.

However, the honeybee population has decreased by 30% since 2008 and the reasons for their poor health are multifaceted. Today the rural environment poses severe health risks to bees through intensive farming methods and the use of pesticides.

“Mono crop” farming means that many bees now have a “mono pollen diet”. This could be detrimental to their health as pollen provides bees with protein; as each pollen variety contains different nutrients that are needed to maintain good health, missing out on certain nutrients leaves bees vulnerable to diseases.

Bees that miss out on a balanced diet can also become more susceptible to parasites, such as the varroa mite, or colony collapse disorder, which is believed to be caused by a combination of fungal and viral infections.

Such threats mean the honeybee could potentially have a better chance of survival in urban environments.

City living potentially provides a rich and varied source of pollen that gives bees all the nutrients and enzymes they require for their good health.

Bees that live in the city may also benefit from new kinds of beehive designs that have been created specifically for urban bees.

This growth in the urban honeybee population, and the need for it to be encouraged, calls for not only new type of homes which are suitable for beekeeping, but also a complete re-examination of our relationship with honeybees where they live beside us and we welcome their presence.”

[click here to read the original article on guardian.co.uk]

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MVCC Approves Motion to Support Urban Beekeeping Los Angeles

The motion will next be presented to the Los Angeles City Council.

“The Mar Vista Community Council Board of Directors maintained a quorum Tuesday night and voted to approve the motion to support urban beekeeping in Los Angeles…

Backwards Beekeepers founder Kirk Anderson noted that Mar Vista has a thriving population of feral bees, and allowing beekeepers to step up and legally manage bees would only help the community. 

Green Committee Co-Chair Sherri Akers also spoke about HoneyLove founders Rob and Chelsea McFarland, who first brought the idea of a beekeeping pilot project to the council. She spoke of how the couple had personally worked to remove hives from public spaces and protect the community from feral bees. 

Board member Kate Anderson said she respected the concerns about being stung but added that the six-month study by the council had seriously considered the issues at hand and had done its work.

Board Member Geoffrey Forgione also pointed out that the motion that will now be presented to the City Council is not advocating that the pilot program take place specifically in Mar Vista. Rather, the MVCC is advocating for the implementation of the program in Los Angeles.

Following the approval of the motion, several supporters dressed in black and yellow applauded the move as they waved yellow pom poms on sticks above their heads.

Chelsea McFarland told Patch she was grateful for the support of the MVCC Green Committee and the Backwards Beekeepers, saying, “This was a great night for Los Angeles beekeepers.”

Przekop, who headed up the outreach committee for the project told Patch she was happy that the motion passed but that “it’s a very small step in a long process. I hope [the Los Angeles City Council] and other neighborhood councils support this, because this isn’t going to happen just by Mar Vista supporting it.”

Przekop added she was thrilled to be part of this grassroots movement and that the template created in Mar Vista for the beekeeping project is something that other communities can use in seeking support for the project.

The MVCC motion reads:

The committee reviewed over 150 articles on beekeeping, best practices, planning articles on Urban Agriculture, State, County and city beekeeping regulations to help in the evaluation of the recommendations and conclusions of the Beekeeping Feasibility Study. The committee also spoke to program directors in numerous cities where programs are in place.

The Feasibility Study concludes that there is a strong community interest in supporting beekeeping efforts and that doing so would result in positive changes that permit the healthy growth of honey bee colonies and increase the production and quality of fruits, vegetables and flowers in Mar Vista’s organic home gardens while providing a community service as a resource for the removal of feral (wild) hives. Research indicates that such a program would be cost neutral to the city of LA.

The MVCC Board therefore recommends the implementation of a Beekeeping Pilot Program in to test safety and develop best practices for future expansion. We urge the City of LA to adopt a policy that includes conditions relating to maintenance, location, registration and notification to assure for the safety of all residents, which may result in the continued preservation of quality of life and preservation of single-family residential districts.”

[click here to read the original article on marvista.patch.com]

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Seven Billion People Need Bees

“This first week of November (2011) our population surpassed seven billion humans. And in the last week of October (2011) scientists from the University of California at Berkeley irrefutably proved that over one billion temperature sensors registered warming between 1-2 degrees Celsius, in some cases more than three times greater than the IPCCs average of 0.64 degrees Celsius. Humans are forcing the climate by burning carbon-based fuels releasing over 82 million metric tons of greenhouse gases, daily, on our planet.

All life forms are in jeopardy. Our food chain is perilously close to collapsing; yet the lawmakers in Washington regularly ignore this message. My biology and environmental students at California Lutheran University in Thousand Oaks and I are miffed at why this issue is not front and center in DC…

We all need to be aware of the health and well being of the bees. Because without healthy honey, bumble, stingless and solitary bees there’s no chance that more than seven billion people can thrive especially since the oceans are fished-out and currently feeding, unsustainably, at least a couple billion people, daily — in addition to acidifying (from absorbing rising atmospheric CO2) faster than any time in the last 60 million years…

Surprisingly, bees and humans share a number of similarities. For example, we both require restful and rejuvenating sleep. Sleep deprived bees, just like humans, experience communication problems like finding food and performing an accurate waggle dance to reveal locations of nectar, pollen, water and tree resin. Stressed bees like humans become anxious, depressed and pessimistic; they display emotion-like qualities. Moreover, bees that exhibit a high defensive behavior or optimism are likely to survive a winter rather than perish.

Did you know that humans have been keeping bees in cities for over three thousand years? Bees were kept in the “land of milk and honey” in the Iron Age city of Tel Rehov in the Jordan Valley — the oldest known commercial beekeeping facility in the world. It should then come as no surprise that city councils around the world have recently allowed urban beekeepers to keep hives in Santa Monica, New York, Chicago, London, Melbourne, Tokyo and many other places. In fact, urban beekeepers along with the tremendous support of city dwellers are planting more bee-friendly trees and flowers helping to sustain urban bee populations.

And make no mistake, bees around the globe are dying by the billions from insecticides like neonictinoidsclimate-driven mismatches, introduced parasites and diseases, air pollution and habitat loss. In the last four years alone over a quarter trillion honeybees have died prematurely. Of the 100 crop species providing 90 percent of the world’s food — over 74 percent are pollinated by bees…

Help save urban bees — please, do not use herbicides, insecticides, miticides or fungicides in your garden.”

[click here to read the full article on huffingtonpost.com]

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http://www-tc.pbs.org/video/media/swf/PBSPlayer.swf

Silence of the Bees (PBS Documentary)

“In the winter of 2006, a strange phenomenon fell upon honeybee hives across the country. Without a trace, millions of bees vanished from their hives, leaving billions of dollars of crops at risk and potentially threatening our food supply. The epidemic set researchers scrambling to discover why honeybees were dying in record numbers — and to stop the epidemic in its tracks before it spread further.”

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NRDC ACTION CENTER:

Bees are a critical agricultural resource that help produce $15 billion worth of crops in the United States each year. The recent unexplained mass disappearance of honey bees, called colony collapse disorder, poses a significant threat to honey bees, beekeepers, farmers and our food supply. Most bee experts believe bees could be falling sick due to a combination of factors, including pesticide exposure, invasive parasitic mites, an inadequate food supply and a new virus that targets bees’ immune systems.


Last year Congress recognized colony collapse disorder as a threat and granted the Department of Agriculture emergency funds to study the problem. In addition, the department receives $20 million each year for honey bee research, pest and pathogen surveillance, and other bee-related programs. But to date, the agency has been unable to fully account for how these funds are being used or show any significant results from its work. 

The Agriculture Department should be held accountable for a clear and complete annual report of its progress on all of its duties concerning colony collapse disorder. Moreover, the department should determine what resources are needed to fully address the problem and inform Congress of these needs as soon as possible. 

What to do:
Urge the Department of Agriculture to fulfill its commitment to fight colony collapse disorder. 

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Beekeepers report losses of 30 percent of their colonies

(By Susan Salisbury – Palm Beach Post)

Once again, the American honeybee had a tough winter, but more and more people are pitching in to help save the troubled bees by becoming backyard beekeepers.

Commercial beekeepers reported losses of 30 percent of their colonies, similar to results reported during the past five years, according to survey results released Monday. The survey conducted by the Apiary Inspectors of America and the U.S. Department of Agriculture covered October through April.

Colony Collapse Disorder, a phenomenon in which an entire colony of bees abruptly disappears from its hives, appears to still be occurring. It was first reported by Florida beekeeper Dave Hackenberg in 2006, and since then abandoned hives have been reported worldwide.

About one-third of commercial beekeepers who participated in the most recent survey said they lost at least some of their colonies without finding dead bees. Exactly why the bees are disappearing from their hives is not known, although scientists suspect it’s due to a combination of factors such as stress, poor diet, diseases and pests.

Jerry Hayes, assistant bureau chief of apiary inspection for the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services in Gainesville, said there’s an upside.

“Because of CCD, our numbers of residential backyard beekeepers has grown phenomenally, from 700 or 800 to around 2,000 registered backyard beekeepers. They have heard about honeybees. They want to save the world. It is amazing,” Hayes said.

Boynton Beach resident Judy Leger, a retired Siemens project manager, took up the hobby four years ago and has 18 hives on her half-acre property. She enjoys the many flavors and colors of honey they produce.

Leger’s interest was sparked after honeybees set up housekeeping inside her kitchen’s soffit, and she called the Palm Beach County Beekeepers Association to remove them. Aware of the bee’s struggles, she didn’t want them destroyed.

“People are more sensitive to the fact that the honeybees are the good bees and because they are suffering from CCD, people want to save them,” she said.

The Palm Beach County Beekeepers Association, founded in 1974, has grown from fewer than 20 members to more than 130 in the last few years.

Brendhan Horne, a suburban West Palm Beach hobbyist beekeeper who also operates a bee removal business, Bee Barf, has witnessed and helped spur the hobby’s growth in the seven years he has been involved. The honeybee losses have thrust the insects into the limelight.

“People want to try to preserve something they recognize as important, because of bees pollinating the food supply,” said Horne, a past president of the beekeepers association. “With the green movement, here is something they can do. You don’t have to have 2,000 hives; you can have one or two.”

Horne said many homeowner associations prohibit beekeeping, but some other areas allow it.

Through the beekeepers association, Horne organized the third annual Southeast Organic Beekeepers Conference in West Palm Beach in February.

Horne and other organic beekeepers say they have not seen any evidence of CCD, but unlike commercial bees, the backyard bees aren’t hauled around the country to pollinate various crops.

Hayes said if it wasn’t for the fact that commercial beekeepers split their hives’ populations so the bees can establish a new hive, there would be no bees left. The process is expensive, and replacing 30 percent of the nation’s colonies is not considered sustainable over the long term.

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“These beautiful little beings supply us with one-third of our food, and they are quickly vanishing,” Page said at the premiere. “[The message of the film] is clearly here are imbalances we’ve created with our modern industrialized agriculture system and how we’re hurting the life that gives us life and have lost that sense of connectedness. Hopefully, despite it being frightening, and it should be frightening, there’s an opportunity here to regain that sense of connectedness.”

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NRDC Form Letter

NRDC Form Letter

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