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Why We Need Bees and More People Becoming Organic Beekeepers

Bees teach us how to live our life in a way that by taking what we need from the world around us, we leave the world better than we found it.

Beekeeping is rising in popularity — from urban rooftops to backyard hives, the world is abuzz with interest in homemade honey. And who better to comment on the nature of bees than the former president of the Vermont Beekeepers Association, Ross Conrad.

MG: Describe briefly beekeeping as a business. How much energy do you focus on honey production?

RC: Honey production is not the focus of my beekeeping business at all.  The focus is on caring for the honey bees and keeping the colonies as healthy and vibrant as possible. This means primarily reducing stress on the bees.  In fact the only consistent observation that has been made of hives suffering from Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD) is that the bees in infected colonies are always suffering from stress that has caused the bee’s immune systems to collapse.  While there are numerous stresses that the bees must deal with that we cannot directly control (see below), there are numerous other stresses on the hive that we do have control over.  Such stressors include reducing chemical contaminants in the hive, eliminating the presence of antibiotics in the hive, making sure that the bees are fed a healthy diet of honey and pollen from a wide variety of plants and that the hives have access to clean uncontaminated water.  When the bees health needs are taken care of, a honey harvest tends to be the natural result.

MG: Let’s say I’m an aspiring small-scale farmer, or beginning life on a homestead, or merely thinking of expanding my urban garden. Why should I keep bees, in terms of honey production, and their pollination benefits, etc?

RC: The biggest benefit honey bees provide is pollination.  Pollination fees are what is keeping the beekeeping industry alive today. Honey is really a byproduct of pollination. Why should anybody keep bees? As suggested above, the life support systems of our planet are collapsing. The forests are disappearing, desert regions are growing, the climate is shifting so that some areas are getting dryer, other areas are getting wetter, some areas are getting colder, other areas are getting warmer, and our oceans are collapsing with large dead zones, acidification, giant “islands” of floating plastic debris, collapsing fisheries, and ocean animals that are dying in greater numbers every day from cancer. My observation is that it is our industrial civilization that is, if not the actual cause of all this destruction, it is certainly contributing to the devastation. As a member of this society then, I am partly responsible and part of the problem.  This is a wonderful thing, for if I am part of the problem, then I have the responsibility and am empowered to be part of the solution.

One of the greatest lessons we learn from the honey bee is in observing how they go about making their “living” here on earth.  As they go about their business collecting pollen, nectar, propolis and water (everything they need to survive) they do not harm or kill anything in the process.  Unless they feel threatened and are forced to defend themselves, not so much as a leaf on a plant is harmed.  In the process of taking what they need to survive they in turn give back more than they take and make the world a better place through the pollination the plants.  This gift of pollination ensures that the plants can thrive and reproduce in vast numbers which produces a large variety of seeds, nuts, berries, fruits and vegetable in all shapes and sizes, which in turn ensures an abundance of food for all the rest of the insects, animals and people on the planet.  This is the ultimate lesson that the bees teach us and challenge us to accomplish: How to live our life in a way that by taking what we need from the world around us we leave the world better than we found it.

Each one of us who takes care of the honey bees and makes sure that there is adequate habitat and flowering plants for the native pollinators in our regions, is indirectly through the good work of these pollinators, making the world a better place for all of creation.  This is the kind of healing our beautiful blue-green planet needs desperately at this time in history.

Click here to read the full article on alternet.org

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What do honey bee eggs look like?
via mistressbeek.com

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My Revolution. Saving bees in Central London.

Article by Sami Grover

Urban beekeeping is increasingly popular around the world, with many cities lifting bans on inner-city beehives. London, in particular, has made a name for itself as a haven for urban beekeeping—even if some beekeepers are skeptical about the city’s efforts to fund inexperienced bee enthusiasts. It’s not just the city government that is stepping in to support London’s bee population either—in fact a major corporate-sponsored program is helping would-be beekeepers to learn the skills they need…

From supporting research into Colony Collapse Disorder, through distributing wildflower seeds to customers and its own farmers alike, to providing direct funding and support for amateur beekeepers, this initiative always looked like a major step beyond your average corporate outreach effort. The video below would seem to confirm this, visiting urban beekeepers who have directly benefited from the Cooperative Group’s support.

Click here to read the full article on treehugger.com

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WHO: Melissa Haslam
WHAT: Honey Hive
WHERE: melissahaslam.com 

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Just finished making our first batch of HoneyLove California Orange Poppy Seed Packets! 

JOIN US – JUNE 14TH !!!
We are presenting an “Urban Beekeeping Pilot Project” to the Mar Vista City Council in the hopes of beginning the process of legalizing beekeeping in Los Angeles – COME OUT AND SHOW YOUR SUPPORT FOR HONEY BEES!! 

Tuesday, June 14 · 7:00pm – 9:00pm
Mar Vista Recreation Center Auditorium
11430 Woodbine Street, Mar Vista CA 90066

New York, Seattle, San Francisco… and most recently SANTA MONICA have legalized beekeeping…. 
Now we NEED YOUR HELP to get Los Angeles up to speed!

If you can’t make it – you can also email Bill Rosendahl to show your support!
bill.rosendhal [at] lacity [dot] org

Check out the list of Los Angeles Urban Beekeeping supporters so far!

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Honeybees ‘entomb’ pollen to protect against pesticides

By sealing up cells full of contaminated pollen, bees appear to be attempting to protect the rest of the hive. 

Honeybees are taking emergency measures to protect their hives from pesticides, in an extraordinary example of the natural world adapting swiftly to our depredations, according to a prominent bee expert. 

Scientists have found numerous examples of a new phenomenon –bees “entombing” or sealing up hive cells full of pollen to put them out of use, and protect the rest of the hive from their contents. The pollen stored in the sealed-up cells has been found to contain dramatically higher levels of pesticides and other potentially harmful chemicals than the pollen stored in neighboring cells, which is used to feed growing young bees. 

“This is a novel finding, and very striking. The implication is that the bees are sensing [pesticides] and actually sealing it off. They are recognizing that something is wrong with the pollen and encapsulating it,” said Jeff Pettis, an entomologist with the US Department of Agriculture. “Bees would not normally seal off pollen.” 

But the bees’ last-ditch efforts to save themselves appear to be unsuccessful – the entombing behaviour is found in many hives that subsequently die off, according to Pettis. “The presence of entombing is the biggest single predictor of colony loss. It’s a defence mechanism that has failed.” These colonies were likely to already be in trouble, and their death could be attributed to a mix of factors in addition to pesticides, he added… 

Bees naturally collect from plants a substance known as propolis, a sort of sticky resin with natural anti-bacterial and anti-fungal qualities. It is used by bees to line the walls of their hives, and to seal off unwanted or dangerous substances – for instance, mice that find their way into hives and die are often found covered in propolis. This is the substance bees are using to entomb the cells. 

Click here to read the full article – Fiona Harvey, environment correspondent

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The way of the Bee (Natural Beekeeping)

 article by milkwoodkirsten 

Bees just want to be bees. I’ve learned recently that, like most things in nature, a honeybee colony is most happy, calm and resilient when it’s left to do what it does best. For bees, this means forage for nectar and pollen, raise a brood, and make honey. And bees want to do this in their own time, on their own schedule, and with the freedom to respond to each unique season. Which is quite contrary to how we currently manage bees. So what’s going on here?

Our species’ treatment of the honeybee is a striking metaphor for our wider relationship with nature. In short, we started out okay, with a suitable amount of reverence, and then we progressively sought to bend the way of the bee to our wishes, convenience and ultimately, gross profit at the expense of all else. The result of this treatment has pushed the honeybee (a primary pollinator of most things we eat) to the point of collapse, and now we’re wondering what went wrong and how the heck to fix it. Sound familiar?

Until recently I thought beekeeping was pretty simple and straight forward. Don’t you just get a hive, plunk some bees in it, put it somewhere suitable, check it lots for disease, then harvest honey once a year? But once i started thinking, reading and chatting about it, I realized there are ways and there are ways

milkwood.net bees

…a bee colony is a finely tuned super-organism with about 40 million years of evolutionary backup. Bees have been refining what they do for a bloody long time, and they’ve got things pretty much sorted. Understanding how they operate in a completely natural system is a good starting point for understanding their needs.

So natural beekeeping (as opposed to not-quite-as-bad-as-conventional beekeeping, sometimes called by the same name) is all about letting bees be bees, and harvesting surplus honey when it is available. In the meantime, you get fantastic fertility from having so many pollinators around, and you’re creating resilient colonies which are disease resistant.

Click here to read the full article

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The Waggle Dance of the Honeybee

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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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http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7qDHAjFVsXU

Ellen Page talks “Vanishing of the Bees” on Bill Maher.

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