Southern California Coastal Pollinator Planting Guide (pdf)
“I’ve always thought that beehives are organized similarly to how we do things here at Google. Bees have a flat management structure and they adapt quickly and change roles throughout their career (nurse, guard, foragers, quality control, etc.) depending on demands. And the bees that collect nectar from the forager bees at the entrance to the hive also scrutinize it for quality. If it’s not high enough, they send the foragers back out to get a fresh start… it reminds me a bit of a Google code review!
If Google’s a beehive, then I’m what you might call a forager. I work on the culinary team and we strive to serve food that’s produced locally and grown in a sustainable manner. But we wanted to take the effort to the next level. So, with help from the Marin Bee Company, we’ve installed four hives of bees to help us be as self-sufficient as possible.
The four hives—collectively known as the Hiveplex, of course—are each painted in one of Google’s colors. We’ve placed them close to large areas of wild flowers on our campus, far enough away that anyone who isn’t fond of bees can easily avoid them, but close enough that anyone who wants to can walk over and watch them at work. Many Googlers have signed up to contribute to beekeeping and honey extraction efforts, and, come the harvest in the fall, we’ll round the season off with a series of cooking classes and candle-making sessions for all those who have signed up to help.
With this project, we’re also hoping to raise awareness of impact of Colony Collapse Disorder(CCD)—a phenomenon in which worker bees abandon the hive for reasons that aren’t fully understood. This has become a cause of global concern and in some parts of the world more than 50 percent of the hives have been found abandoned. This has grave implications for us all as bees are responsible for pollinating approximately 70 percent of the fruit and vegetables we eat. The loss of bees has serious consequences for plants, wildlife and human survival. (You can read more here.)
To see our newest colleagues at work, check out the album below. Someday we might create a Buzz account for our bees so you can all track their progress and follow our bee keeping activities—but we promise not to drone on.”
I inspected Sophie Anne’s hive yesterday and she has drawn quite a bit of comb, but it would appear (unless I am mistaken, and correct me if I am) that the workers have designs on replacing their queen. You’ll notice in the middle of the photo a unique cell that sticks out. I believe this to be a queen cell, and more specifically a supercedure cell. Bees will create these cells when they believe their queen is failing and want to replace her. That would appear to be the case with Sophie Anne. Perhaps she was injured or just not laying enough brood. I didn’t see her during the inspection so I can’t speak to her condition or existence for that matter. At any rate, I’m excited to see what happens. Hopefully they will emerge a stronger, healthier hive.
“If the bee disappeared off the surface of the globe, then man would have only four years of life left. No more bees, no more pollination, no more plants, no more animals, no more man.”
Cat House Cut-Out
I responded to a call on the Backwards Beekeepers rescue hotline last week when a guy got back from an extended trip to Mexico to find that bees had taken up residence in his cat’s house on the balcony of his Marina del Rey apartment. He returned home to find his balcony covered in dead bees and peeled back a rolled up carpet to find the hive bulging out of the fabric cat house. Penniless from his vacation, he plied my conservation guilt to take the bees off his hands gratis. In cases where I don’t have to drive very far, I often find myself making this bargain, though as my beekeeping expenses add up, I find myself a little resentful of the exterminators making hundreds to kill or remove the “pests.” At any rate, I digress.
The morning after picking up the bees from the balcony, I brought them to a couple’s house I had met on a previous rescue. As vegans, they have no interest in the honey, but they know that the urban environment is the future for the honeybee and were only happy to make their beautifully landscaped backyard available to my cat house bees.
This was my first cut-out, and like all firsts, I made a few mistakes. The first mistake was that I did it by myself. Probably could have used someone with some experience in my ear, but I figured I had read enough and watched enough videos…not so much. The second mistake was that on my first cut-out, I elected to move the bees into a top-bar hive I had just built. The hive in itself wasn’t the problem – it was built to spec with wood molding for comb guides. The problem was tying in the salvaged comb. It did not want to cooperate at all. In the end, completely covered in honey, pollen and all things sticky, I was able to make it work but it wasn’t without tremendous effort. The final mistake I made was briefly unzipping my veil just a fraction of an inch. It was just enough time for a bee to shoot the gap and sting me between the eyes. It actually didn’t hurt all that bad, but later that night my face had swelled up pretty good. I woke up the next morning looking like a Navi from Avatar.
The best part of the entire experience came when I found the queen in a pile of bees on the ground. I held out my finger for her and she walked right on. I then held my finger just inside the top bars and she instantly rejoined her compadres.
I was also able to harvest a Mason jar full of fresh, raw honey. Nothing has ever tasted quite so sweet. This was easily one of the best, most educational experiences of my life. Can’t wait for the next cut-out, though no matter how itchy my nose gets, I’m staying zipped up
WHO: Dr. Mark Winston
WHAT: Bee Talker – The Secret World of Bees
WHO: Hilary Berseth
WHAT: Apisculpture Artist
“One of the great metaphors for creative community is the hive where many interact for the benefit of the collective. When the hive is successful it produces an abundance of honey. It is possibly the clearest symbiotic relationship that humans have with the insect kingdom. We don’t need to be reminded of the pollination of plant life that is attributed to bees. Bees make a great deal more honey than they can use. Who do they make it for? The rest of us. For the benefit of all sentient bee-ings. Bees appear in ancient Egyptian hieroglyphs, and have been revered as sacred throughout the world.” – Alex & Allyson Grey
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.
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