Thanks to everyone who came out for our Biodynamic Apiculture and Alternative Hives Workshop!
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Thanks to everyone who came out for our Biodynamic Apiculture and Alternative Hives Workshop!
Click here to sign up for our monthly newsletter and see the full write up from our workshop!
THIS WEEK IN NEWS via James Rojas
National Honey Bee Day, 2013, Santa Monica. August 17th is National Honey Bee Day & a local non-profit organization, HoneyLove, celebrated in Santa Monica to help spread the message of how important it is to help bees.
By: Christina Sarich, Natural Society.
Many pesticides have been found to cause grave danger to our bees, and with the recent colony collapses in Oregon, it’s time to take a hard look at what we would be missing without bee pollination.
In just the last ten years, over 40% of the bee colonies in the US have suffered Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD). Bees either become so disoriented they can’t find their way back to their hives and die away from home, or fly back poison-drunk and die at the foot of their queen. There are many arguments as to what is causing CCD, but the most logical and likely culprit is the increased usage of pesticides by the likes of Monsanto and others.
A study by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) has labeled one pesticide, called clothianidin, as completely unacceptable for use, and banned it from use entirely. Meanwhile, the U.S. uses the same pesticide on more than a third of its crops – nearly 143 million acres. Two more pesticides linked to bee death are imidacloprid, and thiamethoxam. These are also used extensively in the US, while elsewhere, they have been taken out of circulation.
Recently, the FDA also seized Terrence Ingram’s bees, a naturalist who had been studying bees for over 30 years, and had a colony that was resistant to Monsanto’s Round Up. Ingram’s prized hives, along with their queens, were destroyed by the FDA, and Ingram was given no warning that his bees would be demolished.
While we don’t need bees to pollinate every single crop, here is just a brief list of some of the foods we would lose if all our bees continue to perish:
If one of your favorites is on this list, you should consider becoming a bee activist.
[read original post via realnews24.com]
The beepocalypse is on the cover of TIME, but it looks like managed honeybees will still pull through. Wild bees—and wild species in general—won’t be so lucky in a human-dominated planet.
I’ve written this week’s cover story for the magazine, on the growing threat to honeybees. You can read it (with a subscription) over here. The short version: beginning nearly a decade ago, honeybees started dying off at unusually and mysteriously high rates—this past winter, nearly one-third of U.S. honeybee colonies died or disappeared. At first this appeared due to something called colony collapse disorder (CCD); hives would be abandoned without warning, with bees seemingly leaving honey and intact wax behind. The apocalyptic nature of CCD—some people really thought the disappearance of the bees indicated that the Rapture was nigh—grabbed the public’s attention. More recently, beekeepers have been seeing fewer cases of CCD proper, but honeybees keep dying and bees keep collapsing. That’s bad for our food system—bees add at least $15 billion in crop value through pollination in the U.S. alone, and if colony losses keep up, those pollination demands may not be met and valuable crops like almonds could wither.
More than the bottom line for grocery stores, though, the honeybee’s plight alarms us because a species that we have tended and depended on for thousands of years is dying—and we don’t really know why. Tom Theobald, a beekeeper and blogger who has raised the alarm about CCD, put that fear this way: “The bees are just the beginning.”
But while we don’t now we exactly what causes CCD or why honeybees are dying in larger numbers, we do know the suspects: pesticides, including the newer class of neonicotinoids that seem to affect bees even at very low levels; biological threats like the vampiric Varroa mite; and the lack of nutrition thanks to monocultures of commodity crops like wheat and corn, which offer honeybees little in the way of the pollen they need to survive. Most likely, bee deaths are due to a mix of all of those menaces acting together—pesticides and lack of food might weaken honeybees, and pests like Varroa could finish them off, spreading diseases the bees don’t have the strength to resist. Unfortunately, that means there’s no simple way to save the honeybees either. Simply banning, say, neonicotinoids might take some of the pressure off honeybees, but most scientists agree it wouldn’t solve the problem. (And getting rid of neonicotinoids would have unpredictable consequences for agriculture—the pesticides were adopted in part because they are considered safer for mammals, including human beings.) Honeybees are suffering because we’ve created a world that is increasingly inhospitable to them.
Still, for all the alarm, honeybees are likely to pull through. As I point out in the magazine piece, beekeepers have mostly managed to replace lost colonies, though at a cost high enough that some long-time beekeepers are getting out of the business altogether. Beekeepers are buying new queens and splitting their hives, which cuts into productivity and honey production, but keeps their colony numbers high enough to so far meet pollination demands. They’re adding supplemental feed—often sugar or corn syrup—to compensate for the lack of wild forage. The scientific and agricultural community is engaged—see Monsanto’s recent honeybee summit, and the company’s work on a genetic weapon against the Varroa mite. Randy Oliver, a beekeeper and independent researcher, told me that he could see honeybees becoming a feedlot animal like pigs or chickens, bred and kept for one purpose and having their food brought to them, rather than foraging in the semi-wild way they live now. That sounds alarming—and it’s not something anyone in the beekeeping industry would like to see—but it’s also important to remember that honeybees themselves aren’t exactly natural, especially in North America, where they were imported by European settlers in the 17th century. As Hannah Nordhaus, the author of the great book A Beekeeper’s Lament, has written, honeybees have always been much more dependent on human beings than the other way around.
The reality is that honeybees are very useful to human beings, and species that are very useful to us—think domesticated animals and pets—tend to do OK in the increasingly human-dominated world we call the Anthropocene. But other wild species aren’t so lucky—and that includes the thousands of species of wild bees and other non-domesticated pollinators. Bumblebees have experienced recent and rapid population loss in the U.S., punctuated by a mass pesticide poisoning in Oregon this past June that led to the deaths of some 50,000 bumblebees. A 2006 report by the National Academies of Science concluded that the populations of many other wild pollinators—especially wild bees—was trending “demonstrably downward.” The threats are much the same ones faced by managed honeybees: pesticides, lack of wild forage, parasites and disease. The difference is that there are thousands of human beings who make it their business to care for and prop up the populations of honeybees. No one is doing the same thing for wild bees. The supposed beepocalypse is on the cover of TIME magazine, but “you don’t hear about the decline of hundreds of species of wild bees,” says Jennifer Sass, a senior scientist at the Natural Resources Defense Council.
That’s meant almost literally—we don’t hear them anymore. The plight of the bees illustrates our outsized influence on the this planet as we reshape it—consciously and not—to meet our immediate needs. But just because we have this power doesn’t mean we fully understand it, or our impact on our own world. We are a species that increasingly has omnipotence without omniscience. That’s a dangerous combination for the animals and plants that share this planet with us. And eventually, it will be dangerous for us, too.
[Read original post via science.time.com]
Learn the WAGGLE DANCE and send it to us to bee in our compilation video!!
In Kentucky, Project Pollinator is replacing grass with native flowers—and the early results for bees have been very promising.
The prairies, sloughs and forests of the great North American continent are home to a dazzling array of flowering plants that nourish pollinators from bees to butterflies and hummingbirds (like a green beauty, probably a ruby-throated hummingbird, I saw feeding from a purple coneflower this weekend in my relative’s otherwise grass-dominated backyard in Indianapolis).
But in case you hadn’t noticed, humans have the unfortunate habit of replacing these environs with crop fields and lawns. Perfect, manicured, American lawns.
Both cornfields and lawns are examples of monocultures, swaths of land made up of identical species that provide little food and habitat for native pollinators. They are, in a way, wastelands for pollinators, as pointed out in a story at Scientific American.
These beds of ubiquitous green blades, especially when sprayed with herbicides, offer virtually nothing to bees and other creatures on the hunt for food. Even when grasses are allowed to flower—which isn’t often, since unruly lawns are frowned upon and can decrease property values—most grasses are wind-pollinated and don’t need these animals to carry on their sessile lives.
However, many people are beginning to question the wisdom of the all-encompassing green lawn, and turf is increasingly being replaced by flowering native plants to help pollinators and for aesthetic value. (They also require less maintenance.)
One initiative, called Project Pollinator, is replacing grass with native flowers in Kentucky. Emily Dobbs, a graduate student at the University of Kentucky, and colleagues have planted swaths of indigenous blooms at five golf courses in the state. The project, in its second year, is already having an impact, Dobbs said.
When they began the surveys on turf-dominated ground, the researchers mostly came across a single species of honeybee, besides bumblebees and sweat bees. But now, after introducing eight to 16 native species, Dobbs has found about eight bumblebee species, two dozen species of small solitary species like miner and diggers bees, and butterflies, she said. In the fall they will finalize their recommendation as to what mixture of native plants brings in the most indigenous insects.
“We’ve seen much more diversity on samples we’ve taken from the Operation Pollinator plot than in surveys of turf,” Dobbs added.
Thanks to the project, the Marriot, which owns many golf courses, has decided to place native flowers on half of its East Coast courses, according to Scientific American.
For people who want to replace their grass lawns with native plants, “two of the most useful online resources are the websites of The Xerces Society, a nonprofit organization devoted to the conservation of invertebrates, and the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center, a research unit of the University of Austin Texas dedicated to native plants,”Scientific American reports.
Most states also have extension offices, run by their land grant universities, which can recommend native plants to buy.
About one-third of the major industrial crops are also pollinated by bees and other insects. (Such is not the case with wheat and corn, which are mostly wind-pollinated.) Besides flowers cropping up along plots of turf, demand for native crops, pollinated by indigenous insects, has grown, Dobbs said. These include native squash, alfalfa, cranberries and blueberries, Dobbs said.
Supporting locally-grown foods also helps conserve native pollinators.
One contributor to the recent decline of honeybees may be the lack of diversity found in monocultures, research suggests. But this decline also highlights the importance of maintaining populations of local pollinators, many of which are indeed important for engaging in the dance of pollination that allows farmers to put bread (or cranberries) on the table.
So what are you waiting for? Add some flowers to that lawn. The bees will thank you.
[read original post via takepart.com]
Mass deaths in bee colonies may mean disaster for farmers–and your favorite foods
You can thank the Apis mellifera, better known as the Western honeybee, for 1 in every 3 mouthfuls you’ll eat today. Honeybees — which pollinate crops like apples, blueberries and cucumbers — are the “glue that holds our agricultural system together,” as the journalist Hannah Nordhaus put it in her 2011 book The Beekeeper’s Lament. But that glue is failing. Bee hives are dying off or disappearing thanks to a still-unsolved malady called colony collapse disorder (CCD), so much so that commercial beekeepers are being pushed out of the business.
So what’s killing the honeybees? Pesticides — including a new class called neonicotinoids — seem to be harming bees even at what should be safe levels. Biological threats like the Varroa mite are killing off colonies directly and spreading deadly diseases. As our farms become monocultures of commodity crops like wheat and corn — plants that provide little pollen for foraging bees — honeybees are literally starving to death. If we don’t do something, there may not be enough honeybees to meet the pollination demands for valuable crops. But more than that, in a world where up to 100,000 species go extinct each year, the vanishing honeybee could be the herald of a permanently diminished planet.
Bees are vital. Without them, pollination of crops doesn’t occur. Bees work tirelessly to provide us with our food, but are struggling in the wild. In recent years it has become apparent that bees, not just the honeybee, are under threat and some have already gone extinct. Find out on this lens which flowers to grow for pollen and nectar that will feed them and help them to increase their numbers. Insects and plants must now be taken care of by gardeners if they are to survive.The private garden is now a better place than the countryside for wildlife, since much agricultural land is now devoid of the diversity of flowers insects need to give them their ‘five a day’. It is now thought by scientists in the field that insects need as much variety in their food as we do to get all the trace minerals and vitamins to keep them healthy, so go on, plant flowers for the bees!
HA= Hardy annual
HHA =Half hardy annual
P = Perennial
HB= Hardy biennial
HS= Hardy shrub
Cosmos (HHA) is an annual flower easily raised from seed. It’s also one of the very best for the bee. Grow it in groups, making the collection of pollen easier for the bees, who won’t have to fly as far to find their food. Cosmos grows 2-5ft tall, the majority reaching about 2ft. It’s from Mexico, so a half hardy annual. Plant out after all danger of frost has passed, and deadhead to keep them flowering continuously through the summer. These open, flat flowers will delight you as well as giving the bees a feast.
Aster (HHA) ‘Compostion’ or Michaelmass Daisies. Many modern hybrids have little or no pollen. easy to grow, colorful and late summer to autumn flowering, they provide food late in the season. Important if honeybees are to be well fed to get through the winter months.
Sunflowers (HA) are a great choice, available in many heights and colours to suit your garden space. Choose yellow or orange over red, which bees don’t like. Varieties exist now for the allergic gardener, containing no pollen. Obviously avoid these when wishing to attract bees.
Calendulas or marigolds (HA) are great for bees, especially the original single flowered pot marigold. Dead head regularly for a longer flowering period.
Primulas. (HP) The native primrose, (primula vulgaris), primulas of all kinds, even the drumstick ones are great early food for bees. Cowslips (primula veris) are also good members of this extensive family of perennial plants.
Rudbekia (HHA) are an extensive group of cone flowers from the aster family. A wide variety of heights, mostly available in yellows and oranges, sure to brighten your border and feed bees. There are also a few hardy perennial ones, of which ‘Goldsturn’ is my personal favourite. All are easy to grow from seed.
Scabious or cornflowers (HA), another aster family member, are mostly blue flowered and bees adore them. Dead-headed regularly, they’ll flower all summer long.
Lavender (HHS) There are plenty of lavenders to choose from, all needing plenty of sun and well drained soil, but they’ll reward you with plenty of fragrant flowers for cutting and drying. Just watch them get smothered in bees when they come into flower.
Bluebells (bulb) Another early food supply. Just a note of caution for UK growers. The native English bluebell in now under threat from the Spanish bluebell, which outcompetes and crosses with it. So please ensure you are planting the native bluebell to ensure you don’t endanger a bluebell woodland near you.
Hellebores (HP) The Christmas rose! A lovely flower to have in your garden from late winter to early spring, this plant will tolerate some shade and moist conditions, though not wet. When bees emerge from hibernation they need food fast. This one gives them a snack when there’s little else around.
Clematis (Perennial climber) The majority of clematis will provide pollen, and I’ve watched bees happily moving from flower to flower gathering their crop. Always plant clematis deeper than they were in the container, as this gives more protection against cleamits wilt. These plants are hungry and thirsty, so add good compost to the planting hole. They also like their roots in the cool and heads in the sun, so once planted I place either a thick mulch or a pile of stones or gravel around their roots, keeping them cool and conserving moisture.
Crocus (bulb) Early flowering, plenty to choose from, and planted in the autumn to flower year after year. These are great value and cheer me up as well as the bees!
Mint (HP), especially water mint, is loved by bees. It’s great in your cooking, too. Easy to grow, it can be a bit of a thug, so either grow it in a container or prevent its escape around the garden by burying a bucket (with holes in the bottom for drainage) and plant your mint into that.
Rosemary (HHS) A mediterranean herb, rosemary likes well drained soild and full sun. It flowers around April/May. A great culinary herb, bees will take advantage of the pollen as long as you prune it correctly. This is best done straight after flowering, as most of the flowers will appear on new wood. Don’t prune rosemary back to old, bare wood as these are not likely to regrow. Depending on where you live and soil conditions, rosemary can be short lived, so take some cuttings each year so you can replace the old plant should it dsie or become too leggy.
Thyme (H to HHS)) There are now quite a few varieties available, tasting slightly different to each other eg lemon thyme. However, I’ve noticed that the wild thyme (thymus serpyllum) attracts a lot of bee visitors and tends to flower more profusely. But they are all worth growing. Give them the same growing conditions as rosemary and lavender.
Hebe (HH-HS) This extensive group of shrubs have wonderful flowers for bees. Plenty of pollen, all on one flower and plenty of flowers on one shrub. They vary in height, are mosly blue or pink and tolerate most soils. They dislike too much wet, so a well drained soil is best. Water well, though, until established.
Borage, the bee herb. (HA) Borage is blue flowered, simple to grow and in fact one type grows wild in the UK, though originally from Syria. Easy, prolific and the bees love it.
Echinacea, the cone flower. (HP) Now available in a variety of colours, all of which will attract bees. Echinacea Tennesseensis will attract birds, bees and butterflies.
Mignotette. There are HA, HHA and Perennial members of this family. They are sweetly scented and will attract and feed your bees, especially Reseda lutea.
Thrift, or Sea Pink (HP) is a great plant for a rock garden, trough or wall. Holding its bright pink flowers well above the grass-like foliage, it will cheer your garden and make the bees come back for more! Give it well drained condiitons and lots of sun.
Sedums are also excellent plants for rock gardens and walls… Biting stonecrop and English stonecrop (sedums acre and anglicum) are natives, and great for bees.
Sweet Williams (Dianthus barbatus) (HB) are fantastic flowers for bees. An old cottage garden favourite, bees are attracted to the pink or white flowers and we love the perfume! They are members of the dianthus family, as are Pinks and Carnations, all of which are good for the bees.
Monarda (Bergamot) (HP) This is the herb that flavours Earl Grey tea, but the bees love its flowers for pollen and nectar. Its folk name in the Uk is bee balm. It likes a moist but not wet soil and can cope with a bit of shade. Share it with the bees! Bergamot tea is a herbal treat in itself. Just pour boiling water on the leaves and allow about ten minutes before drinking.
Cornflower (HA) Easy to grow, cheap and cheerful, cornflowers are another cottage garden favourite. Thier blue flowers act like a bee magnet. Grow in as large a group as you have the space for. This makes it easier for the bees to spot them and saves them flying around more than necessary. It’s easy to save seed from one year to the next, too.
Poppies (HA-HP) All poppies are attractive to bees, and are laden with pollen in nice open flowers. Very easy to grow, especially the annual kinds, and easy to save seeds to sow next year. Enjoy their delicate petals while your bees enjoy a feast.
Verbena Bonariensis (HP) a tall, delicate looking perennial with purple/mauve flowers that add a tropical feel to your borders. This is easy to grow from seed and sown early enough will flower in its first year. One not to do without!
Snapdragons (Antirrhinum) (HHA) Plenty of choice in heights and colours. Have you ever watched a bee enter and leave a snapdragon? Their weight pulls the lower part of the petal down so they can get inside for their food, and you can hear them buzzing while they are in there. Lovely to watch.
Ageratum (HHA) Easy to grow, with heads of blue flowers and another member of the compositae family, so lots of food on one flower head. This is one of my favorite annuals in the garden. Just don’t plant out until all danger of frost has passed and dead head for more flowers.
Echinops (globe thistle) (HP) This lovely blue thistle is very ornamental, even when not in flower, standing about 36? tall. Bees and butterflies love the flowers which provide plenty of nectar. Easy to grow from seed and will come back year after year.
Digitalis (foxglove) (HB) Foxgloves make great food for bees. As they are poisonous, protect children from them and handle wearing gloves. As long as these precautions are taken these are wonderful plants for the garden and the bees. A woodland plant, they’re useful for a shady spot.
[read original post via naturalcuresnotmedicine.com]
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