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Thank you Bel Air-Beverly Crest Neighborhood Council for unanimously supporting URBAN BEEKEEPING in Los Angeles tonight!! That brings our total up to 15 NCs in support!
*If you live/work in Los Angeles districts 2, 3, 7, 8, 9, 15 – email us!
People always ask us “what’s the first step I need to take to become a beekeeper?” and our response is always the same: “you need to find and join a community.”
Here you go. We are thrilled to announce the launch of the HoneyLove Forum! This feature—free and open to the public—represents a major step forward in educational and community-building efforts. Forums are an incredible way for communities to collaborate, share information and discuss our shared passion.
Just as the individual bee needs a community of bees to survive, the beekeeper needs a community of beekeepers for continued education and support. Whether you are just getting started as a new-bee and need mentorship, or you’re a multi-generation beek still learning new things and refining old techniques, you can benefit from the group’s collective intelligence through discussions, shared observations/experiments, and by simply being around others who share your passion. There are beekeeping associations, clubs, and non-profits like HoneyLove in almost every city in the United States and throughout the world. We always encourage people to join as many of these as they can, as well as availing themselves of all the information the web has to offer. Now, with the HoneyLove Forums, we can offer a place for people to go—regardless of where they live—to dive into the world of beekeeping to learn and connect with likeminded people from all over.
The threads in the forum are organized into seven basic topics to get started. We encourage you to get in there and start a discussion, answer someone’s questions and bond with fellow HoneyLovers! We want your feedback, so please let us know your thoughts on how we can continue to improve the HoneyLove Forum.
“You’ve probably heard about the sudden and mysterious drop in honey bee populations throughout the U.S.A. and Europe. Beekeepers used to report average losses in their worker bees of about 5-10% a year, but starting around 2006, that rate jumped to about 30%. Today, many large beekeeping operations are reporting that up to 40 or 50 percent of their swarms have mysteriously disappeared. This massive die-off of honey bee populations has been dubbed colony collapse disorder, and it is a big, big deal.” [via scishow]
Wildlife-loving gardeners across the world enthuse about planting butterfly gardens, but relatively few think to design and plant a bee garden. Designing and planting a bee garden will bolster the health of your garden and help conserve one of earth’s treasures.
Why Design and Plant a Bee Garden
There are over 3,500 species of bees native to the United States. Unfortunately, due to land development and the extensive use of pesticides, their numbers are declining. In fact, the entire world is experiencing a shortage of bees. Why is this a problem?
Bees provide the much-needed service of pollinating plants. Approximately 80 percent of the flowering plants on earth require the help of pollinators, such as bees, for survival. That includes the plants which serve as food for humans. It is estimated one out of every three bites of food we take is made possible by bees and other pollinating wildlife.
Planting a well-designed bee garden provides food and shelter for bees, allowing them to nest and increase their population in safety. In return, the bees will increase the health and productivity of your garden and the gardens of those around you.
How to Design and Plant a Bee Garden
Variety is the spice of life to a bee. Bee gardens that use 10 or more species of bee-preferred plants tend to be the most successful. Bees will even visit less attractive plants in these gardens while they are there. Using a wide variety of preferred plants in your bee garden will also attract a wide variety of bees. This is especially true when you choose to use a nice assortment of plants native to your area.
Bee season goes from March through October. Choose a selection of plants that will bloom successively during this time period. A continuous provision of nectar and pollen will be available to bees if one type of bloom becomes available as another is dying out.
Flowers should be planted in large patches of like varieties to allow bees to dine in one spot for long periods of time. Gardens with scattered plants do not attract as many visits, and therefore receive less pollination, because bees expend too much energy flying between locations.
Bees thrive in gardens that are not extremely manicured, as solitary bees (ones who do not live in colonies) often prefer to make their nests in the ground. If you prefer the manicured look of mulch, leave some areas of dirt exposed for solitary bee nesting. Bee houses are an option when a manicured garden look is preferred. Place them in the shady areas of your garden where they will not be disturbed. Another option is to create bee nesting areas by filling planters and barrels with soil or sand. Place these where they will be protected from direct sunlight and rain.
Bees require a bit of water in addition to their nectar. A good bee garden will include a few puddles from which the bees can drink. Keep the puddles in muddy areas, as the bees will absorb needed minerals and salt from the soil as they sip the water.
Pesticides should not be used in bee gardens. Many pesticides work indiscriminately, killing off helpful insects along with the intended pest victims. If you truly need a pesticide in your garden, use a natural one made from microbes or plant derivatives and apply after sundown.
Choosing Plants When You Design and Plant a Bee Garden
The best plants to choose for your bee garden are varieties that are native to your area. Native plants will attract a nice variety of native bees. Certain bees require the native plants of their area to survive. Shop for your bee garden plants at a reputable nursery with knowledgeable staff who can assist you.
Plants that are not native to your area will attract bees as long as you pick the correct varieties. Stay away from anything with the word ‘double’ in the name or description. ‘Double’ plants have been bred to grow extra petals instead of anthers, the reproductive parts of the flowers, from which bees collect pollen. Stick to the old-fashioned single varieties of both non-native and native plants for your bee garden.
Bees are especially attracted to flowers that are purple, blue or yellow. They do not have the capability to see red and will rarely visit flowers in variations of that primary color. A few red flowers, such as bee balm, attract bees by reflecting ultraviolet light.
Small bees, which have short tongues, are most often attracted to small, shallow flowers. Use flowers such as daisy, marigold, butterfly weed, valerian, buttercup, aster, yarrow and Queen Anne’s lace.
Larger bees, which have longer tongues, can handle slightly deeper flowers. They enjoy plants such as delphinium, larkspur, columbine, monkshood and snapdragon. Long-tongued bees are also attracted to various herbs, such as sage, oregano, mint and lavender.
Leaf-cutting bees are drawn to plants in the legume family and sweet clover.
Flowers to Use When You Design and Plant a Bee Garden
Bees require two types of plants to survive: pollen plants and nectar plants. Pollen from plants is taken back to their nests to feed the young bees. Nectar plants feed the adult bees to give them energy while looking for pollen. Some of the nectar is also added to the nests to feed the baby bees.
Below is a short list of bee-preferred plants based on blooming season. Some of these plants will provide bees with just nectar or just pollen, while others will provide both. Speak to specialists at your local nursery for additional suggestions for your bee garden based on your location.
Nectar plants - Barberry, Bee plant, Blue Pea, Borage, Chinese Houses, Horehound, Lavender, Sage, Salvia, Scented Geranium, Wisteria
Pollen plants - Bush Anemone, California Poppy, Yarrow
Combination - Bidens, Blanket Flower, Blazing Star, Daisy, Marigold, Tansy
Nectar plants - Basil, Catnip, Horehound, Lavender, Lamb’s Ear, Mint, Oregano, Rosemary, Sage, Sea Holly, Spearmint, Thyme, Toadflax, Verbena
Pollen plants - Borage, California Poppy, Chaparral Nightshade, Tomato, Yarrow
Combination - Bidens, Black-eyed Susan, Blanket Flower, Bluebeard, Calenula, Cosmos, Daisy, Dusty Miller, Goldenrod, Gum Plant, Lemon Queen, Pincushion, Purple Coneflower, Pumpkin, Squash, Zucchini
Nectar plants - Autumn Sage, Rosemary, Toadflax, Verbena, Yellow Trumpet bush
Combination - Bluebeard, Cosmos, Pumpkin, Squash
Sunflowers are excellent bee plants that bloom throughout the season. They come in two types: with and without pollen. They will attract more bees to your bee garden if you choose the varieties with pollen.
Here you can find a list of neonicotinoids and their trade names (brand name). Please note that not all the brand names are listed and the availability of any chemical and its brands may change through time.
By: Dr. Tibor I. Szabo CM, Tibor P. Szabo, and Daniel C. Szabo BSc [via honeybees.ca]
Over the past decade populations of honey bees and other pollinators have been in decline worldwide. This phenomenon, often referred to in media as Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD), is characterized by a rapid loss of a colony’s adult worker bee population, and has been associated with Varroa mites, viruses, environmental stress, and pesticides. Reports of the ‘mysterious disappearance of bees’ abound in scholarly studies and the media, along with disclaimers that no causal effect has been proven.
An article entitled “Existing Scientific Evidence of the Effects of Neonicotinoid Pesticides on Bees“, which appeared in an online European Parliament publication (EAA, 2012), describes a causal effect – bee poisoning by neonicotinoid pesticides. Mounting undeniable scientific evidence has surfaced from around the globe linking neonicotinoid pesticides to mass bee deaths.
In order to protect honey bees, various member states of the European Union have taken regulatory action on the use of specific neonicotinoids. The European Parliament report describes that “neonicotinoids block an intrinsic chemical pathway which transmits nerve impulses to the insect central nervous system” causing irreversible and cumulative damage to the central nervous system and death. Bees exposed to neonicotinoids exhibit convulsions, tremors, and uncoordinated movements typical of exposure to neurotoxins.
Neonicotinoids are systemic pesticides that are absorbed into plant tissues. The poisons are highly soluble in water and are applied to a variety of agricultural crops with sprays, seed coatings, soil drenchers and granules, injections into tree trunks, or as an additive to irrigation water. Neonicotinoids migrate through soil and the entire plant all the way to the flowers. This causes toxic, lethal, and chronic exposure to non-target species including earthworms, birds, fish, and pollinators (Mason, et al., 2012). Additional exposure routes also exist depending on the method of application. Neonicotinoids are able to remain in the plant tissues for months to several years.
Even low dose exposure to neonicotinoids can result in serious sub-lethal effects on insects. Residues in nectar and pollen often lead to long-term exposure for pollinators. There is no safe level of exposure, as even tiny amounts of insecticides can have long term negative effects. The European Parliament publication (EAA, 2012) reported sub-lethal effects include a wide range of behavioural disturbances in honey bees including:
- Disorientation and difficulties in returning back to the hive (homing ability)
- Reduced foraging efficiency
- Impaired memory and learning
- Failure to communicate properly with other bees in the colony
- Reduction of breeding success
- Decrease of metabolic efficiency
- Reduction in disease resistance
- Necrosis of larva, pupae, and newly emerged bees
A recent scientific publication from Kanazawa University in Japan (Yamada, et. al., 2012) explains that “the high-concentration pesticide (neonicotinoids) seems to work as an acute toxicity and the low- and middle-concentration ones do as a chronic toxicity … In supposing that a pesticide is sprayed and diluted in water of a rice paddy or an orchard and its concentration becomes low, the low-concentration pesticide carried by foraging bees continues to affect a colony for a long time and finally leads to a collapse of a colony or the failure in wintering.”
Representing the main Big Ag neonicotinoid pesticide producers, CropLife Canada, maintains that its lucrative neonicotinoid business should not be held responsible and accountable for any honey bee colony declines and instead insists that Varroa mites are primarily to blame (Hepworth, 2013).
A Health Canada (2013) report titled “Evaluation of Canadian Bee Mortalities that Coincided with Corn Planting in Spring 2012” describes:
“an unusually high number of reports of honey bee mortalities were received from beekeepers in corn growing regions of Ontario and Quebec. The majority of reports were from southern Ontario, involving over 40 beekeepers and 240 different bee yard locations. Additionally, one report was received from Quebec involving eight bee yards. Timing and location of these honey bee mortalities appeared to coincide with planting corn seed treated with insecticides.”
Beekeepers monitored their affected hives throughout the season and reported on the ongoing effects. These included lack of recovery, dwindling colonies, and lack of honey production. Prior to their exposure the bees were healthy.
“Residue analysis was conducted to determine whether bees were exposed to the insecticides used on treated corn seeds. … Clothianidin was detected in approximately 70% of the samples analyzed in Ontario and clothianidin and thiamethoxam were detected in the samples analyzed from Quebec. On a bee yard basis, these residues were detected in approximately 80% of the bee yards where dead bee samples were collected and analysed.”
Personal observations of a bee yard in Southern Ontario, Canada
Our research apiary is located in a semi-agricultural area with large stretches of forests and scattered residential homes. To the East is grazing land and an estimated 100 acres of cultivated land. In 2010 and 2011 this field was planted with corn and in 2012 it was planted with soy. In early May of 2010 we observed several hundred dying and dead bees on the ground in front of some of the colonies. They displayed the typical signs of insecticide poisoning; many were dead while others were on their backs with their legs twitching and proboscis extended. By late July, six colonies displayed dying brood and dwindling population, both signs of colony collapse disorder.
Since 1992 we have kept four hives on scales so that their weight changes could be measured daily in the summer and weekly in the winter. Also since 1992 we have been closely monitoring Varroa mite populations (Szabo 1993, 1994, 1995, 1998, 1999, Szabo & Szabo, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003). During the first 18 years (1992-2010), from a total of 72 different colonies in the four scale hives, only one colony had died. Then, during the winter of 2010-2011 all four scale colonies died. From the other 51 colonies in the same bee yard 31 (61%) died. In the winter of 2011-2012, 10 (33%) of the 30 colonies and two of the four scale colonies died. In early May of 2012 we found hundreds of dead bees in front of four hives. In order to replace the losses 11 new colonies were made up. By October 2012, only 19 of 31 colonies had survived and were prepared for wintering. The collapse of colonies continues to the present.
In early May 2012, old partly decomposed dead bee samples were collected from the front entrances of four colonies and blooming dandelion flowers were collected from the bee yard and ditch near a treated soybean field that had been planted with treated corn in 2010 and 2011. Neonicotinoids in these samples were not detected at the reporting limit of 0.005 ppm for Imidacloprid and Thiamethoxam and 0.001 ppm for Clothianidin. Health Canada Pest Management Regulatory Agency (PMRA) personnel did not collect fresh samples from dying colonies or soil and water samples from the field where the crops had been planted.
In early May 2013 another apiary showed extreme colony loss immediately after a neighbouring field had been planted with treated soybean. Exposed treated seed was visible (Figure 1) on the soil surface. Near the edges of the field we found treated seed coats (Figure 2). The bees in the apiary displayed symptoms consistent with neonicotinoid exposure. Out of 50 colonies, 49 immediately showed signs of acute poisoning and a drastic drop in adult bee populations. Samples of the bees were again taken by PMRA personnel. We are still waiting for the test results from these samples.
Symptoms of the dying colonies
In 2010 it was first noticed that previously solid brood patterns became irregular and some of the larvae were twisted and dead. In the following months more and more larvae became affected (Figure 3) and the adult bee population shrank to a few hundred per colony. Despite this condition the queen continued to lay eggs (Figure 4) until the entire bee population gradually disappeared. Because neonicotinoid pesticides remain in contaminated pollen and nectar which are fed to the brood, many young larvae cannot develop and mature. As older bees succumb to the chronic poisoning and die there are no replacements. The larvae that do mature emerge into young adult bees that can be found dying and twitching at the hive entrance. Young bees found in this state at the front of hives are a sign that the colony has been compromised by neonicotinoids.
Video 1. Adult bee dying and twitching at hive entrance after soy planting.
The need for honey bees to forage for water, pollen, and nectar
Water is essential for honey bee colonies. Bees fly out from hives even in cold weather to collect water from leaves, soil and wherever they can find it. According to Hunt and Krupke (2012) “each corn seed theoretically has enough pesticide to kill well over 100,000 bees.” Rain water leaches pesticides into the soil where it can remain active for up to three years and honey bees collect water from wet soil, puddles and ditches. Bees consume the water and if the exposure does not cause acute death, the bees bring the water home to poison their colonies resulting in chronic poisoning. Annual applications of neonicotinoids compound the problem. Figure 5 shows water standing in a treated corn field that bees use for water foraging.
In early spring bees are desperate to collect pollen. They try to collect dust from bird feeders, sawdust, and white powder from poplar tree trunks. A few exposed corn seeds coated in toxic neonicotinoid dust are sufficient to poison entire apiaries as honey bees foraging for pollen carry it back to the colony.
Since neonicotinoid pesticides are systemic and appear in all parts of a plant including roots, stems, leaves, flowers, and fruit, honey bees become exposed while gathering nectar, pollen, and water.
Declining numbers of bumble bees and solitary bees
A 25m × 10m area of grape hyacinth was planted to provide a source of pollen and nectar in early spring and in another area native star thistle was allowed to grow and bloom. Star thistle flowers all summer and grape hyacinth flowers for a month at end of April and in early May. On a sunny day in 2009, 30 foraging bumblebee queens were counted in 10 minutes on the grape hyacinth and in 2012 and 2013 none appeared. The last time the large solitary Megachile was observed visiting the star thistle was in 2008 (Figure 6). The sudden death of foraging bees, the subsequent slow decline and disappearance of colony populations and increase in winter losses coincided with the planting of treated corn 150 m from the bee yard.
A call to action
The United States Environmental Protection Agency (2010) recommends the following label warnings for Clothianidin treated seeds:
“This chemical has properties and characteristics associated with chemicals detected in ground water. The use of this chemical in areas where soils are permeable, particularly where the water table is shallow, may result in ground water contamination.
This compound is toxic to birds and mammals. Treated clothianidin seeds exposed on soil surface may be hazardous to birds and mammals. Cover or collect clothianidin seeds spilled during loading.
This compound is toxic to honey bees. The persistence of residues and potential residual toxicity of Clothianidin in nectar and pollen suggests the possibility of chronic toxic risk to honey bee larvae and the eventual instability of the hive.”
Imidacloprid producer EastChem states that the pesticide “should be banned from using near beekeeping, sericulture areas and water sources.”
Neonicotinoid pesticides should not be used as a pest control measure. Integrated Pest Management practices must be promoted. It should be mandatory for seed companies to make untreated seeds available to farmers.
Neonicotinoids kill beneficial organisms from pollinators to earthworms to predatory insects. Neonicotinoids should be avoided entirely. Spring is a peak water foraging time for honey bees that coincides with seeding time. Spring runoff mixing with neonicotinoid tainted seeds has catastrophic effects on bee populations. The European Commission’s decision to ban Imidacloprid, Thiamethoxam and Clothianidin should be followed as a first step to protecting our pollinators and ecosystems from this class of chemicals.
Beekeepers cannot continue to absorb the heavy financial loses of their honey bee colonies because of neonicotinoid poisonings and many will be forced out of business. This will affect not only the products of bees such as honey, pollen, propolis and wax, but also fruit, nut, vegetables, oilseeds, etc that make up the pollinator’s $2 billion annual contribution to Canada’s economy (Canadian Honey Council).
List of figures
Canadian Honey Council. Overview of the Canadian Apiculture Industry. Web:
EastChem. Insecticide Imidacloprid product page. Web:
Environment Agency Austria (EAA) et. al., (2012): Existing Scientific Evidence of the Effects of Neonicotinoid Pesticides on Bees. European Parliament Policy Department: Economic and Scientific Policy. Web:
Health Canada (2013) Evaluation of Canadian Bee Mortalities that Coincided with Corn Planting in Spring 2012. Web:
Hepworth, L. (2013): Croplife Canada via The Record: Letter: Challenges to bee health are complex. July 8, 2013. Web:
Hunt G. J.; Krupke C. H. (2012): Neonicotinoid seed treatment and honey bee health. American Bee Journal 152|(9): 889-891.
Mason, R.; Tennekes, H.; Sánchez-Bayo, F.; Jepsen, P.U. (2012): Immunesuppression by neonicotinoid insecticides at the root of global wildlife declines. Journal of Environmental Immuniology and Toxicity, October 2012.
Yamada, T.; Yamada, K.; Wada, N. (2012): Influence of dinotefuran and cothianidin on a bee colony. Jpn. J. Clin. Ecol. Vol. 21 No. 1 2012: 10-23.
Szabo, T.I. (1993): Selective breeding of honey bees for resistance to Varroa jacobsoni. American Bee Journal 133: 868.
Szabo, T.I. (1994): Rate of infestation of Varroa lacobsoni in honey bee colonies in southern Ontario. American Bee Journal 134: 837-878.
Szabo, T.I. (1995): Selective breeding of honey bees for resistance to Varroa jacobsoni in Ontario. American Bee Journal 135: 831.
Szabo, T. I. (1998): Progress report on selective breeding of honey bees for resistance to parasitic mites. American Bee Journal 138(6): 464-466.
Szabo, T.I. (1999): Selective breeding of honey bee colonies for resistance toVarroa jacobsoni and the effects of management techniques on Varroa infestation levels. American Bee Journal 139(7): 537-540.
Szabo, T. I. and Szabo, D.C. (2000): Attempts to reduce the Varroa jacobsonipopulation in honey bee colonies: Research report for 1999. American Bee Journal 140(8): 654-658.
Szabo, T.I. and Szabo, D.C. (2001): Varroa jacobsoni infestation levels of honey bee colonies in the fourth year of a breeding program: Report for 2000.American Bee Journal 141(6): 437-440.
Szabo, T.I. and Szabo, D.C. (2002): Varroa infestation levels of honey bee colonies in the fifth year of a breeding program: Report for 2001. American Bee Journal 142(6): 423-427.
Szabo, T.I.; Szabo, D.C. (2003): Varroa infestation levels and honey bee colony characteristics in the final year of a breeding program. American Bee Journal 143(10): 798-802.
United States Environmental Protection Agency (2010) Environmental Fate and Ecological Risk Assessment for the Registration of CLOTHIANIDIN for Use as a Treatment on Mustard Seed (Oilseed and Condiment) and Cotton. Page 5. Web:
[view original post via honeybees.ca]
Bees and other insects can breathe a little easier in Oregon — for now. The state has responded to the recent bumbleocalypse in a Target parking lot by temporarily banning use of the type of pesticide responsible for the high-profile pollinator die-off.
Oregon’s ban comes after more than 50,000 bumblebees and other pollinators were killed when Safari was sprayed over blooming linden trees to control aphids in a Wilsonville, Ore., parking lot. A similar incident in Hillsboro, Ore., was also cited by the state’s agriculture department as a reason for the ban.
Oregon Department of Agriculture Director Katy Coba said in a statement [PDF] that she has directed her agency to impose the ban to help prevent further such “bee deaths connected to pesticide products with this active ingredient until such time as our investigation is completed. Conclusions from the investigation will help us and our partners evaluate whether additional steps need to be considered.”
Somewhat confusingly, retailers will still be allowed to sell the products. It will just be illegal for landscapers and gardeners to actually use them. From The Oregonian:
“We’re not trying to get it off the shelves, or trying to tell people to dispose of it, we’re just telling people not to use it,” said Bruce Pokarney, a spokesperson for the department of agriculture.
While Pokarney acknowledged it would be difficult to cite individual homeowners, he said licensed pesticide applicators would be violating Oregon regulations if they use dinotefuran-based insecticides on plants in the next 180 days.
The temporary ban only affects pesticide use that might harm pollinators, like bumblebees. Safari is one of the insecticides restricted by the Agriculture Department. Most of the restricted insecticides are used primarily for ornamental, not agricultural, pest control.
Dinotefuran use in flea collars, and ant and roach control will still be allowed.
The Xerces Society, a nonprofit insect conservation group that’s helping to investigate the pollinator die-offs, thinks the temporary ban is a good idea. But Executive Director Scott Black said it would be an even better idea if sales of the pesticides were suspended, lest consumers unwittingly use them in violation of the law. “At a minimum, all products on the shelf should have clear signage about the restriction on their use,” he told Grist.
Guess who thinks the ban is not such a good idea?
“We do not believe the scope of these measures is necessary with the information available,” Safari manufacturer Valent said in a statement, “and we will work to get the restrictions lifted as soon as possible.”
[read original article on grist.org]
The researchers aren’t suggesting that high-fructose corn syrup is itself toxic to bees, instead, they say their findings indicate that by eating the replacement food instead of honey, the bees are not being exposed to other chemicals that help the bees fight off toxins, such as those found in pesticides.
Cutting the crappy sweeteners from honeybees’ diets and allowing them to eat a bit more of their own honey won’t necessarily save them in a world doused in pesticides. But it might give bees back some of their natural defenses against the poisons they encounter every day.
It’s time to share more honey with the honeybees that make it.
[read original article on grist.org]
Written by Jennifer Anderson via portlandtribune.com
You’ve heard of eco-roofs and rooftop gardens, but the latest twist to hit Portland comes with a sweeter payout: rooftop honeybee hives.
New Seasons Market recently installed a honeybee hive atop its store in Happy Valley, a picturesque suburb 15 minutes east of Clackamas that’s a mix of newer homes and farmland.
“They’ll go to all these neighborhoods, start pollinating everyone’s gardens and yards, the fruit trees and farms,” says Portland beekeeper Damian Magista, surveying the skyline from the grocery store’s roof. “It’s a great environment here. There’s plenty of food.”
In other words: Happy bees make lots of honey.
By late August, Magista expects the bees to produce enough honey to start selling it at the Happy Valley store.
But that’s not the primary motivation for New Seasons’ “Bee Part of the Solution” campaign.
The company aims to educate people about the honeybee’s critical link in the ecosystem, and the fact that they are dying out worldwide, due to what’s known as Colony Collapse Disorder.
The number of managed honeybee colonies in the U.S. has decreased from 5 million in the 1940s to 2.5 million today, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
A May 2 report by the U.S.D.A. and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency points to a variety of stressors, including parasites and disease, genetics, poor nutrition and pesticide exposure.
Scientists at the Oregon State University Honey Bee Lab have been focusing on two factors in particular.
They’re studying the impact of a honeybee pest called the invasive varroa mite, as well as poisoning by pesticides applied to crops or to hives to control insects, mites and other pests.
New Seasons sees it as part of its mission to educate people about the phenomenon, because of the direct link to the food chain.
“There is an important link between the health of American agriculture and the health of our honeybees for our country’s long-term agricultural productivity,” said Agriculture Deputy Secretary Kathleen Merrigan, upon the release of the latest federal report.
New Seasons could install a second rooftop hive at its Sellwood store in Southeast Portland in June after a process required by Multnomah County to notify neighbors.
The initial hope was to install honeybee hives on all 12 of the local grocery chain’s rooftops (a 13th location opens late August in Northeast Portland’s Eliot neighborhood). But Washington County won’t allow it, so the Progress Ridge store in Beaverton may miss out.
The rooftop hive idea was sparked by an incident last summer, when a swarm of bees made its home above the New Seasons sign at its Raleigh Hills store in Southwest Portland. Local TV cameras came and documented the removal of the swarm, which was safely relocated.
A few other grocery store chains have begun rooftop hive projects, including Bi-Rite in San Francisco, which New Seasons used as a model, says Mark Feuerborn, the Happy Valley store manager.
Feuerborn, a home beekeeper who’ll manage his store’s hives, is excited for what’s to come. A “bee cam” will let people peek in on the hives and the honey harvesting. Shoppers can draw a direct link to the products in the store through new displays of honey-based products — everything from lip balm and candles to jars of pure, unprocessed honey made in Portland.
“Two miles away is Saelee Farms,” Feuerborn says. “We can see our bees pollinating their products, ending up on our shelves. This is a way for people to remember that.”
Lots of local buzz
Interest in urban beekeeping has soared in recent years.
“Portlandia” could even write an episode called “Put a bee on it.”
There’s a Portland Metro Beekeepers’ Association, whose members keep bees for hobby and business.
The Portland-based Xerces Society, a nonprofit invertebrate conservation group, launched a “Bring back the pollinators” campaign. That’s attracted more than 1,000 people who signed a pledge to do four things: grow a variety of bee-friendly flowers that bloom from spring through fall; protect and provide bee nests and caterpillar host plants; avoid using pesticides, especially insecticides; and talk to neighbors about the importance of pollinators and their habitat.
There’s also a Portland Urban Beekeepers group, which aims to promote the public’s awareness of “apiculture” and the overall health and diversity of bees in the Pacific Northwest. Club president Tim Wessels says his group started with a dozen or so people meeting informally in 2010. Last spring they’d grown so large that they created officer positions and began meeting monthly. Today there are 115 members who pay the $15 annual dues, plus another 240 members on Facebook.
As president, he’s asked people why they’re drawn to bees, and he more or less gets the same answer: “Well, the bees are hurting, aren’t they? We just want to help out and see if we can bring the population back.”
Others just like honey, and he’s cool with that, too.
Wessels and fellow beekeeper/business partner Glen Andresen are working with a grad student at OSU’s Honey Bee Lab and retired entomologist Dewey Caron on an effort to breed a local queen bee. Most of the purchased queens here come from Southern California or Kona, Hawaii, Wessels says. Unsurprisingly, they’re not able to survive Oregon’s winters.
Wessels believes it’s possible to breed a Portland honeybee with “hygienic behavior,” which is their behavioral mechanism of disease resistance. After the queen lays an egg in a cell, if a worker bee somehow determines mites are in the cell, it would remove the mite. The result is that the mites aren’t able to reproduce.
It might sound like a far-fetched idea, but Wessels and his team have about 100 hives around Portland, and they’re collecting swarms that did survive this past winter.
“If we are successful in developing a more locally adapted honey bee, perhaps others can use this model in other cities,” he says.
Sweet new products
Magista, the beekeeper working with New Seasons, owns a startup company called Bee Local, which harvests and sells micro-batches of artisan honey varieties — with flavors made distinct by the flora and fauna of each neighborhood. He works with backyard beekeepers in the Mt. Tabor, Laurelhurst, Powellhurst and Brooklyn neighborhoods, and the buzz is spreading.
Beekeepers estimate there are about 500 hives being kept by people in Portland, many on rooftops, since bees are attracted to trees at about the 15-to-20-foot height.
One of those rooftops is at Noble Rot restaurant in Portland, and more could soon follow. That’s good news for honey connoisseurs.
“What dictates the taste is the flowers and forage in that particular area,” says Magista, who won a 2013 “Local Food Hero” award in March, presented by Ecotrust.
“It’s more than just the honey, it’s really about getting people to be more in touch with their immediate environment. What can I do at my home, in my yard to make a difference?”
[read original article via portlandtribune.com]
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