[via teetoo] “Bumblebee on a blue lupin in my garden”
The Rise of the Backyard Beekeeper
By Michael Steinkampf
“Backyard beekeeping is nothing new. Until Alexander the Great returned from India with samples of sugar cane, honey was the only sweetener known to Europeans, and it was not uncommon for households to have a hive of honey bees on hand for personal use; a prosperous colony can produce over 100 pounds of honey in a season…
But as city-dwellers have become more interested in connecting with Nature, the renewed interest in small-scale agriculture has been accompanied by a resurgence of backyard beekeeping. Beehives seem to be springing up everywhere: Parisian balconies, the gardens of Buckingham Palace and the White House, and most notably the rooftops of New York City, which lifted its ban on urban beekeeping in 2010. In three years, membership in the British Beekeeping Association doubled to more than 20,000, as young urban dwellers strode to transform a rather staid pastime into a vibrant environmental movement…
Honey bees do particularly well in suburban environments, where the diverse flora give a steady production of pollen throughout the year, and the absence of crowded bee yards and agricultural pesticides provide a healthy environment for honey bee colonies. Some allergy sufferers claim that the ingestion of pollen found in local honey helps relieve their hay fever. Honey obtained locally is more flavorful than most supermarket honey, which is intensely heated and filtered to prolong shelf life…”
Born to bee wild: How feral pollinators may help prevent colony collapse disorder
By Enrique Gili
According to the Department of Agriculture, CCD has accounted, at least in part, ?for 30 percent of bee losses annually, since 2007. It’s also jeopardizing beekeepers, rural economies, and the farm communities that depend on those bees. Worldwide honeybees pollinate 400 crops, while adding an estimated $15 billion in revenues per year to the U.S. farm economy.
Despite their pastoral image, the burden placed on the domesticated honeybees is a weighty one. Bred for their non-aggressive demeanor and ample honey production, they’re also expected to help propagate tens upon of thousands of acres of flower-pollinated crops on farms throughout the U.S. and Europe.
As scientists and beekeepers have been literally and figuratively? beating the bushes to understand CCD, they’ve often turned to the? role genetic diversity plays in the overall health of bee colonies. And recent research published in the peer-reviewed science journal PLoS ONE suggests honeybees are as adverse to monogamy as they are to monocrops.? In fact, mixing it up, so to speak, can yield unexpected and surprising benefits for honeybee populations. Honeybees — whether feral or domesticated — need variety. Not only do worker bees spend their waking hours hopping from plant to plant, but some queen bees are also promiscuous, mating with multiple males in a brief period of time. And, as it turns out, there’s a biological rationale for this promiscuity; the overall fitness of the hive depends upon these multiple partners.
“Most bees, ants, and wasps mate singly. Honeybee queens are different ?in that regard — producing highly productive hives that dominate their landscape,” says Heather Mattila, a researcher at Wellesley College.
In the study published in PLoS ONE, Mattila and her co-author Irene Newton found that bees — like humans and other species — depend on helpful bacteria to aid in digestion. And the genetically diverse bee colonies they studied had a significantly greater number of probiotic species living in their guts than the more uniform hives. Moreover, the uniform beehives were 127 percent more likely to contain harmful pathogens than their more diverse counterparts.
“We’ve never known how genetic diversity leads to healthier bees, but this ?study provides strong clues,” says Matilla.
…not that there’s one simple fix for CCD. Diversity is just one part of the equation. “A lot has to do with pesticides and nutrition,” Cobey adds. “The amazing thing about bees is they bounce back [for a while]. But at some point they collapse.”
Scientists and beekeepers alike are working furiously to prevent that from happening. But in the meantime, it might be wise to ask: What if we turned back the clock on agricultural production and allowed honeybees to forage and frolic more freely?
Six reasons to become an urban beekeeper
1. Healthy bees make a healthy planet
Bees play a crucial role in the Earth’s ecosystem. They are essential for biodiversity, as they have a symbiotic relationship with flowering plants, and they are an important part of the food chain. They pollinate plants and trees, crops that we rely on as food sources, and the cotton we wear against our skins. It’s even thought that they contribute to reducing exhaust fumes in cities by filtering them out of the atmosphere.
2. Bee populations are on the decline
Colony Collapse Disorder has been causing mass bee deaths over recent years and it is a widely-discussed phenomenon today, however most people who are concerned about CCD and bee health feel helpless when it comes to reducing the plight of the bees.
When asked why bees are dying prematurely and in vast numbers, experts point to a combination of the varroa mite and other viruses, however the root of the problem can be attributed to a variety of factors including the way bees are currently ‘farmed’, and the use of pesticides and insecticides used in modern-day agricultural practices, which have inevitably entered the bee food chain..
3. Bees need a break from being farmed like cattle
In modern agricultural practices bees are treated like commodities in the same way that factory farm animals are used for maximum output using minimal resources and space. In many countries today bees are fed sugar-water in place of their own nutrient-rich honey and confined to small, compact hives which are stacked on top of one another and designed to allow constant interference from their farmers. These large-scale bee‘keepers’ use bee colonies to pollinate vast quantities of the same crop in one sitting, for example a single almond plantation, then they package them up again to let loose on the next field. Like cattle, their natural feeding habits and freedoms are restricted, and they succumb to health problems as a consequence of these unnatural practices.
4. Urban beekeeping is necessary for strengthening bee populations
The primary aim of natural beekeeping is not to harvest the products bees create, such as honey and beeswax, but to help colonies to maintain optimum health by giving them a safe, non-invasive space to ‘bee’.
One of the best ways you can do this is by offering a small space in your garden to the bees. Due to the vastly differing plants available within small spaces in urban areas, bees actually thrive in busy cities and towns. According to Parisian bee artist Olivier Darne, in ‘an analysis of the honey we made here in Paris…it contained more than 250 different pollens. In the countryside there can be as few as 15 or 20 pollens’.
A backyard space in a city provides an ideal habitat for a bee colony. Bees can travel large radiuses to access further nutritious plant nectar, and bees kept in urban areas are alsoless likely to encounter large amounts of pesticides and insecticides which are commonly used to treat crops en masse in countryside fields.
5. Backyard beekeeping doesn’t cost you anything
It can cost virtually nothing to provide a rich habitat for a colony of bees, but the value of this colony to our planet is immense. Natural beekeeping does not require the use of the expensive equipment that is used to interfere with bee patterns, such as smoking them out to get to their honey, or donning protective suits to avoid attacks triggered by this honey ‘harvesting’ (stealing). The Top-Bar beehive is designed to minimise how much the bees are disturbed by the keeper, as it allows maximum visibility of bee life without forcing them to evacuate the hive in order to observe them. With a Top-Bar hive you can get to know your bees and even closely study them without ever having to open the hive up completely. You can make your own Top-Bar beehive for free using this guide, thanks to champion bee guardian Phil Chandler.
6. Bees have much to teach us
Chandler wrote The Barefoot Beekeeper as a guide to natural beekeeping without a protective suit. He advocates learning the way of the bees by observing them and literally listening to them to work out their natural patterns, for example when they are most busy and should therefore be left alone, and when they might welcome a visit from the keeper.
Left to themselves, bees are harmless creatures, busy running the hive in their various allocated roles, working all day long, and serving and protecting the queen bee. All they need from you is a safe base to come back to at the end of a working day, and in return for this you get to watch the fascinating way in which these insects work together. The bee dance is simply amazing to witness first-hand.
When you ‘keep’ bees in this manner you come to realise that these humble, hardworking insects keep the natural order of things buzzing in a way that humans can only partially understand, but that we can certainly learn to appreciate more. Have you ever used the phrase ‘the bee’s knees’ to describe something of high quality or excellence? Such is the world of the bees. When you become a backyard beekeeper, you open up a complex, beautiful facet of the natural world. And you’ll never want to look back.
VIDEO: Legalize urban beekeeping in Forsyth County, NC
Board of Commissioners work session – January 24, 2012
ARTICLE: Helping beehives thrive
“It may be the month for lovers with Valentine’s Day just around the corner, but nature enthusiasts too have reasons to celebrate. Tomorrow, Maharashta Nature Park in Dharavi, will see a plethora of activities take place as city-based organization, Under The Mango Tree, is set to host, what could be, India’s first National Bee Day. The aim of the event is to create awareness about the Indian indigenous honeybee, Apis cerana indica, and its impact on the local environment. As part of the day’s agenda, a survey that shows the deep connection between bees and plants will also be unveiled.
“Farmers tend to use European bees when they indulge in beekeeping and they are quite expensive. Through this event, we hope to create awareness about Indian bees and prove that they are a more sustainable option,” says Gurushabd Khalsa, Urban Beekeeping Project Coordinator, adding that a single bee box can have a substantial impact on a farm’s productivity… “Our beekeepers are now keeping boxes on residential building terraces too,” says Khalsa.
What it means:
Bees play an important and irreplaceable role in nature. Their value in agriculture as pollinators has been estimated to be 20 to 30 times more than their value as honey providers. The aforementioned survey was carried out among 15 plants and a small group of farmers in Dist Valsad over 2010-2011. It proved that farms that had bee boxes showed a considerable increase in productivity as compared to others. The productivity of items such as tomatoes (up to 160 per cent), cashew (up to 157 per cent), pigeon pea (up to 133 per cent), flat bean or papdi (up to 128 per cent) and chickpea (up to 79.5 per cent) increased”
See you TOMORROW at the BEEKEEPER’S RALLY in Mar Vista!!
? Group photo at 10:30am – Remember to wear your bee-suits!!
ARTICLE: San Diego Reader
City Council Unanimously in Favor of Urban Agriculture Amendments
“Today was a landmark day for local agriculturalists as the City Council voted unanimously in favor of amendments to the municipal code which simplify the process for approving farmers’ markets on private property, make minor adjustments to community garden regulations, and ease restrictions for keeping chickens, goats, and bees.
In an affable session marked by laughter and applause, the Council heard from several supporting speakers ranging from Hoover High School geographic information system students to members of the San Diego Beekeeping Society, the San Diego County Farm Bureau, the Goat Justice League, Food Not Bombs, the International Rescue Committee, New Roots Community Farm, the San Diego Hunger Coalition, the One In Ten Coalition, as well as 55 written supporters who did not speak at the meeting.
The amendments follow a $50,000 grant awarded to the City of San Diego in March to pursue municipal code and general plan amendments supporting urban agriculture with the goal of stunting obesity rates by planning communities in ways that support increased physical activity and access to healthy foods…
In the first municipal code revision on beekeeping since 1977, the practice is now allowed in single family zones with a single family dwelling, community gardens, and retail farms…
“The benefits of bee keeping are fresh natural honey, natural sweetener, and increase in the docile domesticated honeybee population,” said Joyce.
“San Diego has had European honeybees since 1869,” said Eric Robinson of the 450 member strong San Diego Beekeeping Society. “They were brought here by John Harbison. Beekeeping was a large part of the San Diego economy as we exported boxes of honey back to the East Coast and Chicago. John died a millionaire… The bee keeping industry in California represents about $5 billion worth of agriculture. Every third bite of food is something that pollination by bees was involved in the process.”
Other statements of support for the amendments included the need to cultivate domesticated bees to counteract the plummeting bee population due to the enigmatic “colony collapse disorder”, the prospect of carbon emission reduction by eating locally grown produce, and, according to lifelong San Diego resident Oliver E. Owen III, 71, the simple enjoyment of “great critters. They relax you. Your blood pressure goes down, you don’t drink as much. And they have personalities. I’m here strictly to support this thing on the basis of camaraderie of animals. That’s all.”
URBAN BEEKEEPING -
“Urban beekeeping has been all the buzz, lately. And for as many people that keep bees, there are that many reasons WHY people keep bees.
One of the most important reasons to keep bees is for pollination. Bee pollination is needed for the production of an estimated one-third of the food crops grown in developed countries. When it comes to fruit, the number of bees visiting a plant affects the size, uniformity and amount of fruit it produces. Bee pollination also has an impact on other foods we eat, such as meat, since the animals we consume often eat plants pollinated by bees.
It’s common knowledge that the honey bee produces honey, but did you know that they also provide us with wax, pollen, royal jelly, propolis and venom? These by-products have different uses but are all considered beneficial to our health. “Apitherapy” means the use of honeybee products for medicinal purposes.
Urban beekeeping is essential as the commercial beekeepers have sustained huge losses all over the country year after year. As urban beekeepers we can practices sans medications and chemicals. We can provide diversity-rich habits as well as encourage those around us to reduce and or eliminate the use of pesticides. Beekeeping is a very civic hobby! But beyond that, it’s a lot of fun, challenging and rewarding.”
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