Sunday, July 26, 2009

More Bee News

Aren't bees interesting?

Here are some more words about bees that didn't fit into the day at the farm bee experience blog. . .

Beekeeping Options
Allen Larson, the beekeeper from, who delivered the bees to Tara Firma Farms, maintains beehives all over Northern California. He's from Redding and travels far and wide to maintain hives (although not to Idaho). If you would like one, he'll come and set it up and then he'll come back and maintain it. And, you get the honey when it's ready. What a deal! The cost is $570 for the first year and $470 for the next years. This is a great option for those who would love to have increased garden yield or who would just like to assist with the re-population of bees but aren't really interested in beekeeping on a daily basis. And, Allen is just a really nice guy. He's happy to have you invite your friends over for a bee party when he's there. He'll loan out as many suits as he has and talk about bees and show them off while he works. He'll also do a honey tasting!

Another option is to take a beekeeping class, buy the stuff and keep your own bees. Beekeeping classes are offered by Her Majesty's Secret Beekeeper, the shop in the Mission at 3520 20th Street. They just finished a round and will be starting up again in August. I'm pretty sure that Mr. Green and I will be in one of those classes. The classes are $20 each (a steal) and getting started with bees is about another $300 total. Cameo Wood, the owner, is an extremely knowledgeable beekeeper and has all the gear you will need. It's always nice to buy local. I like the idea of stimulating business in the Mission.

Bee Mites
One of the things that is killing bees that you will have to deal with if you decide to become a beekeeper is Bee Mites. These little white insects live on the backs of bees and breed by laying eggs in drone cells right before they are sealed. They cause a decrease in the bees' immune systems and make them more susceptible to disease. These will wipe out your hive if you don't do something about them. There are three ways that I've heard of so far to get rid of mites.

One is you put sticky paper in the bottom of your beehive, then sprinkle your bees with powdered sugar, which is a food source. They will groom the mites off of each other as they eat the sugar and the mites will fall to the bottom of the hive, and stick to the paper and die. Seems fairly logical, but sticky in a multitude of ways. . . especially out here in the foggy Sunset District!

Another is you can insert a special drone cell frame into your beehive. The bees will build drone cells, the queen lays eggs in them, the mites lay eggs in them, they get sealed and then you take the frame out of the beehive and freeze it for three or four days, which kills the mites. After it's been frozen you can give it back to the bees for food or scrape it and feed it to your chickens (assuming you have a few around). This seems like a lot of wasted bee effort to me. Both the creating and the clean up. . .

You can also use aromatic essential oils that are a scent the mites don't like. . . such as wintergreen or patchouli. I guess you won't find bee mites on gum chewers or old hippies.

Or, you can do the conventional (and not recommended by me) thing and hang a pesticide strip in your beehive.

As a potential backyard (or roof, as the case may be) beekeeper, I won't use the pesticide strips or the aromatics. They would affect the honey. Probably would do the drone frame or the sugar. NO PESTICIDES.

Why Bees Aren't Flourishing or Colony Collapse Disorder
There are lots of theories about why bee populations are dying. . . the most obvious cause is insecticides. There is a place in China called Sichuan where, for the last ten years people have been pollinating the fruit trees! They have killed off their entire bee population with insecticides. Now, each spring, they crawl through the trees with bottles of pollen and little brushes made with chicken feathers and "pollinate" every blossom. This is outrageous! It occurs to me as something from a post apocalyptic novel or movie! And they've been doing it for ten years!

There are also BT crops. These crops contain, bacillus thuringiensis in their DNA (it's inserted at the seed level) which means they are "bug resistant" or in regular words, it means they have insecticide bred into them. Seems logical to me that these plants would contribute to the death of bees. They certainly have contributed to the decimation of butterflies. Which, by the way, was intentional. Here is an interesting article that ran in the San Francisco Chronicle a while back about BT crops and bees.

There is also the monoculture planting with no ditch banks that big farms do now. Remember the days of collecting bugs (and asparagus) on ditch banks? Now there are no ditch banks. Water is piped underground as a water and space saving technique and every inch of usable space has been converted to field. Bees, like the rest of us, need variety in their diet in order to be healthy. Corn, corn, corn does not a rounded meal make. Maybe there's a link between Colony Collapse Disease in bees and Obesity in humans. It's not too far fetched if you think about it. It is possible that bees shouldn't eat massive amounts of corn and soy products either. . .

Why Raise Bees?
I spend time in my garden. Even though there are over 200 beekeepers in the Sunset District, I could count the bees I've seen in my garden this year on two hands. Not more than six or eight. How sad. Helping to re-establish the bee population in any area is a contribution to society. We need bees. Bees and insects should do the necessary pollinating in our neighborhoods. I (and you, I'm pretty sure) am not interested in doing it myself. If the neighbors' gardens have an increased vegetable and fruit yield because of the bees on my roof, how cool is that?!

Bees are pets with a purpose. Just think of all that honey! And the sound is calming, stress-relieving, meditative. A low hum is a good thing. I can tell you I'll be sitting by my bee box on a regular basis if I get one.

Becoming a beekeeper would bring me closer to nature. I've always been in touch with the earth through plants and gardening. Being responsible for something that is not rooted in the ground and that is producing something from my neighborhood for me is an exciting idea!

There are few things more beautiful than witnessing a bee doing her work as she flies from flower to flower, crawling inside to gather nectar, bobbing through the air from one to the next and then moving on with purpose to another plant. This experience brings me into the present and leaves me smiling.

Beekeeping is just another way to be a steward of the earth. . . I want to know what my neighborhood tastes like. Aren't you curious about yours?

AUTHOR NOTE: The information above was gleaned from articles I've read and information from beekeepers and is just my opinion. I didn't do any scientific research for this article. lol. I encourage you to find out about bees in your area and in the world by doing your own research in the manner you enjoy most. Happy bee watching!

No comments:

Post a Comment