Here are some more words about bees that didn't fit into the day at the farm bee experience blog. . .
Allen Larson, the beekeeper from GetBees.net, 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.
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,