Beekeepers often develop personal attachments to their hives and can lose themselves in the Zen of beekeeping. While some beekeepers have naturally calm personalities, others—like myself—have acquired a sense of serenity when dealing with the buzz of 80,000 thousands insects out of necessity. Honey bees respond positively to a peaceful atmosphere—if I am relaxed and not stressed, so are they. So, it’s often easy to forget that it is the very nature of the honey bee that makes it so valuable. Throughout history humans have benefited from their ability to manage these social insects.
Here at Bee America we naturally think mostly about the honey bee. However, we have such a bountiful profusion of flowers in our apiary at this time of year that our attention is drawn to the other pollinators that often visit, particularly butterflies and bumble bees. I’m often charmed by the sight of a bumble bee gently and slowly ambling from one pollen-laden flower to another. A distant cousin to honeybees, its body shape is more rounded than elliptical.
I must confess that I love maps and map-based technology. On my smartphone, I have multiple direction-finding apps including Google Earth, iGPS and Google Maps. I also have two GPS navigation devices that I use in the car and when they don’t agree on a specific route—I enlist my smartphone’s map-reading apps to be the tiebreaker.
Honey hunters collect honey from wild bee colonies and this ancient custom is still practiced by aboriginal societies in Africa, Asia, Australia, and South America. In some ancient cultures, hunting for honey was considered a competitive sport like hunting animals and fishing. Not only was honey hunting an enjoyable pastime in these cultures, but it was also a profitable endeavor as well. Sweet honey and comb could be traded or sold to other tribes at an advantageous price.
Florida is synonymous with the citrus industry—especially oranges. It’s almost inconceivable to think that this would ever change…but it might. In fact, it probably will if scientists are unable to come up with a cure or preventative strategy to deal with a bacterial disease that has infected all 32 of the state’s citrus-growing counties. The disease is called citrus greening or Huanglongbing and is caused by the bacteria, Candidatus Liberibacter asiaticus.
In a far-reaching and proactive measure, the European Commission has enacted a two-year ban on three common pesticides: clothianidin, imidacloprid and thiametoxam. These pesticides, collectively known as neonicotinoid insecticides, are used on agricultural crops that are pollinated by honeybees. Affected crops include corn, apples, strawberries, sunflower and rapeseed (which is the source of canola oil). The ban, which will go into effect on December 1, 2013, is considered controversial in Europe—only 15 nations supported it.
As I watch spring emerge in the Bee America apiary—tiny green buds unfurl from the tips of branches, blossoms emerge from flowering trees, and honeybees swoop out of the hive on reconnaissance missions—I started to wonder about the complex relationship between bees and plants.
The True Source Honey program, which Bee America is a member of and fully supports, is an organization that strives to keep the honey supply chain honest, transparent and accountable. Specifically, the True Source Honey program aims to ensure that the honey you purchase is:
· Ethically sourced in a transparent and traceable manner from known beekeepers and brokers;
· Moves through the supply chain in full accordance with U.S. law and without circumvention of trade duties; and
This weekend we rejoiced to see signs of life from our beehives. The temperature had finally warmed up enough to encourage the bees to leave the hive in order to do some early scouting flights and spring cleaning. We also saw some of them down at our little creek, taking sips of the cool, clear water. While spring is not officially here in the Washington DC area, signs heralding its arrival are everywhere including the daffodils and snowdrops bursting into bloom, flowers emerging from the tips of redbud trees, and cherry trees laden with heavy, fragrant blossoms.
About this time each year, I start dreaming longingly of spring. While our share of bitterly cold days in the Washington DC metro area is small compared to other regions of the country enveloped in a deep freeze or buried in feet of snow, it still gets well below freezing here for days at a time in January and February. I worry about how our bees are doing. While they are well equipped to overwinter much harsher conditions, there are always unforeseen problems that can arise.