What’s best for bees?

Thinking like a bee is a daily adventure.

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These days, the exponential rise of backyard beekeeping is on my mind. It’s interesting that human consciousness now includes a fascination and even compassion for the humble honeybee. Many, many people are eager to delve into the mystery and joys of beekeeping.

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But if drought continues to squeeze the Southwest, if warming temperature patterns keep the bees from going dormant and thus eating their winter honey, if humans keep demolishing bee habitat, and if the varroa mites continues to explode without any eradication in sight, then beekeeping is going to become alot less fun. Fast.

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The challenges and vicissitudes of beekeeping still don’t outweigh the joy of beekeeping for me….yet. But if my past year is any indicator, it’s not going to become any easier.

So I marvel and puzzle at the fiery excitement that I still see in most new beekeepers. In a way, this might ensure their survival—as those who love bees learn about them and fight to protect them—hive by hive.

Meanwhile, I try to imagine what a future bee might be thinking these days. They will be coming into the world as it is, what would a bee think as it faces the survivalist game on the horizon?

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A pesky little bee keeps buzzing inside my head with this thought : “take care of the native bees in your backyard and then we European bees will be able to collaborate and even succeed”. And this, “Don’t push out us native bees. We are much more adaptable and indigenous to this country than our introduced European counterparts, the honeybee”.

In any situation of colonization or invasive species, which is surely the case for native bees on this continent, some human being or creature has fallen on hard times as they see their resources dry up, disappear, be overwhelmed and stolen.

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In this case, native bees suffer the same problems of honeybees, but largely go unnoticed because they are not seen as economic indicators. Though they give us the same amazing, free pollinator service, they are largely solitary and do not produce honey for the human species. This renders them invisible. They are often the colonized ones.

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Recently a friend handed me an excellent article from the Costco Connection. Yep. That’s right. The food giant, CostCo, has its own publication and even supports bee research to the tune of $2.3 million in 2012. They suggest that not everyone needs to get into the honeybee biz. By supporting native pollinator habitat in your yard and communities, and laying off the pesticides/insecticides, you further the whole phyllum and kingdom of apis mellifera and native species.

They said it better than I can, so I will quote from their July 2017 article called “Bees in Peril: Working together to find a solution”.

Installing a beehive in your backyard may not be the best way to help honeybees. Downey makes this comparison: “Pandas are in trouble; I’m going to get one”. This makes no sense at all, but people often think that keeping bees is the only way to help them…unfortunately it’s not that simple to keep bees alive and thriving, and if the colony is dead a year later, nobody wins. Providing habitat and supporting research are good ways to help. Lack of proper care can also create a host for pests to grow in; then those pests can move to another bee colony, Barkman says. (p. 35)

Ordinary homeowners and apartment dwellers, your contributions of habitat, large and small, count! Everyone can be a bee protector by offering pollinator food on your balcony, in your backyard or rooftop garden.

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Spring is right around the corner. Prepare your gardens now!

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