Tuesday, October 23, 2012

WANTED: Frustrated Beekeeper

Again this year I was crushed when my beautifully blooming fruit trees fail to produce more than a handful of fully grown fruit. The hillside is resplendent in the spring as the nectarine, apple, plum, pear, and peach trees blossom. But the only fruit produced are a few meager strugglers who are subsequently the only available target for the birds and bugs that summer brings. And yet we mulch and feed and prune and hope.  

For several years I’ve been convinced it’s the bees that are doing it, or not doing it, as is the case. A neighboring farm had busy bee hives just over the hill from us when we first planted our trees nearly ten years ago, but those hives disappeared like so many others did and since then it’s my hypothesis that my trees are blooming but no one’s doing the pollinating. Beautiful blossoms, plenty of leaves, but no fruit. 

Bees are what we need, but while I’m game for most any agricultural endeavor, I draw the line at bees. I don’t have the time, the energy, or the courage to keep bees. And ask any member of my family – I haven’t got time for any more hobbies! So for the past few years I’ve been searching for a frustrated bee keeper. Surely there is someone out there living in an apartment or townhouse or neighborhood association-regulated home who has a life long dream of keeping bees but no where to do it. I’ve asked every honey vendor I’ve encountered at craft shows only to be given a curious stare and then a sales pitch on how I should do it myself. I’ve e-mailed beekeeping associations and gotten no response. 

Finally, a few weeks ago at our farmer’s market a new honey vendor showed up. I approached him like all the others and low and behold he said – “You’re just the kind of person we’re looking for!” I was ready to do a snoopy dance of joy, but calmly listened to him tell me about the Honey Bee RestorationProject. If your property is suitable, they’ll install hives, maintain them, and split the honey with you! Wow – what a sweet deal! We’re currently waiting for our site inspection and ever hopeful that new hives will arrive in the spring. 

Honey bees have been struggling to make a comeback from the mysterious hive collapses that have effected up to 90% of feral bees and 35% of domesticated hives all over the world. Honey bees are responsible for 80% of all insect pollination, so their loss could mean devastating effects for the world’s food supply. Even without keeping bees yourself or inviting someone to keep bees on your property, there are things you can do to help the bees. Here are just a few suggestions: 

  1. Buy local honey. This supports the small beekeepers so that they can continue to care for local hives and make a profit. I’ve always heard that eating honey grown close to your home helps you to develop a strong immunity to local allergens. Makes sense. Besides that, local honey is fresh and tastes amazing. I just tried some local raw alfalfa honey that blew me away. Such a treat!
  2. Plant bee-friendly plants like allums, mints, beans, any kind of daisy-like flower, asters, hollyhocks, sunflowers. The bees just love our raspberries which is probably why they are always our most prolific crop.
  3. Teach your children about the importance of the honey bee. My kids know better than to swat at a honey bee. They are welcome guests here. Learn about honeybees yourself and then help your kids to identify them. I personally think they are the cutest of the bees, with their fuzziness and delicate size.
  4. And you know I’m going to tell you to not use pesticides. This especially includes Chemlawn and the like. This broad spectrum pesticide use kills not only weeds, but honey bees and the plants they survive on. Dandelions and clover are a favorite delicacy for the bees. I look across our yard and don’t see a weed-ridden expanse, but a bio-diverse honey bee smorgasbord. One boon of such inclusive attitude is that when drought strikes and all the beautiful lawns turn brown, my yard (truly you can’t call it a lawn) remains green, native grasses and “weeds” being much tougher than the exotic chemically-dependent grasses.
  5. The Apex Bee Company is a local company that lets you foster a hive for a small fee. What a great investment in local agriculture and a life lesson for your children about the importance of honey bees.
My husband’s new favorite joke is that our pony, Shoebee, is going to get very tired of hearing his name yelled all day throughout the summer. Not me, I won’t shoo any honeybee here to work. I’ll gladly trade a few inadvertent stings for a homegrown golden delicious!

No comments:

Post a Comment