Most Likely To Succeed?

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My mother recently downsized and I was encouraged to take home all my old high school yearbooks.  I say encouraged as it was  either take them home or they would be thrown out.  I guess I can’t really blame her, as she’d only held onto them for the past thirty years.  And yes, we did have printed paper back then. I was flipping through the volume from my senior year and came across the Favorites section.  I had forgotten, I’d been voted, Most Likely to Succeed.  At first I chuckled at my big hair and youthful expression.  But then, I started thinking about success and how we as a society measure its value.  Do we measure success by the clothes we wear or the cars we drive?  Perhaps some do.  Is it our bank account or popularity that drives us? For others, maybe so.

But how do we measure those intangible values like good health, happiness and love? And how do we reconcile our position in the natural world and the sustainable use of its resources?  Do we exploit and take for granted with the brash outlook of youth, that they will always be here.  Or do we blame others, big oil, big business, past and present for their mishandling and their greed?  Do we view ourselves as just inhabitants or as stewards? And if the latter, what is our measure of success? 

As a beekeeper, I blessed to work among creatures who inhabit the natural world around me.  I gauge my own measure of success in maintaining healthy and productive hives.

 Unless you’ve been living on a deserted island, you are probably aware that we are losing the honeybee (apis mellifera) at an alarming rate.  Recent statistics from TIME magazine states that U.S. beekeepers lost up to one third of their hives this past winter.  And indeed, the managed bee population has dropped from roughly 5 million in the 1950’s to 2.5 million today.  Many blame this downward spiral on CCD(Colony Collapse Disorder)which is characterized by the lack of adult bees in the hive despite the presence of a living queen and immature brood. 

CCD was first documented in 2006 but similar hive losses have been recorded as far back as the 1880s.  The finger of culpability points in several directions.  The first being the advent and use of neonicotinoid pesticides. Neonics were developed in the 1990’s as a replacement for organophosphates.  This class of pesticide is less toxic to mammals and can be applied directly to the soil where it is taken up by the plant itself providing a targeted approach and limits the risk of over spray.

Another causative agent of CCD can be directly linked to the varroa mite.  The varroa mite is a virus transmitting parasite that attaches itself to the immature larvae causing deformity and weakness in the adult bee. Weak hives become susceptible to other pathogens such as nosema, a pathogenic gut virus that normally affects the older foraging bee. They become weak and unable to return to their hive and usually die some distance away.

Each year, thousands of hives are shipped across the country to pollinate crops such as blueberries, cherries and almonds.  The California almond crop is 100% dependent on the honeybee for pollination.  Transportation, overcrowded conditions and poor nutrition play an elevated role in the reported percentage of bee losses.

Phew…, with all these dreadful things to contend with, its a wonder there are any bees left at all. And in the very near future, some have predicted, there will be none. That is exactly my point. 

So by now, we understand the critical role the honeybee plays in pollination. But what about the honey?  In 2010, according to the U.S. Honey Board, Americans consumed 410 million pounds of honey while domestic production was down to 147 million pounds. So, where do you think all the extra honey comes from? 

Importation is at an all-time high to meet the demands of the burgeoning honey market.  And while South America has been a reliable source, a few suspect Asian imports have made their way into the commercial honey market.  Did you know that commercial honey may contain up to 30% unknown additives.  Doesn’t that make you feel comforted?

So what can we do to ensure the success of the domestic honeybee? I thought you would never ask.

  1. Consider becoming a beekeeper.  Check your zoning laws, many urban areas are approved for backyard beekeeping.
  2. If you are considering the above, take a class from your local bee club.  And, I would encourage you to find an experienced beekeeper to mentor you through your first year.
  3.  If you cannot or are not interested in keeping bees yourself, buy local raw honey from a reliable source.  Remember pollen is destroyed once honey is processed.
  4.  Plant bee-friendly plants such as red clover, fox glove, bee balm.
  5.  If you live in a farming area like me, discuss spraying times with your local farmer.  Chances are he is as keen as you are to keep pollinators alive and healthy.
  6. Avoid spraying in the middle of the day when most foragers are out of the hive.
  7. Consider planting a flower, pesticide free zone around your fields.
  8. Above all, be informed and aware.

If you are still with me this far, I think you realize the challenges the honeybee faces.  I took up beekeeping as a hobby with the idea I could make a difference.  My hobby has now become a passion and my choice is to be an advocate for the bees through educational posts like this one and sharing my experiences with you.  After all, it’s in our best interest that the honeybee does succeed.

References:

TIIME: The Plight of the Honeybee by Bryan Walsh, August 19,2013

http://www.nhb.org/newsroom/press-kits/honey-industry-facts

http://www.forbes.com/sites/jonentine/2013/04/11/science-collapse-disorder-the-real-story-behind-neonics-and-mass-bee-deaths/

http://www.ars.usda.gov/News/docs.htm?docid=15572

http://www.bayercropscience.us/our-commitment/bee-health

Leave a Comment:

22 comments
Star says

Thank you for your post, I had no idea! I will plant bee friendly flowers in the future and only use local honey.

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Mica B says

I’m loving your blog!

I have always tried to buy local honey; not only is it better for the local economy, helps local bee’s, but is simply healthier. I’m also going to look into planting more bee friendly flowers/plants. I may be asking for your advice later!

Reply
    TheQueenBee-admin says

    Thanks Mica. I encourage you to look for pollinator friendly plants. Its kind of like Field of Dreams, if you build it, they will come!

    Reply
Cindy Neumann says

I love how nature builds upon itself and sustains itself if given the chance. I had no idea of the value of honey bees and will start looking at ways we can incorporate the little critters on our farm.

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    TheQueenBee-admin says

    Nature is amazing but sometimes it does need a little assistance from us. I would be happy to discuss ways of integrating bees at your farm. Thanks for your support!

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JSP says

Love your post and thank you for taking the time to explain these important issues with us.

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Erin says

I had no idea! Good info!

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    TheQueenBee-admin says

    I hope my post has been useful and made you aware of the balancing act facing the plight of the honeybee. If we had just one cause to link too, the solution would be less complicated. Unfortunately, we have a complex series of issues which will take a concerted effort on everyone’s part to overcome.

    Reply
Barbara says

Great blog report today, I wish I had a place of my own to have bees. You have succeeded, in many things, and I am proud of you! Love all the education I’m getting.

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    TheQueenBee-admin says

    Thanks cousin, in many ways I have to thank the time in which we were brought up. Spending a great deal of time outdoors and playing with various critters was an education in itself. I’d like to thank my dad, your Uncle R.D would be proud.

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pat says

Becky-you write very clearly and expressively….as well as creatively!! the bees are fortunate to have you on their side!! keep making the point about how the LITTLE things we all can do will ALL add up to BIG things for our planet and health!

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    TheQueenBee-admin says

    Pat, coming from you, I take that as a compliment. I tried to speak from the heart and you are right it is the little things that add up. A bee is a little thing but in a hive working toward a single purpose, they perform miracles!

    Reply
David Woodhead says

Becky – What a clear, concise and interesting article on the plight of the Honey Bee. The trickle down effect that you describe to environment, agriculture and humans is a strong cautionary tale.
I agree with your statements about stewardship beginning at home and that the measure of success can be many things. Keep up the good work and I will look forward to more articles.

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Sheri says

I liked your article. Could it be that bees are “the canary in the coal mine” in our environment. Being small fragile creatures they exhibit the dangers of many man made dangers before other species-including us. By watching the bees we can become better stewards of our planet earth. But this will only work if we take notice and change the things that put us and them in danger.

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    TheQueenBee-admin says

    Sheri, I couldn’t agree more. They may be small but their impact on our way of life is staggering. 1 in every 3 mouthfuls of food is indirectly affected by the honeybee. That is pretty incredible! So, I would say their importance resembles the proverbial elephant in the room! Thanks for reading!

    Reply
Kalais says

Hi, great blog! A cousin and I want to keep bees but are a little overwhelmed where to start. We live in SW Kansas and so far have found no group or individual for mentoring. Any advice?

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    TheQueenBee-admin says

    I know how you feel, I felt the same. I attended the NEKBA(Northeast Kansas Beekeeper Associat) beginning beekeeping course last April and it was very helpful. Also finding an experienced beekeeper in your vicinity is a great resource. If you attend the meetings, you’ll be surprised at the number of people who have bees around you.

    Reply
Carmin Simons says

Hello! I’ve left posts in several areas. I’m new to the bee world but think I would be a great beekeeper. I have 1.6 acres in the middle of a wheat field with hay close by also. I am considering planting a clover patch and an alfalfa patch. Not only for the bees but also for my future goats. You suggested finding a mentor, are you available? Please advise. I can be reached at the email address above. Thanks for your time and the bees thank you too!

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    TheQueenBee-admin says

    Carmin, I saw your posts as well. I would encourage you to join NEKBA, they will have a booth at the MEN fair this weekend. They offer a beginning beekeping class in early spring in Lawrence. That is how I got started. I’m not sure where you are located. I live in Leavenworth but would be happy to help you with what knowledge. Spring is your best time to start with a new box of bees. It is hard to start this time of year with winter coming on.

    Reply
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