There are certain pursuits which, if not wholly poetic and true, do at least suggest a nobler and finer relation to nature than we know. The keeping of bees, for instance. --- Henry David Thoreau
"Well," said Pooh, "what I like best -- " and then he had to stop and think. Because although Eating Honey was a very good thing to do, there was a moment just before you began to eat it which was better than when you were, but he didn't know what it was called. -- The House at Pooh Corner
Friday, March 26, 2010
Saving the Bees Just a Little
If you’re a new beekeeper like me, chances are you started doing this not because you had this life-long burning desire to produce beeswax and honey, keep beehives, or immerse yourself in the mysteries of waggle dancing. Nah, you probably absorbed all the newsabout the worldwide deaths of honeybee colonies and you were knowledgeable enough to conclude that it was another of those man-made biodisasters that threaten our habitation of this small planet. You read or heard how the beekeepers were losing 50-75% of their colonies; how cellphones, pesticides, viruses and factory-farm methods of beekeeping were doing in our pollinators for good. You added a commitment to do something to save the bees right along with your commitments to the environment, the climate, and the biosphere. Probably said something to yourself like I did, “Dammit, looks like I’m gonna have to save the bees meself; these clowns have no clue about how they are killing the Earth. I’m sure I can do a better job than they have!”
Relax. You’re prolly right that you can and are doing a better job at promoting the safe, organic and natural existence of the bees you are caring for. But come to find out it’s not all that emergent an issue. Not really. The overall opinionseems to be that the bees are in some trouble, but they aren’t gonna die quite yet. It’s gonna be okay.
I just had a nice email correspondence with one of the chief organic and natural beekeeping gurus. Without his permission, I’m gonna quote a paragraph of what he said about CCD and bee deaths:“… note that no one is having trouble getting their crops pollinated, note that the price of package bees has not gone up since CCD hit the airwaves...none of the things that would indicate a functional shortage of bees have happened.
“imho, the issues surrounding beekeeping are much closer to the issues around feedlot cattle (in that there is no shortage of cattle, but it would be nice if they were treated better and allowed to be cattle) than it is like an endangered species (where one is concerned that the species will die out). what you are mostly hearing in the media is "the plight of the status quo beekeeper", the bees are, for the most part, doing fine. certainly there are die offs (there always have been, it's the nature of insect populations), certainly some beekeepers (large and small) have had significant losses that have greatly affected (or buried) their businesses...but at the same time, there is a huge payoff for almond pollination (which comes with huge risks).”
What he said makes a lot of sense, don’t you think? You can still read the alarmist media hype, you can find a whole spectrum of thought about the CCD thing. But it’s not the worry that it was purported to be.
Far more worrisome is the plight of endangered whales. Far more evil is the human predation on elephants. If you're a back-to-the-land life changer, or if you’re a greenie tree-hugger environmental animal rights activist - as I am - who got into beekeeping to save them, you ought to be devoting more concern to those emergent issues. And for sure if you want to have any hope at all of our species living a sustainable life on Momma Earth, we damn sure better do something about the deaths of one third of the amphibiansin our chain of life! Got any frogs?
It’s good to keep these bees. Dee Lusby and friends are correct: they need lots of new organic and natural beekeepers to get aboard and preserve bee genetics and turn around the factory bee farm madness. Sam Comfort is right to want beehives to be as ubiquitous as TVs. By now you’ve found how rewarding to the heart the peaceable contentment of working with the little buzzing gals is. Good for us all! Better still is your commitment to protect the feral honeybee habitat around you by any means you can think of.
But … in the words of Douglas Adams, DON’T PANIC! Just do your thing, okay? Enjoy being a beek. Continue to educate those around you to those best concepts of sustainability you can live by. My $0.02, YMMV.
This blog originates in Pleasant Hill/Dexter, Oregon. I try to summarize those little tips and bits of information and experience that no one who writes bee books bothers to explain. I've gathered up what lessons I could from 7 years (so far) of hands-on learning "the hard way"; from asking a lot of questions of seasoned, experienced Beeks; and from paying attention to the 'Net. My name is Tom Warren. [The picture above is of Molly, Ed, Sean and Twinkle, in the Eagle's Rest Garden and Beeyard]
Like many bee blogs, this one tends to not get updated with new posts like it should. (Lots of beeks give up on their blogs because they get busy with the hives and don't come in and sit at the computer) I quit beating myself up about no new posts, instead I've been told that the links and resources being present and updated makes this blog good enough to keep me at it. I'm keeping it active, even if it doesn't look like it. Patience, y'all.
Cut to the Chase ....
If you need to get started keeping bees real quick, THIS SECTIONwill give you tips and guidance on the things you need to do, in the order you need to do them. Then, Dear Reader, start from the bottom up and read about one Newbeek's meanderings toward how to save some of the bees ...