Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Bee Keeping

The very sad story about our dwindling bee populations (called Colony Collapse Disorder) has been a hot topic lately.  That is exactly why I chose to attend an educational session on beekeeping at the Georgia Organics Conference.  I though I would learn how it is done, a little bit about bees and maybe try and figure out how to bee keep myself.  Well, little did I know how ridiculously amazing these creatures are and how I may need to study up a bit more before diving in to actually keeping them.  I am still shocked at how intelligent and complex bees are, not only that, how they are a vital part of our food chain.  We must do what we can to help them out!
What are thought to be contributing to Colony Collapse Disorder are two major things: imported pests and use of pesticides.  
The thing that I know that I can do immediately, as I don’t see myself becoming a master beekeeper in the near future, is avoid buying anything but organic.  I know that this is not the answer for everything but what I do know is that if people do not support conventional farming and the demand for better practices in our food system is exhibited in our buying patterns, it can do nothing but good.  From the bees on up!  I understand more and more everyday how far the problems in our food system have gone and how every little thing in the circle of this process are affected.  Also, I understand that every little thing each individual does in order to better support our movement of better food, better environment, better community, better world, counts!  EVERYTHING counts!
The first and foremost thing that Mark Bradel of the Coastal Empire Beekeeping Association said in regards to beginning Bee Keeping was to get your neighbors on board!!!  Promise them honey!   Also, be willing to withstand beestings!  Aside from the building of the hive and harvesting of the honey, keeping the bees happy is most important.  They don’t require much but these are the things that are important for bees besides protection: location; one that is one near water, in a somewhat secluded area, near a good food supply (flowering plants), and not in direct weather (full sun or up on hill).  The personal equipment you will need includes: a bee veil, coveralls, Velcro, gloves and boots.  The equipment you will need includes: a smoker, hive tool, frame lifter, bee brush, hammer, Bees, hive, and courage!  He also said that they are willing to come to you and help set up hives and check on the bees periodically.  Pretty simple!  I am working on the courage part.
One of the things that struck me most about the bees is there incredible sense of community.  Their system is so complex and well oiled it is an inspiration to anyone.  We should take this inspiration and do what we can to help save the bees. Please.

Bee Facts:
-The old queen kills the new one
-The queen is the only one who eats royal jelly
-The queen can lay 1500 eggs a day and live from 2-5 years
-The worker bees only live from 4-6 weeks
-They make “bee bread” (a mixture of honey and pollen) to feed the babies!

Some good resources: Beekeeping for Dummies by Howland Blackiston
               Backyard Beekeeper by Kim Flottum
               You Tube!

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