Rene Ebersole, MODERN FARMER
For information on bee-friendly gardening, visit thehoneybeeconservancy.org.
You can hardly say “honeybee” anymore without hearing the reverb “colony collapse disorder.” Back in 2006, American beekeepers began reporting staggering losses, ranging from 30 to 90 percent of their hives. Since then, the alarming phenomenon—in which adult bees disappear, leaving the brood behind to die—has afflicted Europe as well. And honey’s far from the only reason to care. In America alone, the pollinators enable the production of roughly 90 commercial crops, according to the United States Department of Agriculture. Without honeybees, some of the foods we eat, like almonds, could become extinct; the cost of others, such as cherries and avocados, would likely skyrocket. A decade after the disorder first surfaced, scientists have yet to identify a definitive culprit.
Meanwhile, U.S. citizens have taken up the cause, establishing hives in backyards, atop roofs, at restaurants, even on the White House lawn. Bee Culture magazine, already a publication with a narrow focus, recently launched a spin-off targeted even more specifically at beginners. Williams-Sonoma, ostensibly a kitchenware retailer, started selling beekeeping equipment in 2012. Even Costco carries hives these days.
Longtime beekeeper Rob Keller of Napa, California, should not be counted among the recent converts. He does, however, have the current apiary craze to thank for his success. Since launching the Napa Valley Bee Company in 2008, the 52-year-old has helped more than 100 clients—individuals and businesses, including Alice Waters’ legendary Chez Panisse—start and maintain honeybee colonies. “I can’t just sell my bees and walk away. I know that queen’s mother and her mother’s mother. I’d rather guide someone through all four seasons,” Keller explains. “It’s weird, man. It’s like I’m turning into, not a crazy cat lady, but a crazy bee guy. I have the utmost respect for this six-legged insect.”
Read more at: How to Keep Honeybees – Modern Farmer
Meg McConahey, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
There are a lot of practical and ecological reasons to turn your landscape into a way station and home for bees. In fact, the list of advantages is so compelling it may dramatically change how you see and use the space around your home.
Not only is a bee-friendly garden organic and sustainable, but a garden humming with bees will lead to a more bountiful harvest of larger and healthier fruits and vegetables. It will also attract other beneficial insects that will go after garden pests as well as provide habitat for butterflies, moths, bats, hummingbirds and other wildlife.
But on an even more global scale, bees provide a critical link in the world’s food chain by facilitating the fertilization of more than 70 percent of the world’s plants, says acclaimed North Coast garden designer Kate Frey. This includes many edibles, from nuts and fruits to tomatoes, peppers, berries and even some root crops like carrots and beets.
For all their virtues, bees have been suffering, not only from the mysterious Colony Collapse Disorder in which the worker bees in hives can die off or desert, but from new pathogens, parasites, pesticides on the flowers they visit, herbicides that wipe out the plants they depend on and pests. In addition, habitat is disappearing due to development and monoculture — vast acreage of the same crop — that leave no sustenance for bees.
The good news is that even urban and suburban homeowners can help the bee cause and without sacrificing beauty, says Frey, co-author with San Francisco State University biology professor Gretchen LeBuhn of “The Bee-Friendly Garden” (Ten Speed Press, $19.99).
Read more at: Create a garden both you and Sonoma County bees will love | The Press Democrat
David Jolly, NYTIMES.COM
A growing body of evidence shows that the widespread use of the pesticides “has severe effects on a range of organisms that provide ecosystem services like pollination and natural pest control, as well as on biodiversity,” the report’s authors said.
An influential European scientific body said on Wednesday that a group of pesticides believed to contribute to mass deaths of honeybees is probably more damaging to ecosystems than previously thought and questioned whether the substances had a place in sustainable agriculture.
The finding could have repercussions on both sides of the Atlantic for the companies that produce the chemicals, which are known as neonicotinoids because of their chemical similarity to nicotine. Global sales of the chemicals reach into the billions of dollars.
The European Commission in 2013 banned the use of three neonicotinoids — clothianidin, imidacloprid and thiamethoxam — on flowering plants after a separate body, the European Food Safety Authority, found that exposure to the chemicals created “high acute risks” to bees.
But the chemicals continue to be employed on an industrial scale in the United States. The Environmental Protection Agency is reviewing their use after President Obama last year established a national Pollinator Health Task Force to help address concerns about so-called colony collapse disorder, a not fully understood phenomenon that has devastated commercial apiaries.
Pesticides are thought to be only one part of the widespread deaths of bees, however. Other factors are believed to include varroa destructor mites, viruses, fungi and poor nutrition.
Read more via Pesticides Linked to Honeybee Deaths Pose More Risks, European Group Says – NYTimes.com.
Edward Ortiz, THE SACRAMENTO BEE
As many as 80,000 bee colonies have died or been damaged this year after pollinating almond trees in the San Joaquin Valley, and some beekeepers are pointing to pesticides used on almond orchards as a possible cause.
The damaged colonies are the latest worry in the beekeeping community, which is already struggling to deal with colony collapse disorder, a phenomenon in which beekeepers open hives after pollination and find them empty, with the bees nowhere to be found.
The damaged hives are a significant agricultural issue. Ninety percent of honeybees that pollinate crops in the United States are used during the California almond bloom. And there is a cascading effect. Bees used to pollinate almond trees typically are moved to pollinate other crops, such as apples, cranberries, cherries and watermelons.
via Beekeepers search for answers as colonies show up damaged after almond farm pollination – Environment – The Sacramento Bee.