Posted on Categories Agriculture/Food SystemTags , , , ,

How to keep honeybees

Rene Ebersole, MODERN FARMER

For information on bee-friendly gardening, visit

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

Posted on Categories WildlifeTags , ,

With spring wildflowers, pipevine swallowtail butterflies emerge in Sonoma County 

The explosion of wildflowers throughout March and April ushers in a favorite Sonoma County phenomenon — the emergence of the pipevine swallowtail butterflies (Battus philanor).
While they represent just one of many pollinators now visiting our nectar-rich fields, these black and iridescent blue lovelies stand out. They are large and slow enough that we humans can easily follow their progress as they visit flower after flower in search of nectar. The tiny scales on their dark wings catch the light, reflecting blue metallic hues above and displaying bright orange spots underneath.
And, if we know when and where to look, we can track their entire life cycle during the coming months.
Read more at: With spring wildflowers, pipevine swallowtail butterflies emerge in Sonoma County | The Press Democrat

Posted on Categories Local Organizations, WildlifeTags , ,

It’s wildflower time in Sonoma County

List of guided wildflower hikes
It’s early yet, but splashes of color that have recently appeared amid bright grasslands and shaded local woodlands tell of glorious weeks to come, as spring takes hold and this year’s crop of wildflowers bloom into life.
Even in a region with the comparatively temperate climate we enjoy on the North Coast, the shift into wildflower season somehow offers reassurances that the harsh days of winter are behind us. The promise and potential of foliage that will soon sprout blossoms inspires us to contemplate new beginnings, while the plants that already have opened and spread their delicate petals can’t help but charm.
“It’s so delicious to see the flowers,” said one avid fan, retired Santa Rosa High School Spanish teacher Phil Weil. “I get very excited.”
Read more at: It’s wildflower time in Sonoma County | The Press Democrat