I’m a beekeeper. I love our bees, from the tiniest native wild bee to the bumbling bumble bee. They are amazing creatures on so many levels. I believe that if one could sit and watch a colony at work for a day, they would be seduced by the hive as many have before. A honeybee colony is the most egalitarian society I know. This year, I’ll be continuing work on a photo documentary about these amazing creatures and the humans that keep them. I will also be working to establish “bee friendly” cities in Minnesota following the model from Eugene, Oregon. Call me if you’d like to help with this project.
Interesting facts about pollinators
- Bees have jobs: guard bee, nurse bee, field bee, caretaker bee, queen bee…
- Bees pollinate about 70% of flowering plants and 2/3rds of food crops.
- Bees are in big trouble and need our help. If bees die, other living things will follow.
- Bees overwinter in a cluster; a ball of bees that keep each other warm by vibrating and taking turns moving into the middle where it’s warmest.
- Some beekeepers use insecticidal strips to kill mites, antibiotic feeds, and other chemicals right in their hives. Seek out honey from treatment free keepers.
- Beeware of fake honey, honey syrup and other things pretending to be honey which may be tainted with flavorings, chemicals and GMO corn syrup.
- Neonicotinoids (a class of insecticides) are the primary reason bees are dying. Imidacloprid, Clothianidin, Thiamethoxam, Dinotefuran and others are used in agriculture, home gardens, and state landscapes like schools and libraries. Other main causes are lack of forage because of big agricultural monocrops where bees are put, and finally depleted immune systems that can’t fight off viruses or pests.
- Neonicotinoids are neurotoxins to all living things.
- Local honey can reduce and eliminate allergies.
- Propolis is antiviral, antibacterial and antifungal, and is used to destroy disease.
Where to find plants free of insecticide toxins
It’s gardening time. Where does one begin in their search for clean, neonic-free plants and seeds? Plants crossing state lines are drenched with insecticides. GMO seeds contain insecticides which then reside in the plant for its life. Garden suppliers use pesticides liberally. Search no longer, here’s a clean list: where to get local native plants & seeds
How can you help our pollinators
- Don’t use insecticides in your gardens that contain neonics or harmful chemicals. Use alternatives like corn gluten or surround. Go here to find safe products. planetnatural or arbico organics
- Chemicals like herbicides and fungicides also harm our pollinators, air, water, and soil.
- Inert ingredients are often toxic too. See more info about toxicity in Round Up.
- Instead of a lawn full of herbicides, try growing a bee yard with low growing clover or other ground cover. It’s low maintenance, chemical free and looks beautiful.
- Ask and encourage your garden supplier to carry neonic-free plants and products that are bee friendly.
- Be friendly to bees including those cute little native bees, bumblebees, mason bees and honeybees. Teach your children to respect and like them too. Don’t be afraid, bee love.
- Buy bee friendly, GMO-free, pesticide free, organic produce and products.
My favorite links – pesticides and pollinators:
- The Xerces Society - reference materials & info about pollinators.
- Beyond Pesticides - info about pesticides and the latest action.
- Pesticide Action Network - info about pesticides, pollinators and latest action.
- Dr. Vera Kritchik’s Powerpoint Report - research results on pesticides & bees.
- Household Insecticides Kill Bees - how deadly are pesticides to bees.
- Dr. Marla Spivak’s Ted Talk on Pollinators - overview on current state of bees.
- What’s on my food – a list of toxins on food - find what’s toxic on your food.
- Search for pesticides by name here for toxicity
- Beyond Toxics – up to date work being done to keep us healthy from toxins
- The Rodale Institute - founders/research organics and safe gardening methods.
Great local honey sources – treatment free:
- Four Seasons Apiary, Minneapolis
- Bare Honey, Twin Cities
- Bone Lake Meadows Apiary, Maine on St. Croix
- Ames Farm, Twin Cities and Surrounding Area
Adrian raises honeybees for other beekeepers. The midwest suffered 50-70% bee losses last winter because of the long cold temperatures and weak bees. Adrian’s method of keeping the bees in smaller containers, nestled next to one another for warmth kept all his bees alive. These are “nuc” hives which are smaller nucleus colonies made from larger colonies.
Adrian is checking and weighing the colonies to be sure they are maintaining a healthy population and have enough to eat.
Honeybees will not defecate in their hive, they are very hygienic. Bees will wait for weeks and months until the temps reach 50 so they can take a cleansing flight. Their wings do not work under 50 degrees. Bees use propolis to disinfect and keep their environment clear of disease. Janitor bees’ main task is cleaning and removing “dirt” from the hive. See honeybees taking cleansing flights below.
Yuuki is the Founder and Keeper at Four Seasons Apairies. They produce nucs for other keepers, rear queen bees, and make honey. Four Seasons uses treatment free, natural methods. Yuuki acquired several of Adrian’s nucs for his apiary and is evaluating bee health and genetics. Variety is important in bee “parenting”.
Keeping careful records is key to developing a system that works. Bees are ancient creatures, having their own agenda. One must accommodate their keen instinct and methods for they are smarter than we are, when it comes to anything bee and nature.
Yuuki releasing a queen bee from her cage to join the nuc hive.
The new queen joining the rest of the bees (she’s marked with a green dot). The nurse bees and queen’s assistants will immediately begin grooming and feeding allowing the Queen time to lay eggs for more baby bees. If the bees evaluate the new queen and decide she is a threat, unhealthy or unfit, they will form a tight ball around her and destroy her.Share on Facebook