So, what's with all the buzz about bees? Well, over the past decade, bees and other pollinators have witnessed a steady unprecedented decline. The reason is because of Colony Collapse Disorder. Contributing factors to the mass disappearance of bees include: decreasing amounts of wildflower fields, climate change, increased pesticide use in agriculture, monoculture planting techniques, pests, diseases, and many others.
Foraging on flowers is a hard life for bees. Traveling large distances to collect pollen and nectar from sometimes hard-to-find flowers and then returning to the hive is a very demanding task both energetically and cognitively. To do this, bees need finely tuned senses, spatial awareness, learning and memory.
Anything that damages such atuned skills can make bees struggle to find food, or even get lost while trying to forage. A bee that cannot find food and make it home again is as good as dead.
Modern agriculture has created a non-hospitable environment for bees and other pollinators. Diesel fumes, neonicotinoid pesticides, herbicidides, and other chemicals become sublethal stressors that damage the bees' cognition.
This is how the hives are collapsing at such large rates. Bees go out to forage, come across these toxins in the environment and then get lost, not knowing how to get back home.
Where there is a problem, there is a solution. There is now a sudden and growing interest in backyard, rooftop, and urban beekeeping. Even as a small-scale beekeeper with only a few hives, you can play a valuable and crucial role in fighting honey bee colony decline. Every small action makes a big difference.
There are many reasons for becoming a beekeeper and each beekeeper has their own unique reasons for starting. Know your reasons and use them to guide you to the most practical and sustainable ways of maintaining your hives. Raising bees is becoming more and more popular by the day. It is an interesting hobby with tons of benefits.
If you want some backyard hives, keep in mind that you don't need to manage your hives like a commercial beekeeper. Commercial beekeepers with hundreds of thousands of hives need to run them like a factory; backyard beekeepers do not.
Only you can decide what draws you into beekeeping, but here are our top reasons for starting beekeeping:
On top of having the benefit of interacting with these fascinating insects and helping them thrive, the various by-products of a hive are a major bonus to keeping bees.
The main bee products that are used for human consumption are:
If you are thinking about getting a pet, such as a cat or dog, consider bees instead. They are independent, working and feeding themselves. In this sense they significantly differ from livestock and domestic pets.
Now, there will be times when you will have to open up the hive and work with your bees, such as when you split the hive for crowding purposes or when it's time to extract the honey, but during the rest of the times, the bees will take care of themselves. Your job as beekeeper is to provide a home for the bees and care for them, making sure all is well inside and outside the hive.
The bees do most of the work. As Chase Emmons, a master beekeeper at Brooklyn Grange says, "The barrier of entry is rather low: no need for a lot of space. Like with chickens, no need for constant attention."
Anyone can be a beekeeper. If you've got an inkling to try it out, do it! Beekeeping is a great hobby with small startup costs and is not overly time and labor-demanding - assuming you are beekeeping for fun and pleasure.
Also, how amazing is it that with beekeeping as a hobby, you can make some money from surplus bee products? It is rare to find a hobby that is both pleasing and at least slightly profitable at the same time. Many hobbies drain our wallets rather than fill them.
Keeping bees is a great activity to practice, providing lots of family fun and it's a fantastic way to connect children with a natural phenomenon.
Anyone can practice beekeeping, including:
Beekeepers are always working to understand their honey bees. Beekeepers observe their bees working together as a superorganism and often beekeepers remark that even after working with bees for many years, they still learn something new every day.
Bees can be kept almost anywhere; they do not have to be in a "perfect" spot. You can keep bees anywhere you would have a garden. Read about suggestions and guidelines that are best to follow when setting up and placing your hives.
No matter where you live, you can probably keep bees. You will have to check local ordinances of course. Other than that, there are no limits.
Bees are in trouble right now - from pesticides, industrial farming, pollution, parasitic mites and viruses - and we need all the 'natural' beekeepers we can get to build up their numbers and give them a chance to solve their own problems.
By working together to build bee populations and preserve habitat, we can help the current bee population while learning more about the threats that face a species we all depend on.
More people need to get involved and stand behind the movements that will help bring this decline to a halt. States need to take action, as Maryland is attempting, to eliminate harmful pesticides like neonicotinoids that have been shown to pose major threats to the bee population. It's time that we work together to #SaveTheBees, before it's too late.