pesticides

Year in Review

We can learn a lot from the bees.

In the summer, a female worker bee only lives for about 40 days and she'll spend each day diligently gathering nectar from flowers to turn into honey - her food source.

With around 40,000 - 60,000 bees in a hive, you can imagine how many bees literally work themselves to death to prepare for a winter they will never see. That kind of altruism, a sacrifice made for the greater good of society, seems all to rare in the human world these days.

2016. What a year it's been. For many of us, beekeepers included, it's been a challenging year and it can be hard to maintain a positive impression of the whole 365 days when a few may have left a sour taste in your mouth. 

I can't speak for everyone who follows this project, but I can guess that if you're reading this, you care deeply about bees, sustainable farming, healthy food, mother nature's complex systems and the ways in which these (and we) are all inexorably linked. 

And so, we're going to focus on the positive. 

In 2016, we helped pass pollinator-friendly legislation in Indianapolis and we waggle-danced with the mayor. We spread our message to many young faces (more than 2,000!), and young voices were heard. Students and teachers got hands-on with their very own hives, made bee art and counted pollinators

It's been a good year. In 2017, let's resolve to leave things even better than we found them.

Happy New Year!

What’s in store for 2015? 

- Bee Public will manage hives at each of Growing Places Indy’s urban microfarms, including the rooftop “Sky Farm” on top of the Eskenazi Hospital and the Public Greens farm along the Monon Trail in Broad Ripple. 

- More classes and talks including a beekeeping talk at Earth Day Indiana

- Bee Public is working with City Council members to regulate the use of neonicitinoid pesticides in Indy’s parks and public spaces. (Read more about this here.) 

I speak for the bees

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When I started Bee Public two-ish years ago, all I really had in mind was that I wanted to become a beekeeper and maybe I would make a little extra cash selling honey. That idea flew out the window along with another iteration that involved a lot of driving and a lot of managing hives in other people’s backyards. I decided early on that I was here to be a voice for the bees. A Lorax of sorts. 

I read up on the science and drama and magic that takes place inside the hive, a mini society just below the surface, and the molecules in my brain began to rearrange. I became giddy. Then I read articles and studies about Colony Collapse Disorder and migratory beekeeping and our horrendous agricultural practices in the U.S. and became angry. I believe it’s this combination of anger and giddiness that turns an ordinary person into an activist. And so activism, awareness, and education became the cornerstones of this project. It’s not about the honey or the money.

I taught probably a dozen Beekeeping 101 classes last summer to both kids and adults, made visits to co-op grocery stores and classrooms. But I have the nagging feeling it’s not enough. And so here I go getting into politics. I put my journalism background to good use and connected with someone at Beyond Pesticides who handed me a ton of information. I’ve met with two of our city council members in the hopes that I can get regulations passed on the use of neonicitinoid pesticides in our parks and public spaces. Indy’s Department of Public Works (DPW) is in charge of the bug killing in our city. DPW uses at least one neonicitinoid (bee-killing) pesticide called dinotefuran aka “Safari” to treat for the Emerald Ash Borer. A recently study from USGS found “widespread occurence” of neonics in groundwater in the Midwest. According to the USGS map for clothianidin, Indianapolis is right in the middle of high application levels of neonics. 

I can’t really expect Indianapolis to halt use of all pesticides, so I’m obliged to give an alternative to the neonics– one of three parasitoids that have been approved for release as biological control agents of EAB in the U.S. by the USDA. The least-toxic alternative is Azadirachin, a natural neem oil extract that has very low toxicity to honey bees, but good efficacy against EAB. Additionally, neonics are mobile in soil, which means that any amount that doesn’t get taken up by the ash tree can be taken up by flowering plants in the area, and then expressed in the pollen, nectar, and dew droplets that the plant produces. And, while bees don’t seek out ash trees, they will occasionally visit their flowers.

Cities including Spokane, WA and Boulder, CO have already banned present and future use of neonics. Anyway, this will be a long process. We have a new mayor coming in and I can only hope he is receptive these ideas. Wish me luck and give me lots and lots of advice.