urbanfarm

Catch Up

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Let’s check in. This beekeeping season had a rather solemn start, but my spirit was soon rejuvenated with the warmth and support of friends. In early April, I was sad to learn that during our particularly brutal winter, all five Bee Public hives were lost. A devastating blow, and more than enough to make a beginning beekeeper like me (more than) slightly depressed. 

A couple weeks later, an article I had written about my foray into beekeeping was published in Indy Monthly. And then I was asked to be on NPR, along with George and Chris Plews, two enthusiastic honeybee advocates who offered to help fund rooftop bees at our Sky Farm (they also funded the rooftop bees at WFYI). At the same time, a flood of unprecedented support came from friends, family, and complete strangers, helping me to raise funds online for replacement bees. The universe was giving me a much-needed pep talk. 

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In May, I placed two three pound packages of bees at South Circle Farm and Growing Places Indy and then donated one additional package to each farm with the extra funds raised. This gave me an idea– I’m thinking of holding a fundraiser of sorts every spring to replenish any lost bees at urban farms that need them. 

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So how are the new bees doing? Really, really well. We’ve had a fairly mild summer and I think everyone’s enjoying it. Because I have fewer hives to tend this season (I didn’t find any swarms, darn.), I’ve been focusing more on Bee Public’s mission of outreach and education. In 2014, I have held workshops and taught beekeeping classes at Whole Foods, Georgetown Market, Twenty4Change, Pogue’s Run Grocer, Books and Brews, and Fall Creek Gardens. Coming up very soon, I’ll be talking about honeybees and their integral role in our food system at The Good Earth Natural Foods in late August and at a panel discussion on animal husbandry at City Market on Wednesday, August 6. 

Bay-bee, it's cold outside

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Here in the Midwest, we’re experiencing some freakishly frigid weather. I’m talking record breaking, with its own catchy/ominous name– the Polar Vortex

As the snow fell and temps plummeted, lots of folks dashed to the grocery store to stock up on essentials, returning home to cuddle up for warmth. That’s not too far off from what bees do for the winter months.

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Honeybees are one of the only insects that survive the winter as a hive. They form a “winter cluster” inside the hive as soon as the temperature dips below 55°F. The winter cluster remains remarkably warm (95°F).

Bees don’t hibernate like bears, instead they keep moving and rotating, the queen in the center, to keep the cluster’s temp up. No doubt working up quite an appetite. 

As a beekeeper, I can help them out by creating a windbreak (making sure to keep the entrance open) and tilting the hive ever-so-slightly forward so any condensation drips out, not on the bees.  

Today it’s very cold. The bees are clustered up, conserving energy, and eating their nutritious honey stores, which they spent all summer long gathering in preparation for a day like today. Not unlike our own frantic, pre-snowpocalypse trip to the store for the bread and milk.

youngeyesignite : 
 
  losers-count-sheep : 
 
 Even though pollen is the honeybee’s primary source of nutrition, honey is their sole food source during cold weather and other times when alternatives are not available. 
  Bee pollen: pollen collected by bees; their primary source of nutrition. 
 Royal jelly (bee milk): the pharyngeal gland secretions of the nurse bees. The queen larvae receives more of the royal jelly than the worker larvae, growing her into a queen bee. 
 Beeswax: secreted by bees to help build their hives. 
 Propolis: a brownish resinous material of waxy consistency collected by bees from the buds of trees and used as a cement and an antiseptic. 
   Cruelty in the Honey Industry  
  Common practices in the honey industry are:  
  
 To prevent the queen bee from leaving the hive, honey producers sometimes cut off her wings. 
 
 
 Often, queen bees are artificially inseminated. 
 
 
 Large commercial operations sometimes take all the honey instead of leaving enough for the bees to get through the winter. The honey is than replaced with a cheap sugar substitute. 
 
 
 Most beekeepers remove all the spring-season honey. 
 
 
 In colder areas, some bee keepers will burn the beehives, killing all the bees inside, before the winter starts to reduce cost. 
 
 
 Bees are often killed or harmed by haphazard handling. 
 Bees are hardworking animals who deserve to keep the labor of their work. Stealing products from them is a form of exploitation, which should and can be easily avoided. Honey can be replaced by agave syrup, rice syrup, barley malt, maple syrup, molasses, sorghum or fruit concentrates.  
 
  
 Can we talk about this for a second? Because we’re going to. This is ONLY addressing large commercial beekeepers and completely disregarding all of the small, local beekeepers. Yes, many of these practices are common with big industry beekeepers who are hauling trucks of hives across the country to the almond fields in California. It’s largely thanks to these folks abusing miticides and mishandling their bees that we are struggling with Colony Collapse Disorder (in addition to dangerous pesticides and fungicides). An important note here is that these people are making the majority of their profits from pollination, not from selling you mass-produced honey. It just isn’t cost-effective anymore to sell honey on a huge scale, and less and less big-time beekeepers are doing it. Now, let’s go back to your local beekeeepers, shall we?  These practices have nothing to do with most local, small beekeepers. In fact, it’s these people we have to thank for nurturing our struggling bee population.  Particularly beekeepers who are going the organic route! There’s no need to cut off wings if you are working on a small enough scale to be conscientious of your hives’ activity. You know when your queen is going to go out on her first flight and when a swarm is imminent. You are READY with an additional box for your bees, an ideal, safe home for them. You don’t take honey until your bees are overproducing, and you leave enough honey for the winter. If you took it all away you wouldn’t have bees the following year—a huge dent to a small operation! I have never met a small-time beekeeper who didn’t have some reverence for their bees. They do everything within their power to ensure their bees have the best possible conditions to produce far more honey than they need, to grow in population, to thrive: sunlight, protection from the elements, protection from natural predators (such as bears), placement in the best gathering ranges, minimal interference (hives only need to be checked every couple weeks), extra sustenance in the winter if it proves particularly difficult, etc.  They have a mutually beneficial relationship with their bees.  In addition to functioning as guardians for bees, local, organic beekeepers are focused on breeding a better bee, called hygienics, that are able to detect and remove pupae infested with the varroa mite (the biggest factor behind CCD). This is in contrast to big-time beekeepers who abuse miticides and perpetuate a weak bee that is unable to survive on its own. In many cities, I am hearing that there aren’t even wild swarms to be found anymore.  Without the aid of local beekeepers, we could lose our bees. These are the people vying for policy changes, these are the people fighting for bees. When you stop buying honey, you stop supporting them. 

youngeyesignite:

losers-count-sheep:

Even though pollen is the honeybee’s primary source of nutrition, honey is their sole food source during cold weather and other times when alternatives are not available.

  • Bee pollen: pollen collected by bees; their primary source of nutrition.
  • Royal jelly (bee milk): the pharyngeal gland secretions of the nurse bees. The queen larvae receives more of the royal jelly than the worker larvae, growing her into a queen bee.
  • Beeswax: secreted by bees to help build their hives.
  • Propolis: a brownish resinous material of waxy consistency collected by bees from the buds of trees and used as a cement and an antiseptic.

Cruelty in the Honey Industry

Common practices in the honey industry are:

  • To prevent the queen bee from leaving the hive, honey producers sometimes cut off her wings.

  • Often, queen bees are artificially inseminated.

  • Large commercial operations sometimes take all the honey instead of leaving enough for the bees to get through the winter. The honey is than replaced with a cheap sugar substitute.

  • Most beekeepers remove all the spring-season honey.

  • In colder areas, some bee keepers will burn the beehives, killing all the bees inside, before the winter starts to reduce cost.

  • Bees are often killed or harmed by haphazard handling.

    Bees are hardworking animals who deserve to keep the labor of their work. Stealing products from them is a form of exploitation, which should and can be easily avoided. Honey can be replaced by agave syrup, rice syrup, barley malt, maple syrup, molasses, sorghum or fruit concentrates. 

Can we talk about this for a second? Because we’re going to. This is ONLY addressing large commercial beekeepers and completely disregarding all of the small, local beekeepers. Yes, many of these practices are common with big industry beekeepers who are hauling trucks of hives across the country to the almond fields in California. It’s largely thanks to these folks abusing miticides and mishandling their bees that we are struggling with Colony Collapse Disorder (in addition to dangerous pesticides and fungicides). An important note here is that these people are making the majority of their profits from pollination, not from selling you mass-produced honey. It just isn’t cost-effective anymore to sell honey on a huge scale, and less and less big-time beekeepers are doing it. Now, let’s go back to your local beekeeepers, shall we? These practices have nothing to do with most local, small beekeepers. In fact, it’s these people we have to thank for nurturing our struggling bee population. Particularly beekeepers who are going the organic route! There’s no need to cut off wings if you are working on a small enough scale to be conscientious of your hives’ activity. You know when your queen is going to go out on her first flight and when a swarm is imminent. You are READY with an additional box for your bees, an ideal, safe home for them. You don’t take honey until your bees are overproducing, and you leave enough honey for the winter. If you took it all away you wouldn’t have bees the following year—a huge dent to a small operation! I have never met a small-time beekeeper who didn’t have some reverence for their bees. They do everything within their power to ensure their bees have the best possible conditions to produce far more honey than they need, to grow in population, to thrive: sunlight, protection from the elements, protection from natural predators (such as bears), placement in the best gathering ranges, minimal interference (hives only need to be checked every couple weeks), extra sustenance in the winter if it proves particularly difficult, etc. They have a mutually beneficial relationship with their bees. In addition to functioning as guardians for bees, local, organic beekeepers are focused on breeding a better bee, called hygienics, that are able to detect and remove pupae infested with the varroa mite (the biggest factor behind CCD). This is in contrast to big-time beekeepers who abuse miticides and perpetuate a weak bee that is unable to survive on its own. In many cities, I am hearing that there aren’t even wild swarms to be found anymore. Without the aid of local beekeepers, we could lose our bees. These are the people vying for policy changes, these are the people fighting for bees. When you stop buying honey, you stop supporting them.