Today’s post is by a guest blogger, Linda McKittrick who is an urban farmer. On her large lot in one of Tucson’s historic districts, she raises chickens, bees and grows vegetables. You can watch a short video of Linda with her bees “My Girls: the buzz on urban hives.” Then read what she has to say:
For almost 15 years now I have been “kept” by bees. Most people who call themselves “beekeepers” practice the art and craft of keeping honeybees, Apis Mellifera , in wooden or clay structures, and of course there is truth to that claim. Yet, feeling as smitten with the winged creatures as I do, it is probably more accurate to say that they keep me. After years of relationship with them, I am still surprised how much they teach me on a daily basis. When you live with bees, you find your senses sharpen, you learn to listen to how a hive sounds as you open it; how it smells, what plants are at their “ honey flow” at what time of the year. One’s awareness of the natural world sharpens.
Bees embody just how intimately we are interconnected with other kingdoms. It is inspiring to be reminded that the relationship between plants and their pollinators began evolving over 100 MILLION years ago, (!) when flowering plants, emerged as a life form on earth. Richard Brusca, of the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum, writes, “the relationship between flowering plants and their pollinators is so intimate that should pollinator populations decline (or worse yet, go extinct), the impact on their plant associates would be immediate and profound. Because pollinators are species upon which the lives of so many other species depend, they are regarded as ‘keystone species’ Pollinators are thus essential to the stability of the global ecosystem itself.”
We can, in our very own yards, and on the grounds of our offices and schools, encourage habitat for bees. It is as simple as planting bee-friendly plants, reduce use of pesticides, herbicides and fungicides, provide clean water, and allow some bare ground to remain for solitary bees to nest in. These simple acts create a healthy habitat for both native bees and honeybees.
For those people who are interested in keeping just one or two hives, please do! It is satisfying to see bees create a hive as they make fresh white wax from their own bodies, tend their young, store honey, and forage — and all the while contributing to biodiversity. It is my personal feeling that if several thousand people kept just one or two hives, (a common practice in this country just a few generations ago), rather than a few individuals keeping thousands of hives, both bees and our food supply would be healthier for it.
Dan Rather has reported extensively on various reasons for colony collapse disease that has killed many bees. You can watch a shortened version of one of his stories here.