Monday, June 19, 2017

Keep the Hives Alive



     "In June 2016 a group of beekeepers, farmers, community organizers, environmental groups, and concerned citizens banded together to host the “Keep the Hives Alive Tour” to raise awareness about the plight of pollinators and how toxic pesticides contribute to their decline.
     Collectively, our mission is to educate the public of the dangers of bee-toxic pesticides; share the stories of beekeepers whose livelihoods have been jeopardized (and some lost) by the continued use of these products; and urge the Environmental Protection Agency, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and Congress to take action on toxic pesticides and support sustainable agriculture.
      Bees and other pollinators are declining at an alarming rate and an overwhelming number of scientific studies link these population declines to pesticide use.  Unfortunately, uses of toxic pesticides are having far-reaching impacts on a wide range of environments – everything from urban parks, to croplands, to beeyards and aquatic ecosystems. Beekeepers, farmers, and consumers all need a healthier environment for bees! Honey bees and native pollinators are essential to our food supply and help to provide one in every three bites of food we eat. That’s why the Keep the Hives Alive Tour traveled across the United States during National Pollinator Week in 2016 to educate the public about pollinator declines and how we all can work together to protect our pollinators. We want to continue the momentum built last spring by sharing resources, engaging communities to take action, and working together to create healthier habitats for pollinators."

      Agrichemicals are not the only problem our bees face.  There is a growing number of mostly imported pests and diseases that afflict our bees; diminishing forage and habitat for native bees; reduced genetic diversity; global warming ...  but most will agree that a significant issue is that our present system of industrial, large scale monoculture agriculture is not sustainable or healthy for us or bees.  The overuse of agrichemicals and fertilizers and the sterilization and depletion of our soil is addressed in this documentary.
      A 2008 world food crisis which saw mass starvation due to extensive drought conditions led the United Nations to complete an extensive study by experts from around the world (U.N. Report on Agriculture Sustainability - Wake Up Before It's Too Late).  They concluded that "The 2008 food crisis was an important catalyst for realizing the need for a fundamental transformation and questioning some of the assumptions that had driven food, agricultural and trade policy in recent decades.  The world currently produces sufficient calories per head to feed a global population of 12-14 billion (global population = 7 billion).  Around 1 billion people chronically suffer from starvation and another billion are malnurished.  Therefore hunger and malnutrition are not a product of insufficient supply but results of prevailing poverty and above all access to food.  The world needs a paradigm shift in agricultural development: from a “green revolution” to an “ecological intensification” approach.  This implies a rapid and significant shift from conventional, monoculture-based industrial production towards mosaics of sustainable, regenerative production systems that also considerably improve the productivity of small-scale farmers."    

Saturday, June 3, 2017

Bad Nuc Rant


     The last few years I have observed an abundance of bad bee nucs for sale in the Vancouver area. Last year a number of beekeepers in our beekeeping coop bought nucs from a local retailer, all of which contained swarm cells.  As a result all of the nucs swarmed within the first week creating smaller nucs and very small swarms.  The owner of the company explained that the nucs were made by inexperienced workers who improperly made the nucs with swarm cells and newly introduced queens.
      This week a few nucs were bought by beekeepers in our organization from another beekeeping supply retailer.  The nuc boxes had scotch tape on the entrance (half attached), the lids were not attached, the brood comb was black (old) and the nuc boxes were older.  The nucs contained 2 frames of old, spotty brood, 2 wet frames, a queen cage and no laying queen.  Both of these retailers are good, knowledgeable beekeeping suppliers and the criticism is directed more towards the lack of long term bee breeders not the bee retailers (though the argument could be made that you are responsible for what you are selling).
       The bottom line is that we have a very poor, unsustainable honey bee population in greater Vancouver with most of the bees produced done so for a quick dollar rather than creating a legacy of strong, survivor stock.  Mark Winston, an SFU professor, biologist and beekeeper produced a study 30 years ago that suggested it was economically feasible to produce honey bee nucs and packages in the Fraser Valley (Package and Nucleus production in the Fraser Valley).  This potential has not been realized and instead we have become dependent on imported packages and poorly created nucs.  Good breeders in our area produce relatively few nucs and queens that don't begin to match the demand. Part of the reason is the extreme property values that make beekeeping not economically feasible in the Greater Vancouver area.
       Beekeepers ask me constantly if I can recommend a good bee nuc or queen source and I can't because the good sources are sold out before the bees are ready. If anyone knows of a good source of bees let us know. Bad nuc rant over.



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