Monday, August 22, 2011

Bee Aware

We keep bees here on the farm. Well, we actually have someone who brought bees and leaves them here, giving us a smackerel of honey now and then. Why keep bees?  A lot of people don't realize that they are a vital part of our ecosystem, not just another pesky bug.  I have seen a dramatic difference in our crop production this year! I've got 20 apples on a first year tree, just planted in May. That's crazy!

"If the bee disappeared off the surface of the globe then man would only have four years of life left. No more bees, no more pollination, no more plants, no more animals, no more man" 
Albert Einstein

That's a pretty compelling reason, right? Of course, not everyone would agree with such a dramatic scenario, but bees are pretty darn important to our food supply, since they pollinate 70-90% of all the crops on this planet (I found varying numbers) and they are dying off FAST! Some statistics show that colonies worldwide have decreased by 80%!  If you take a minute to think about it, when we were kids, there were bees, butterflies, ladybugs, even Praying Mantis' all over the garden.  We didn't even think about it, they were just common. Now look around...what do you see? Not much.


There seem to be a number of reasons. Some reasons cited HERE are genetically modified seeds, herbicides/pesticides and cell phones! This research is really interesting and sad, I hope you'll take a moment to read the whole article, since I didn't want to butcher the information by relaying it. 

What I take away from this article is HOPE. 

With some effort, we can begin to reverse the damage done to the bee population.  You don't have to have a hive in your backyard to make a difference (although, it's a pretty cool thing!).  You can start by eliminating chemicals in your garden.  Consider planting plants that bees are attracted to. Plants that have been hybridized for the "modern" garden are often sterile, having no food source for the bees. Bees also need water.  In order to keep them from drowning, put some stones in a shallow dish and set it in the garden. They can sit on the stones and drink away, safely.  And, as always, encourage your kids to know more about bees and why they're so important to us!   

Here are some great bee facts taken from the Queen of the Sun website. (This movie will be showing at the Live Oak Grange in Santa Cruz, August 30th at 7pm.)

1. Honey bees have four wings, six legs, two compound eyes made of up many, many tiny lenses and three simple eyes on the top of the head that are light sensors.
2. Honeybees perform a waggle dance to communicate the location and the directions to distant food sources that are 100 yards to 2-3 miles from the hive.
3. In one trip honeybees visit 100-1500 blossoms to fill their honey crop, an organ separate from their digestive stomach that is used to transport nectar.
4. Forager bees, steadfast and committed to their task, make up to 30 trips a day. Using their long, straw-like proboscis they collect nectar from the wild flowers and herbs of meadows. As Johannes Wirz says in QUEEN OF THE SUN, “Bees are the golden thread from flower to flower, keeping the world in bloom.”
5. The honey bee’s wings beat at incredible speeds! About 200 beats per second, creating the their un-missable “buzz”. A bee can fly up to 15 miles per hour and can fly a total of up to six miles.
6. Bees were not only one of the first sources for sweetness, but also for light! Beeswax candles were used by humans to provide long-lasting light in the darkness. Secreted from glands of the bee’s abdomen, beeswax is used by the honeybee to build the honey comb in the beehive.
7. In their entire lifespan, a worker bee only produces 1 and 1/2 teaspoons of honey.

8. The beehive is a “super organism”. All of the bees work together as a single entity. A lone bee cannot live on it’s own outside of the hive for even 24 hours.
9. In winter bees live on stored honey and pollen and cluster into a ball to conserve warmth. Their “body” temperature in the hive is close to human body temperature, 95-97 degrees, regardless of the temperature outside of the hive.
10. Some big numbers to think about! In producing just one pound of honey, bees from the hive visit approximately one million flowers. The entire hive of bees will fly 90,000 miles. This is  equivalent to one and a half orbits around the earth just to collect one pound of glistening honey.

1 comment:

  1. Very interesting. I hope to keep bees someday...