Italian bees don’t necessarily come from Italy

This will be amusing to those who know something about beekeeping.

The Washington Post has published a photo essay under the headline: How Italian honeybees in Main are helping to sustain our food supply.

The photos are very good. They were shot by  Andrees Latif of Reuters. The story’s editor at the Post is Nicole Crowder, editor for the Washington Post’s photography blog, In Sight. The story says:

In the summer, photographer Andrees Latif followed beekeepers who have been trekking large crates of Italian honeybees across the country from one farm to another in the effort to pollinate crops. (quoted)

Italian honeybees, of course, don’t come from Italy. That’s just their name. Somebody — the photographer or the editor — got it wrong and leaves readers with the impression that we’re bringing over bees from Italy to help us solve our food problems.

Several commenters on the story pointed this out, and one of them (identified as “beezations”) took the opportunity to go on this anti-commercial beekeeping rant:

This is terribly misleading. Italian honeybees are nothing new, but many of us backyard beekeepers have learned the hard way that they tend not to be as hardy in northern climates as the Russian and Carniolan bees.  
But that’s beside the point here. The practices described here are utterly unsustainable and these commercial beekeepers are a large part of the problem. Small farms traditionally included local hives to pollinate their crops, which also tended to be far more diverse. (Think of the wide range of vegetables that show up at your farmer’s market) Commercial beekeepers load hives on pallets, truck them under a plastic wrap in all weather conditions, drop them in the middle of monocultures — the almond groves of Central Valley in CA is responsible year after year for killing more than 75-percent of the commercial hives that are brought there — where they’re fed corn syrup with a ph that wreaks havoc on their guts. The die-offs are astronomical. You’re just seeing the same people import more bees so they can continue the same unsustainable practices. (quoted)

Well, anyway, take a look at the pictures. They’re very nice.

Key words: Washington Post, Andrees Latif, Nicole Crowder, Italian honeybees, beezations, beekeeping, commercial beekeeping, beekeeping in Maine, photos of beekeepers

One thought on “Italian bees don’t necessarily come from Italy

  1. Former Blount Co. Beekeeping Asso. member wins Beekeeper of the year 2014 in Alabama and will be at the Anderson Co. Beekeepers Assoc. meeting Oct. 20 in the Clinton Community Center at 7pm.

    The father of ACBA member Neranza Blount Sobczak will be coming up from lower Alabama along with his wife Lucy for a rare visit to demonstrate his current modifications to his beehive at our October meeting. OJ Blount was recently awarded Beekeeper of the Year in the State of Alabama. Before moving South many years ago, he was an active member in the Knox and Blount County Beekeeping Associations.
    A portion of the nomination letter follows that was submitted by the secretary of the club he founded and will show the many reasons he won this award. Links to videos showing past modifications are below. Compare what he did then to what he’s doing now where you’ll see some changes and some remaining the same. All have been successful in maintaining healthy hives and increasing populations.


    Nomination of Mr. OJ Blount for the State of Alabama Beekeeper of the Year.

    OJ Blount has over 40 years of experience in beekeeping. He has always sought new ways to improve the basic hive to help the queen and colony produce the most bees and most honey. These experiments continue even today. The specially designed hive has had so much success that people everywhere want to know how he does it. Every year he tells people at the state convention that his colonies doubled again, folks spend time to hear his wisdom and stories in beekeeping. He is a lot like some of the other great inventors of our nation’s history that has something special to help improve the lives of others and yet few understand the depth of this man.

    Because of his success he was instrumental in developing and establishing a much needed club in lower Alabama. He had a strong desire to help new and small size beekeepers with their hives and show them better ways to care for their bees. At first he would hold meetings at his home to train anyone that wanted to learn, then after a while the group decided to form a club. The club was named after OJ’s specially designed hive, The Queen’s Castle Beekeeper’s Association.

    Two years ago the membership tripled and now over 180 people have been to our meetings and shown interest in beekeeping, starting their own hives. With the need to host more people OJ is building a 40×40 building for the club at his own expense.

    He now has numerous videos on YouTube demonstrating his methods of natural beekeeping. The original video posted February 2009 has had over 40,000 views. It was split into two parts and Part 2 has over 30,000 views. He’s received praise and thanks from viewers from all over the world.

    We began to show our club off, educating local people about bees and finding new ways to market our honey and bee products. OJ set up our first big club exhibit with the Andalusia Outdoor Expo in 2012 and we have been there ever since. He designed and built the entire display to maximize showing off our honey. In the last 3 annual Outdoor Expos thousands of people came by to learn about beekeeping. It was a huge success and many people joined our club. As the result we were invited to other events throughout our area to tell of our wonderful bees. OJ developed an easy to assemble display that can be adapted to various sized areas for any opportunity the club has to be visible to the public. He includes pollination, the year in flowers, a slate of our members, the importance of water to the bees, and other key contributions the honey bee gives to all of us.

    Under his direction, we now conduct Kid’s Days with the honey bees. Those that attend get a well rounded education about how we work with our bees. They can see up close bees in observation hives and extract some honey from frames with a hand crank extractor. The program can be adapted to just about any size and age of kids interested in keeping bees. OJ put together a magnificent program for all the children and kept them safe from any stings.

    Even for people who don’t want to keep bees, he shows how they can help by showing them the native bee friendly plants they can grow throughout the year to help feed the bees that forage.

    The reason for our club’s success is that OJ truly wants to make the world a better place. He’s constantly trying to educate people on the importance of honeybees and good healthy ways of living. He’s always reading and learning himself while experimenting with the common sense ideas he has.

    He has been featured in the local newspapers many times. The Queen Castle System is continuing to multiply bees and not lose them like most of our industry. Most of our club members are doubling their hives now every year. It is truly an amazing system that other beekeepers could benefit from implementing. It may not be economical for commercial beekeepers because it is so tailor made to protect the precious queen, but it sure works for the hobbyist. If the commercial beekeepers did use this design we would have an abundance of honey and bees in our nation. Two years ago he experimented with Top Bar frames in brood chamber and now honey production is at an all time high.

    People from all over the world are commenting on how they are using OJ’s suggestions. He welcomes people to call him anytime. He’s always willing to take all the time needed to talk to anyone who asks him about how to do beekeeping naturally without chemicals. When everyone else is counting all the hives they’ve lost each year, we keep sharing our success, usually one beekeeper at a time.

    Because of his huge impact to education about the honeybee, the young beekeeper, and finding a way to increase the population; he is the logical choice for Beekeeper of The Year.


    Keith Robinson, Secretary of the Queen’s Castle Beekeeper’s Association


    Beekeeping the Natural Way (Part 1 of 2)

    Beekeeping the Natural Way Part 2 of 2

    OJ Blount’s Modified & Customized Beehive Assembly – Video #3.wmv

    OJ Blount’s 1st Natural Beekeeping Field Day – Video #4

    OJ Blount Top Bar Hive with Lime & Viewing Window – Video #5.avi

    Lucy Blount Narration of Bee Hive Assembly-Video #6.avi

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