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Bittman’s at it again.

Mark Bittman, a food writer for the New York Times, wants to change the way you eat. He wants to change the entire food system, too. The way we produce, distribute and consume food.

But that’s impossible, so he’s having to content himself with telling us how we should eat, what we should eat, and how we should think about food.

(Typical, isn’t it, of those liberal know-it-alls who produce and read the New York Times.)

The thing is, I agree with him.

He’s put out another column saying he had only — ONLY — two rules for us to follow (maybe three):

1. Stop eating junk and hyperprocessed food. This eliminates probably 80 percent of the stuff that is being sold as “food.”

2. Eat more plants than you did yesterday, or last year.

If you add “Cook your own food” to this list, it’s even more powerful, but these two steps alone allow you to reduce the amount of antibiotics you’re consuming; pretty much eliminate GMOs from your diet, lighten your carbon footprint; reduce your chances of becoming ill as a result of your diet; save money; cut way back on sugar, other junk and unnecessary and potentially harmful nonfood additives; and so on. (quoted material)

Bittman makes some point points in his column that are well worth reading.

So what does this have to do with beekeeping?

Well, just about everything. Bees are central to our food system. And that system is abusing them terribly. We truck them across the country to pollinate crops that are grown in places that cannot sustain bees. Then we truck them home.

So, who would argue that our system of food production doesn’t need changing?

Bittman is showing us a way to start.

Related articles:

Marla Spivak on why we are in a honeybee crisis

Changing the food system, one mouth at a time

Key words: Mark Bittman, New York Times, food system, junk food, beekeeping, honeybees, pollination, food production, rules for diet, liberal know-it-alls who produce and read the New York Times,

 

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What is the purpose of a colony of bees?

Pollination? Wrong.

A swarm of bees marches into its new home after being dropped from a tree.

A swarm of bees marches into its new home after being dropped from a tree.

Bees do this by accident. They don’t realize how much they’re helping humans and wouldn’t care if they did.

Making honey? Wrong.

Bees make honey because this is a stable food source. The fact that humans like honey is again irrelevant to the bees.

Bees are like any other wild animal. They exist for two reasons: to survive and to reproduce.

Except that, in the case of honeybees, most of them don’t reproduce. They are part of a colony, and the colony tries to survive and to reproduce.

Which brings us to “casting swarms.”

I don’t recall ever coming across that term until veteran beekeeper Jim Tew used it in a presentation to the Blount County Beekeepers Association meeting in August. Jim said then that bees will try to survive until they can find a suitable place to live — a good hollow tree or something like that — and “cast a few swarms.”

The term popped up again when I was reading Thomas Seeley’s Honeybee Democracy, a fascinating book that is built around Seeley’s decades of study of swarming behavior.

In upstate New York, where I live, my colonies begin sending forth their drones in late April, and they begin casting their swarms . . . a week or two later in early May. (p. 35)

* * * 

An enduring mystery about honeybees is what exactly stimulates a colony to begin rearing queens and thereby initiate the process of swarming. Beekeepers know that certain conditions inside a colony’s hive (congestion of the adult bees, numerous immature bees, and expanding food reserves) and outside the hive (plentiful forage and spring time) are correlated with the start of queen rearing for swarming. Nevertheless, to this day, no one knows what specific stimuli the worker bees are sensing and integrating when they make the critical decision to start the swarming process. (p. 36) (quoted material)

Swarming is what bees do. It’s one of their basic purposes. As good beekeepers, we should let them do it.

Related articles

Jim Tew describes the inside of a feral beehive

Tew: the natural hive is not a ‘permanent’ home for bees

A different view of swarms

 

Key words: bees, beekeeping, casting swarms, pollination, Thomas Seeley, Honeybee Democracy, swarming, honey

 


Is colony collapse disorder (CCD) over?

Apparently, an increasing portion of the scientific and governmental community concerned with bees believes that it is.

If so, it’s good news. But it isn’t all good news, as Noah Wilson-Rich, founder and chief scientific officer of the Best Bees Company and the author of The Bee: A Natural History, writes in an op-ed column published in the New York Times.

While this is undoubtedly good news, we cannot let it blind us to a hard truth. Bees are still dying; it’s just that we’re finding the dead bodies now, whereas with C.C.D., they were vanishing. Bees are still threatened by at least three major enemies: diseases, chemicals (pesticides, fungicides, herbicides, etc.) and habitat loss. (quoted)

***

C.C.D. created momentum for the greater cause of bee health, of acknowledging the importance of pollinators. We cannot lose this momentum now. Honeybees pollinate more than 100 fruit and vegetable crops that we rely on for food. According to the entomologist Nicholas W. Calderone at Cornell, bees contribute more than $15 billion annually to the economy in the United States alone, and that number soars past $100 billion globally. (quoted)

jpegWilson-Rich points out that we still lose about 30 percent of our colonies each winter. He also makes a number of good points in the article:

  • Migratory beekeeping, which is necessary for sustaining our current system of agriculture, is not good for us and not good for the bees.
  • Our concentration on honeybees has diverted our attention from the many other types of bees (20,000 species in all) that contribute greatly to the pollination that must be done for our food crops.
    • To make our pollination practices efficient once again, we need to pay attention to the data. Just last year, Jeffery S. Pettis of the United States Department of Agriculture and his colleagues published data indicating that honeybees appeared to be getting credit from farmers for work that other bee species were actually doing. We continue to get crops of blueberries, cranberries, cucumbers, watermelons and pumpkins, but honeybee hives in those fields are not filled with pollen from those crops. (quoted)
  • The government needs to change its policy of rewarding monoculture and instead start supporting diversity in agriculture.

Wilson-Rich’s article gives us much to consider.

Read the rest of this entry »


A big part of the battle to save bees and improve the environment for all of us is taking place, not in the fields and around the hives, but in the nation’s courtrooms.

One of those battles is being fought by an outfit named EarthJustice.org.

EarthJustice.org describes itself as

. . . the nation’s premiere environmental law organization, built on the belief that we all have the right to a healthy environment. Since our founding in 1971, we’ve defended that right by using the power of the law to fight for the earth and its inhabitants.

With nearly 100 lawyers on its staff, EarthJustice works in three areas:

One of the suits that EarthJustice is working on now is trying to get the Environmental Protection Agency to roll back its approval of the “pesticide Sulfoxaflor, shown to be “highly toxic” to honey bees, and other insect pollinators. Sulfoxaflor is a new chemistry, and the first of a newly assigned sub-class of pesticides in the “neonicotinoid” class of pesticides, which scientists across the globe have linked as a potential factor to widespread and massive bee colony collapse.” You can read more about this suit on this page on EarthJustice’s website.

EarthJustice has extensive information about bees and other environmental challenges. The graphic below is the first of a series of five (the others are reproduced at the end of this post) about the current status of bees in the environment.

final-section1

EarthJustice.org is worth a long look.

Read the rest of this entry »


The New Jersey Beekeepers Association has produced a beautiful eight-minute video calling for citizens in that state to plant “pollinator gardens” — spaces that have blooms attractive to pollinators that last all summer long.

The video lays out the reasons — well known to use beekeepers — why the non-beekeeping public should be concerned about pollinators and the steps we can all take to maintain the population of honeybees, bumblebees, butterflies and other important insects.

Here’s the video. It’s well worth watching:

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Key words: New Jersey Beekeepers Association, honeybee video, pollinators, pollinator gardens, beekeepers, flowers, blooms, flowers that bees like, flowers for pollinators, pollination, bees in trouble


Veteran beekeeper Howard Kerr told the Blount County Beekeepers Association that bees are extraordinary animals and worth a lot of study.

Howard Kerr speaking to the BCBA

Howard has devoted nearly 50 years to doing just that. Here are a few of the points he made:

  • While worker bees have barbed stingers, the queen has a smooth stinger. That’s what she uses to fight other queens. Because it’s smooth, she doesn’t lose it when she uses it. Worker bees lose their stingers when they used them and thus can live for only a short time after that.
  • When you buy a three-pound package of bees, you’re getting about 10,000 bees. There are about 3,300 bees to a pound.
  • The only purpose of a drone is to mate with a queen (not necessarily of the same hive). The mating is done in the air, and once the mating is finished, the drone dies.
  • You are what you eat; so are the bees. An egg gets hormone-rich royal jelly for about three days, but then the nurse bees most of the time stop feeding that. If a bee continues to get royal jelly, she could develop into a queen.
  • Bees use landmarks to find their way around, especially when they are returning to the hive.
  • Bees have something called “flower fidelity,” which is what makes them such good pollinators. They will work the same type of flower over and over. Consequently, they are more likely to carry the pollen from one flower to another. Other insects work a variety of flowers at the same time, and they are less likely to be good pollinators.
  • Bees are not smart (“People don’t like it when I say that,” Howard said), but they are “highly programmed.”

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Blount County Beekeepers Association

Join us

If you’re interested in joining the Blount County Beekeepers Association, call

Dale Hinkle
423-261- 5234

or

Kathy Flaherty
203-314- 0270

Welcome

Welcome to the web site of the Blount County Beekeepers Association in Maryville, Tennessee.

This site will tell you a little about the association and how to become a member. It will also tell you a little about beekeeping.

Bees are an important part of our environment and particularly our agricultural system. They are also fascinating creatures.

We hope you will be interested enough to join us at some point, even if you're not interested in keeping bees. There are lots of ways you can join in with what we do.

Follow us on Twitter at @blountbees.

Schedule of BCBA meetings for 2019

The Blount County Beekeepers Association meets on the second Monday of every month, except for September and December, at 6:30 p.m. at the Maryville Church of Christ, 611 Sherwood Drive in Maryville.

All of the meetings are open to the public, and anyone interested in learning more about beekeeping is welcome and encouraged to attend.

The following is the schedule of meetings and activities for 2018:

January 14 – regular meeting

February 11 – regular meeting

February 16 – BCBA short course for new beekeepers

TBA– New Beekeepers class

March 11 – regular meeting

March 17 -Wooden Ware class

April 8 – regular meeting

April  27-Field Day for new beekeepers

May 13 – regular meeting

June 10 – regular meeting

July 8 – regular meeting

August 12 – regular meeting

October 14 – regular meeting

November 11 – regular meeting

December 9 – Christmas dinner

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