“The keeping of bees is like the direction of sunbeams.”- Henry David Thoreau
Many of us are not fans of insects. We see them as something in the corner of our houses to be squished. Sometimes I completely agree with this sentiment, even though on an intellectual level I know that they all invariably serve a purpose. We often do not know that purpose, or we choose to ignore it. It seems lately we have been leaning toward the latter with bees. The bee about which I am speaking is of course the Honey Bee (Apis nearctica L.)
These little guys do so much for us that we seem to have taken them for granted lately. I you looked in newspapers over the summer there is a chance you saw something about the bees that died in South Carolina. The more likely headline was about some thing political or even the Zika Virus. This virus is related to our friends the bees, but certainly not in a good way. The fine people of Dorchester County, SC had a massive killing of their bees caused by a pesticide spray used with the intent to kill mosquitoes that may have carried Zika. I can certainly understand the desire to keep people safe and healthy. But what about keeping them fed?
Whether most of us understand it or not we rely on bees everyday. We consume, food that they polinate: almonds, fruit, most flower producing vegetables, if it has a bright flower chances are good a bee has pollinated it. We use beeswax in cosmetics and candles. Honey is an amazing food, one reason is the ability not to spoil. According to National Geographic “The honey, dating back approximately 3,000 years, is the world’s oldest sample – and still perfectly edible.The secret behind honey’s eternal shelf life is a range of factors. Hydrogen peroxide, acidity and lack of water work together to make this sticky substance last forever.”
Bees are a resource that should not be understated within the community of Agriculture. They help us to generate not only the commodities that we grow for sale, but they grow their own. Keeping bees on properties have been shown to increase crop yields. They also have extra revenue streams that if carefully managed will benefit man and bee alike. Being good stewards of bees does require some specialized equipment and knowledge. Luckily one can acquire a great amount of that knowledge through the internet. I certainly recommend heading over to PerfectBee they are currently running a beginner beekeeping course that runs until the end of January. I have yet to find a more easily accessible source of bee know how.
Please go and learn more about your food, and if you have the opportunity support a local producer. Or better yet become one. If enough of us do that we can change the world. We can make it what we want it to be.