Honeybees have been around for about 22 million years. Although they have been "kept" by beekeepers for at least 4,500 years, and were first brought to the Americas in 1620, the first National Honey Bee Day was held just three years ago in August of 2009. Since I am BEEKEEPER and I love honeybees, I would like to share the goals of the National Honey Bees Day program and encourage everyone to celebrate honeybees this Saturday and every day! The goals of the National Honeybee Day program include promotion and advancement of beekeeping, educating the public about honeybees and beekeeping, and raising public awareness of environmental concerns as they effect honey bees.
So here goes...
1) Promotion and advancement of beekeeping: It’s not easy being a beekeeper- but it is something most can do with a little research and hard work. (It is also very interesting and quite rewarding.) There are large-scale apiaries, where one operation has thousands of beehives, but there are also small-scale beekeepers as well. It would be great if 1000 people each started one hive. All it takes is a small investment and a love of honeybees, food, and the future. Your gardens will flourish and you may get a little honey for your efforts. You will be helping the honeybees.
There are beekeeping orginizations like the Long Island Beekeepers Club , New York City Beekeeping and the Eastern Apicultural Society to assist you, so if you want to become a beekeeper, you won’t be alone. Beekeepers are happy to help and can answer any questions you might have. If your local beekeeper cannot answer your questions, there are a few Master Beekeepers on Long Island who can help you.
2) Educate the public about honeybees and beekeeping: I have a website about my honeybees, who we call Bonac Bees. You can find some good information at www.BonacBees.com. I gave a presentation to an Introduction to Sustainability Studies class at Stony Brook University, and I have posted the PowerPoint on my website. Feel free to contact me with any questions you have on bees or beekeeping! I also have a blog on honeybees, where I try to compile informative articles and links about bees and beekeeping. Go to www.bonacbees.blogspot.com to check it out.There is a wealth of information on the internet about honeybees, and you can find books and films on the subject as well.
3) Make the public aware of environmental concerns as they affect honeybees: It is not new news that honeybees have declined across the planet at an alarming rate. Colony Collapse Disorder or CCD is sweeping the planet. First reported in Florida in fall 2006, CCD is the disappearance of bees from many parts of the world. In the last 20 years, the domesticated honeybee population has shrunk by 30-50% in the U.S. Experts estimate that CCD is already costing 5.7 billion dollars worldwide in lost crops and products each year. Honeybees are responsible for a 20 billion dollar crop in the USA! Honeybees are the most economically important pollinator on the planet and yet they are disappearing at an alarming rate.
Wild honeybees are almost non-existent, and honeybees reared in apiaries are suffering a severe population decline as well. On average, we are losing about a third of the honeybees each year. Interesting to note is that honeybees are responsible for about a third of the food we eat, including meat. Honeybees pollinate food that farm animals eat, so if you eat meat, thank the honeybees. If you eat fruits, vegetables, grains or almost any food product, you can thank the honeybees- and then you might want to help them out a bit.
Symptoms of CCD include the relatively sudden disappearance from the hive of a majority of bees, yet pollen, honey, and brood remain. Few or no dead bees remain in the colony. Sometimes, a small cluster of bees and the queen will remain. There is no single known cause for CCD. Pathogens such as bacteria, fungi and viruses, as well as Varroa & Tracheal mites are killing bees and weakening colonies. Moving colonies or poor management can be a factor as well. Malnutrition due to loss of habitat and the wide scale monoculture of commercial crops can contribute to CCD. Global climate change is affecting us all, honeybees included! This year we had a very warm winter which caused honeybees to be quite active, when they should have been "hibernating". The mild weather may have caused honeybees to swarm earlier than "usual". Researchers think that stress, culminating from a variety of factors may drive them out of the hive as well.
The big killer of honeybees, and one that we can surely control (if we wanted to), is pesticides such as imidacloprid and many others. Imidacloprid, a neurotoxin, is widely used to kill aphids, whiteflies, leafhoppers, scales, mealy bugs, longhorn beetles, potato beetles, grubs, termites, locusts, and even fleas. A major problem, besides the fact that this chemical is highly toxic to honeybees, is that it is found in our DRINKING WATER right here on Long Island, and certain groups are calling for the BAN of this poisonous chemical. to read a blog on my request to the Town Board to ban Imidacloprid. There are non-toxic or less toxic alternatives to dangerous chemicals that farmers and home gardeners can use. Biological pest control utilizing natural enemies and environmentally friendly solutions can control unwanted pests. We can help save the honeybees and have cleaner drinking water by using fewer chemical pesticides.
An ecological catastrophe will occur if we lose the honeybee. Some attribute this quote to Einstein, “If the bee disappears from the surface of the earth, man would have no more than four years to live. No more bees, no more pollination … no more men!” Wow.
Click here to learn how to help honeybees.
Buyer bee-ware! If you eat honey,or know someone who does, you must read this! “Honey laundering: The sour side of nature's golden sweetener.” (FYI: honey is baked into breakfast cereals, cookies, sauces and even cough drops- so you may be eating honey and not even know it!)
Happy National Honeybee Day to all the Honeybees and to YOU!