I recently read an article about apiaries (also known as bee yards) being placed in various neighborhoods around Pittsburgh, and became curious about these little critters. A friend started her first beehive in her garden this year
(the bees were sent to her via mail!), and she prepared for this daunting pursuit by taking a class from our local bee professionals, Burgh Bees. Burgh Bees offer lectures, classes, and volunteer oppurtunities, all open to the public. There are plenty of reasons to learn more about bees right now, especially since the onslaught of colony collapse disorder. According to the USDA Agricultural Research Service, “beginning in October 2006, some beekeepers began reporting losses of 30-90 percent of their hives.” Although scientists believe they have recently found the cause of colony collapse, they have not, as of yet, figured out how to prevent it from happening in the future.
Some fascinating honeybee facts, courtesy of the Utah County Beekeepers Association:
• Honeybees are responsible for pollinating approx 80% of all fruit, vegetable and seed crops in the U.S.
• The queen may lay 600-800 or even 1,500 eggs each day during her 3 or 4 year lifetime. This daily egg production may equal her own weight. She is constantly fed and groomed by attendant worker bees.
• Honeybees are the only bees that die after they sting.
• Bees communicate with each other by dancing and by using pheromones (scents).
• To make one pound of honey, the bees in the colony must visit 2 million flowers, fly over 55,000 miles, and that pound will be the lifetime work of approximately 300 bees.
• Bees produce honey as food stores for the hive during the long months of winter when flowers aren’t blooming and therefore little or no nectar is available to them.
• Honeybees never sleep!
I care about what’s happening to honeybees—not just because they’re the hardest working critters in nature—but also because I care about the future of our food supply. Many of our wild hives are dissappearing, farmland is being abandoned, and people are not exactly swarming to become beekeepers (pun totally intended). So promoting beekeeping in non-traditional areas seems like a positive thing, and I hope that with more information people might be less scared to support well-planned and non-intrusive apiaries in a variety of neighborhoods.
Of course, if you’re bee-curious there are also plenty of great resources at your local library. Coming up on Saturday October 15th, 3:30 – 5:00 there will be a free lecture on tree honeys as part of the People’s University educational series. This lecture will illustrate the importance of trees to our native honeybee population, and there will even be a free honey tasting!
And a few recent books on bees and beekeeping:
View this short video if you wish to learn more about Burgh Bees:
* Yes, this title is indeed a Simpsons reference