Friday, May 16, 2008

The Bees Are Buzzing in the Trees

A lot can change in a month. Observe:

Front path, April 8, 2008...

Front path, May 15th, 2008...

The bees are buzzing in these, our flowering cherry trees. The blossoms only last for a couple of weeks. The constant wind means the petals don't stay long on the branches. When they fall it is like a pink snowstorm.

My dad became a beekeeper after he retired from his career in law enforcement. He called them (bees) his "girls", greeting them when he opened the top of the hive, always carefully replacing the lid so as not to squish any if he could help it.

I tried to catch a honeybee in action, but wasn't successful. Being busy as a bee is a serious kind of busy.

Honeybees are in trouble. When you realize how important they our in the food chain, it is startling to read the hives are dying, and no one knows why.

At one time, my dad was president of the Oregon Beekeepers Association. One of the things he did was work with researchers at Oregon State University to find out the latest information about threats to the health of honeybees. The worst thing at the time was a thing called the varroa mite, which could devastate a hive unless they were treated with medication. Of course, nature being the always-evolving process that it is, the mites could become resistant to the medication over time. This is a serious problem as hives succumb to an insidious pest. Wild honeybees virtually no longer exist. Something like 97% of wild bees have died, so the only reason we have them at all is thanks to beekeepers who work hard to keep them alive and thriving.

Beekeeping is fascinating. From time to time I would suit up and join dad when he smoked the bees to calm them before taking off the lid to work with them. At first, it's unnerving to be so close to all that buzzing, but once you realize they are not after you and could care less about your presence, it's fine. The bees are gentle little things who are focused on gathering nectar and pollen, fanning honey cells, guarding the hive entrance, and feeding the newly hatched young bees. In other words, they've got enough to do without worrying about your scaredy-cat self. Please.

The closest I came to getting a bee in the shot is here. The bee is the blur seen in the lower left-hand corner.

My dad had five years of retirement to enjoy his grandkids, and his bees, before he died suddenly from an infection while being treated for Leukemia. From him, we learned a lot about bees and beekeeping, so when the news reports began about colony collapse disorder we paid attention. This is serious, as it affects everything we eat.

Honeybees are part of the food chain. We wouldn't have fruit, nuts, and crops without their (and other insect's) pollination work. Check out the Haagen Dazs website to learn about the problem and see what you can do to help.

The University of California Davis and Pennsylvania
State University are both researching the problem.

Beekeepers do what they can to keep their hives alive and pollinate for farmers and fruit growers. How long this will last, no one knows.

And so, for my dad, I will do what I can to help the honeybees.

1 comment:

Deby said...

Very cool post. I would gladly exchange the yellowjackets that I can't get rid of for some more honeybees. I am happy to tell you that my friend's neighbor keeps bees himself right here in Bend.