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greenliving
working pollinator may lie in finding ways
to dramatically increase honeybee re-
search funding, which is being decreased
in some states, due to budget cuts.
The nonprofit Friends of Honey-
bees Foundation has been established
as a conduit for honey bee research
funds. Some companies, like Häagen-
Dazs, have also set up donation sites.
A powerfully positive alternative
action, encouraged by under-funded
When early colonists first sailed to the New World in the 1620s, they brought
researchers, is for private individuals to
along their cherished European honey bees, introducing Apis mellifera to the
take up small-scale beekeeping.
“An army of amateur beekeepers
North American continent. Here, while sowing the seeds of statehood, our
could become part of an eventual solu-
pioneer forebears continued to practice the customs of rural England, where tion by helping to collect field data in a
honey bees had long been treated as family members. “Telling the bees” about
wide array of microclimates and condi-
births, marriages and deaths and including them in special occasions was part
tions,” suggests David Tarpy, Ph.D., the
state apiculturist and an associate pro-
of the fabric of family life. by N’ann Harp
fessor of entomology at North Carolina
State University.
T
oday, small-scale, organic system, attracted to the flowering fruit
Renewed popularity of the English
beekeeping is making a timely and vegetable crops that sustained their
garden hive structure harkens back
comeback, with renewed interest own hive and honey production needs.
to times when women were often the
in and respect for these lost arts from a In return, the bees enhanced pollina-
mistresses responsible for family hives.
simpler time. tion and increased harvest yields for
Readily available in easily assembled
“In my over forty years of beekeep- their human partners.
kits from beekeeping catalogs, this
ing, I’m seeing a greater interest in the Over the intervening millennia, this
lighter hive holds fewer frames than
craft. I’ve worked with several appren- interspecies friendship has evolved into
heavier, commercial hives. It is often
tices who are eager to learn about the the practices of modern beekeeping,
sold with a gabled, copper-roof section
art of beekeeping. They are amazed generating dozens of crop-specific indus-
or adorned with finials, making it a de-
with the work involved in producing tries. Roughly 100 of the world’s favorite
lightful visual addition to a bee-friendly
the final product,” say Bob Verslues a food crops are now directly reliant upon
backyard or rooftop urban garden.
local beekeeper. He and his wife has honeybee pollination, which translates to
State-funded cooperative extension
made this field their life and has helped about 40 percent of the human diet.
programs across the country have the
many others to learn about beekeeping. Today, however, the very capacity
scoop on beekeeping and honey pro-
Humans share with honey bees an for cross-species cooperation that gave
duction, providing free information and
ancient, intimate and symbiotic rela- rise to the human-honeybee relation-
regular classes. The largest bee school
tionship of mutual benefit. Although ship has also given rise to a host of
in the United States, in Asheville, North
the fossil records indicate that honey unintended consequences, including a
Carolina, last year hosted 300 students
bees were thriving on the planet for phenomenon dubbed Colony Collapse
for a multi-weekend program and turned
an estimated 70 million years prior to Disorder, in which resident honey bees
away dozens, due to lack of space.
the appearance of man, human beings simply vanish from hives.
Remarks Tarpy, “These are encouraging
and these highly-evolved social insects Something is seriously wrong and
signs that many are answering the call.”
quickly developed an enduring affinity scientists are stumped. Some observers
For information and to locate a lo-
for each other. call the situation the “perfect storm” of
cal beekeeping association or club, visit
Our interconnectedness goes back circumstances, which includes the pro-
FriendsOfHoneybees.org/resources.
at least 10,000 years, when humans liferation of pesticide and chemical use
html. Secure a garden hive from Brushy-
began to record their honey-hunting in mono-crop production; poor queen
MountainBeeFarm.com.
activities in charcoal and chalk pic- breeding practices; loss of genetic
Verslues Apiary is located at 1622
tographs on cave walls. Honey was a diversity; immune system weaknesses;
Seven Hills Road in Jefferson City distrib-
valuable food source for our ancestors global trade expansion, introducing
utes honey throughout central Missouri.
and they collected it avidly. alien pests against which local bees
For information call 573.635.3283.
As the hunter-gatherer societ- haven’t had time to develop resistance;
N’ann Harp is a beekeeping
ies settled into self-sustaining family mystery viruses; and the usual pests,
activist, freelance writer and founder
groups, small garden plots became a threats and challenges of sustaining
of Friends of Honeybees, living in
familiar center of agriculture and social healthy, resilient colonies that can pro-
Asheville, NC. Contact her at Nann@
stability. Honey bees adapted to the duce strong queen bees.
FriendsOfHoneybees.org or info@TheS-
increasingly organized agricultural Hope for saving the world’s hardest-
picewoodFarm.com.
32 New Haven/Middlesex Counties
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