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I Feel the Earth Move… Future Honey: A New Crop of Beekeepers


By Cal Orey

Meet James, a caring beekeeper with 17 colonies, who admits he is not a formally educated guy but is an apt pupil of nature and human nature. He maintains bees and teaches sus- tainable beekeeping workshops on his 35-acre homestead in the Ozarks, which he likes to call Bee Landing. Here is one devoted backyard beekeeper’s eye- view of the alarm- ing die-off of honey bees…

Honey Bees from a Beekeeper’s Perspective

“In my opinion, it is our monoculture society and men- tality. We have altered the honey bee and the bee hive to a degree that we have weakened them and made them more susceptible to disease that they could normally fend off themselves. We have sent them out to gather pollen and nectar in a toxic environment—like orchards with insect disorders that need to be sprayed with pes- ticides, fungicides, and other cides.

How have we altered the bee and hive from what nature intended? The bees are mass bred (artificially insemi- nated) in the southern states and dispersed around the country. This reduces genetic diversity and creates a situation ripe for disaster.

So…What am I doing and what do I recommend you do about it? Stop doing things for the bees! Just stand back and watch nature. Stop all the chemical treatments, and let the bees live or die on their own. The bees that live are your breeding stock, the bees that die are no longer in your gene pool. Go local. If you are not into keeping bees, then get to know your local beekeeper, and if you are a beekeeper buy your bees from an existing natural beekeeper as close to you as possible.”

Entering the 21st Century Bee Culture

Currently, honey bees and beekeepers are being chal- lenged, but that isn’t stopping the skyrocketing number of beginning beekeepers. Bee Culture magazine editor Kim Flottum’s classes are fuller than they have been in a decade, sales of beekeeping equipment are on the rise, and the sales of bees are not disappearing.

If you think the up-and-coming beekeepers are coun- try folk, think again. Meet the new urban beekeepers who live in Denver, New York, and Minneapolis, thanks to the relaxation of laws restricting beekeeping. And

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The top five honey-producing states are

North Dakota, South Dakota, Florida, Minnesota, and California.

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• • Research is ongoing on the West Coast and

East Coast to find out what is causing the honey bee decline.

A new crop of beekeepers are taking interest

in growing their own fruits and vegetables and pro- ducing their own honeys.

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many of the people are women. “The greatest drive,” says Flottum, “is that people want more control in their lives…especially control over where their food comes from.”

As the years pass, by 2050, I sense that the honey bee will continued to be challenged by both Mother Nature and man- kind. And, of course, I see more of a self-reliance trend happening, where people will make their own honey and grow their own food. It’s self- preservation.

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