SILENT SPRING

Our fruit trees are already blooming, but there is something missing!

Eight species from a North American bumble bee genus (Bombus) were studied. Four out of the eight showed serious declines in both number and size of habitat since the late 1800’s. The abundance of some bees had declined by 96 percent, while the ranges of some bees shrank by 23 to 87 percent – The Case of the Disappearing Bees

We’ve been keeping bees in the city on and off over the last 18 years (Farmer D started keeping bees back in 1972 on the first homestead in New Zealand.)   For me, the honeybee has always been part of my childhood.  Growing up, helped harvest honey and remember folks coming from all over to buy the gooey raw nectar.

This spring there’s an eerie silence here on the urban homestead.  The feral bee colony is no more.   Of course, we are puzzled at this hive’s recent and unexplained vanishing act.   Could it be CCD ? We are suspecting  that this die off isn’t a “natural cycle” and probably more to do with human activity.   The neighboring school’s recent installation of WI-FI, perhaps?

Does that mean the end of keeping these beneficial insects here on the urban homestead, we wonder and are very, very worried indeed.  We are worried too about the recent urban bee trend that has cultivated bee “havers” instead of true “keepers.”  “Havers”  will wreck havoc for us “keepers” here in the city who are diligent in the maintenance of their hives.  These folks will do more harm than good in their attempt to “save the bees.”

Instead of being joyous at the sight of fruit trees bursting into bloom, feeling the emptiness of our pollinator friends.   It would always make me happy to see bees happily going about their buzziness but the lack of is absolutely heartbreaking.

Still checking our bee traps in the lower Arroyo Seco and still nothing. *sigh*

We all should be worried about the unexplained mystery.  If this post hasn’t scared you, here’s a chart that will.

This is the fourth year in a row, that more than a 1/3 of the Western honeybees have failed to survive the winter. Bees contribute to global food security (contributing to about 1/3 of our diet) and their extinction would represent a terrible biological disaster.

Bees are the on the front lines when it comes to predicting the future and are the latest causality in our fiddling with the nature of things.

Comments(21)

  1. Nebraska Dave says:

    Our biological growing is definitely in trouble. The bee situation has been escalating concern about the productivity of our food sources. I’m not sure whether it has become a problem in Nebraska yet as I see many bees in my urban garden and many hives in the rural areas. Then of course there is the issue of the killer bees that continue to creep northward that have no crop value what so ever. We really don’t hear much about the disappearing bees in the news. I pray that this is just a cycle and our friend the bees will rise again to balence the ecology of the world.

    Have a great California day

    • Jeph Cater says:

      @Nebraska Dave, Thats is very well said!

    • Veronica V. says:

      @Nebraska Dave,

      Hear, Hear! I just hope this doesn’t go the way of the bats here. And to think, people complain about bats and bees because they “bother” them. It’s like that new country song, “Rain is a good thing”, what is good for all is horrible for some.

  2. Tina Mata says:

    Bee Keepers vs Bee Havers . . . thank you for this new insight.

    10 years ago I began shifting my consumption habits which did unfortunately seem to fill a numbing need as I moved toward sustainability. Ugly as it sounds, my living within a veneer, an illusion of simplicity did infact feed my ego and seemed the lesser of 2 evils at the time. I felt I was ready to keep bees, began to do my research and noticed that you all stopped selling your simple Top Bar hives a few years back. I later assumed that they were difficult to keep healthy without extensive and sensitive bee knowledge. I asked a local bee keeper if they might consider keeping of a hive on my little property if I finance the hive, and we came up with a simple barter of a percentage of honey produced.

    Can you better define for us the measurable differences. What makes a bee-keeper. Do tell us more.

    Your writing confirm by growing awareness of ways in which I am a bit off track in my own hunger and enthusiasm. Please give us best practices then, some wise initial steps, short of having a hive. How best to create a bee friendly environment. Plantings, what else. Wifi ? ? ? I just logged on and my computer picks up 25 wifi networks available in my house in my densely populated urban neighborhood. TWENTY FIVE !

    Please keep telling it like it is, we are not so fragile and delicate that we can not handle your keen insights and perspective on these things. No matter our intention, mass media and culture too often trump faith, vision, and intention. You help to light the way and to keep us on the narrow path, and we thank you.

    Tina Mata
    Mid Wilshire
    Los Angeles

  3. Peri Simmons says:

    Hello from Ohio. We plan to become beekeepers soon. This is very alarming. Please keep us keepers updated. We plan to have natural, untreated hives so we can help develop more adaptive bees that can withstand techno and pesticide lunacy. At least that is the plan.

    I have been a lurker on your website for almost 10 years this is my first time commenting. You folks have been my revolutionary gurus. Here is how. I grew an urban garden for years in the town of Akron. We had runner ducks for a couple years(they took the slug population down mightily)and Buff Orpingtons They both made the garden lush and productive. Two years ago we moved to 7 acres in the country. We now have roo for more than 3 ducks and 4 chickens. We have a 40ft by 40ft garden, with homemade fence. A partly built poultry tiny house on wheels.

    We are in our 50s so small but productive,beyond organic,efficient, are our watch words. This has all been inspired by your blog. Our new farmette is near a depressed area. All the last generation left to work in the farm industry. We hope to reintroduce growing your own healthy food, humanely raising animals for compost and meat. And once again having a more food self-sufficent community by being an example . We can demonstrate what can be done by 2 elder people one white (hubby) one black(wife me).

    With about 3 cleared acres and the rest wooded we will try to show how much can be done if you are willing to learn, grow,teach.

    All because of your blog, we have found our bliss. We realized we were not alone. We were always infant revolutionaries. We homeschooled our kids. cooked from scratch. Baked bread, pitss, cornbread, chapatis, bagels, sourdough and more, all before it became trendy.

    We knit, preserve, garden, do plumbing, demolition, reconstruction, electric, dehydrate, and more. The job layoffs taught us how to move from job to job, how to turn me into a stay-at-home mom. I could save more money than I could earn. When we needed more blankets I learned to quilt from library books. I could no longer afford a variety of fruit for my family, I planted 6 raspberry bushes, one grape vine, (no room for even one dwarf tree) A chester blackberry. We traded some fruit for other fruit from friends and neighbors. Or help building a deck and installing a shed or a sunroom onto the new deck.

    I will not go on but there is much more.

    Thank you so much. I refer your blog to all my daughters’ friends who show the most casual interest in better food, old fashioned skills, or have read the Little House series. Or who would like to raise thir toddler to be a thinking person.

    I could write an article on these aquired skills> I hope to pay it forward. You folks can’t realize the impact you have had. Thank you is not enough!!!!

  4. Hollie says:

    I’m new, hello! Your website is great! I wanted to ask though, I’m not sure, what’s the difference between havers and keepers? I have a friend who keeps several hives, gives me honey, etc. I’ve considered joining her. But I’m not sure what is meant by the difference.

  5. Cindy says:

    This past weekend I headed into my back yard to do some spring cleaning and noticed that bees have made a home in my retaining wall. I am overly joyed that they have decided to live so close to where my fruits and vegetables will be planted, however I do have a fear of being stung this year. Also, their hive is about 30 feet from where my 7 year old son plays . They do not seem to be aggressive, but I don’t know much about bees. I want nothing more from them than to pollinate my garden. Can anyone give any advice on how to stay safe as I prepare, plant and tend my garden as well as any input on how to help them thrive? Thanks

    • sue says:

      @Cindy,

      Put up a simple L-shaped, fence-like barrier (stakes and shade cloth, or something similar) coming out from the wall a foot or so and then turning in front of where their entrance is, and make it at least a foot higher than the entrance. The idea is to direct the bee-line away from human traffic, towards a quieter part of your yard. Once they’ve exited the wall, in the direction you’ve pointed them, they will fly up and away. If you have pointed the bee-line in the opposite direction of the kid’s play yard, the odds of him getting stung are small. As for you gardening, you shouldn’t have a problem either unless you are very active close to their entrance. Wear light-colored clothes, no scented lotions or, especially, hair products, and if the bees seem aggressive anyway, walk calmly away for a while. They are not going to attack you unless they feel their hive is being directly threatened.

      Make sure there is a nice water source for them nearby (at the base of the wall is fine) so they can always get a drink. This will keep them from getting cranky. A bucket of water with corks or packaging peanuts covering the surface works great. (They need something to perch on while drinking or they will just drown.)

      Go ahead and garden as usual, and enjoy your new friends! If they do become an intolerable nuisance, please do NOT have them exterminated!!! You could start now (so you will be prepared if necessary) to find a beekeeper in your area who is willing and able to trap and re-hive these bees without using any lethal methods. Good luck!

      • Cindy says:

        @sue,
        Thanks you so much Sue! Great information and I am glad to hear that they should be able to stay! If for some reason they can not, I alredy have a contact lined up to remove and relocate them. With the peril of our bee populations I would never terminate a colony willingly! Thanks again!
        Cindy

  6. Brenda says:

    I’m another one that questions the difference between havers and keepers. I am not a keeper (yet anyway) but maybe I am a haver?? My homestead sweetener of choice is maple syrup. My husband just tapped yesterday during a bit of “nice” weather. We’ll process it on our indoor woodstove, much to the dismay of the old timers who worry about my wallpaper. Luckily, I don’t have wallpaper.
    Pollination is important to me for my garden in town (more like a rural village) and for our orchard on our land. I have no idea if bees are in trouble here but I do know some bee keepers and will ask. It is probably a little soon to see them here yet though in Western New York.
    I spent my first 10 years in Southern Cal and my SIL currently teaches at Fullerton in Pasadena so it is enjoyable to visit/lurk regularly.
    Do comment further about this bee thing. Inquiring minds want to know more.

  7. terri says:

    Some believe that the cause of disappearing bees could be due to genetically modified plants that have built-in pesticides….

    • Paul says:

      Some also say maybe “chemtrails” if they really do exist. It’s supposed to be chemicals they’re spraying from high level jetliners for whatever reason. Who knows! Tons of conspiracy theories on that one.

      Just google it and decide for yourself if those trails that stay in the sky vs. the ones that disappear are real or not. Some people have laid out water trays to collect what’s in the air and tested it to see what chemicals are raining down.

  8. Rob DeLay says:

    Anais, SO sorry to hear of this loss. You may be exactly right to suggest that the recent addition of wi-fi may have something to do with it. There is much evidence to support, yet nothing to nail it down to yet. Keeping three hives going at our one acre farm has been, to date, stress free. My constant research into what the hell is going with the bees, has led me to believe that we may be looking at the latest version of the “canary in a coalmine” scenario. And that it will probably turn out to be bio-accumulation of several toxic factors. There are several, as of yet, “out there” suggestions that it may have something to do with a shift in the earth’s magnetic poles.
    I’m sorry, but I’m not ready to go in that direction today. Again, I’m truly feeling what you all must be feeling. Too bad we live in Michigan, because we had a swarm off of one of our hives this summer, were able to capture them, so we’re actually looking at four hives this Spring, and We’d be more than happy to pass them on to you. Good luck!

    • Tina says:

      I did a quick search and found this article on the link between cell phones and CCD

      http://articles.cnn.com/2010-06-30/world/bee.decline.mobile.phones_1_bee-populations-cell-phone-radiation-ofcom?_s=PM:WORLD

      I never made this connection and it is very alarming. I am glad you posted this. I am going to continue research and in the meantime ask my husband to shut down our wireless network here at home.

    • Rob DeLay says:

      Anais , Sorry to offer you one of our hives.
      55 degrees today here in Michigan, checked the hives, no activity. Opened them briefly, and nothing!!! May have been due to having a really cold winter, but we’ve gotten through this before.
      Usually on a day like this in February there would be some adventurous souls coming, but it looks like we’re back to square one. Good luck to you all!

  9. kirk anderson says:

    I read your comments about your bees leaving. That’s too bad about your bees.

  10. Lynn says:

    Hello Anais,

    I’m on the east coast. We’ve seen a steady decline in the bee population as well. There’s so much we need to be doing that when I think about it I get overwhelmed! We hope to add bees to our place in the near future.

    We have made such small baby steps in becoming more self sufficient. We have small quarters and had to even build space to keep our canned produce! We have 0.52 acre. We’ve had chickens for a couple of years and would like to have a couple of goats, but we don’t know how to keep them without having grazing land for them. How do you keep your goats? What do you feed them and what kind of shelter do you have? We need some ideas.

    Thanks!
    Lynn

    • Anais says:

      @Lynn: Hello! Yes, you hit the nail on the head when you say “there is so much to do, one gets overwhelmed” Believe me, I feel that emotion EVERY day! Sometime it’s downright paralyzing. Just have to take a deep breath and tackle one, small thing. Focus on the small steps. Here’s a link about our City Goats http://urbanhomestead.org/journal/2009/06/03/goats-in-the-city/
      If you have any further questions my sister runs an amazing site about backyard animals at http://barnyardsandbackyards.org Hope this helps, all the best in your journey!

      • Lynn says:

        @Anais, Thanks for the links, great reading. We do have oodles of books for small livestock but none of them address an issue of not having much space. Our shelter for them (small barn) would be sufficient but grazing would be out.

        We do have some neighboring fields that we can see if owners would allow us to graze them on a leash. I already collect wild roses and hips, black raspberries and black berries and blueberries from the field. it’s over grown and not in use.

        • Anais says:

          @Lynn: Yeah, unfortunately you hit the nail on the head and that’s one of my sister’s main peeve! There’s certainly good books out there but none that successfully deal with successfully raising many animals in a small space. Our animals have a 400 sq foot outdoor run. We converted part of the garage to a goat pen so the goats can sleep inside at night or during cold and rainy weather. We have to buy them hay but stretch it out with our forgings for oak, pine and sycamore leaves.

  11. Katherine Duvall says:

    Everyone please watch this documentary on the disappearance of our bees, http://youtu.be/A4WLFNkse3I
    the film does explain why they are disappearing. This same disappearance act has already happened in France a few years ago. An eye opener full of facts and answers.

    • Anais says:

      @Katherine Duvall: Thanks for sharing. It’s important that people be aware that without bees there will be NO more food

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