Save the Bees!

When I was a child, my father had seven bee hives. I remember at the age of five or six, watching him don the white spacesuit (or so it seemed) with a screen helmet and elbow-length white gloves, to rob the hives. The bees swarmed around while the hives were opened and the honey extracted, then slowly returned to the hives. The domesticated honeybees were fairly gentle and seemed to understand their place in the cosmos—we seldom got stung and left plenty of honey for them. We turned the crank of the centrifugal extractor and watched a thick rope of sweet, golden honey flow from the spout. Later, we would fill quart jars with it, first placing a generous block of honeycomb in each one. Nothing tasted better than a thick coating of honey on fresh-baked homemade bread with butter. A child could grasp the importance of bees and feel an affinity with the little workers busily pollinating every dandelion on the yard. The story of the queen bee and her retinue captured our imagination.

Now the USDA and researchers report that honeybees are declining due to “colony collapse disorder.” It’s unclear what causes it, but relentless and excessive use of pesticides is likely to blame. The number of hives in the U.S. has declined from about 5 million in 1940 to half that number now. Some crops such as the almond crop in California are entirely dependent on honeybees for pollination. Scientists cannot accurately predict what other crops in North America are being affected by the decline in bee culture and resulting lack of pollination, but there’s no doubt other crops are being negatively affected.

You can help save the bees! Bees range up to two miles in every direction in search of a rich source of nectar, producing as much as 150 pounds of honey per hive. With a small investment in a hive and a little online education, you can have a nearly free source of one of the healthiest foods there is, and also contribute to the survival of a healthy environment. As an added bonus, the children around you can enjoy an enriching childhood experience like mine, reaping the sweet harvest of honeybees!

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