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Bee aware

on Fri, 05/02/2014 - 15:01

We keep seven Langstroth hives at our home, on 2.2 acres. Our property has 61 organic fruit trees, many berries and about 3,000 sq ft of vegetables, which we mostly donate to the local charity of our choice. Of our seven hives, only three survived the winter, and they are very healthy — with queens imported from Australia, where they do not have a varoa mite infestation. We use no chemicals on our bees.

Two days ago, a big tanker truck pulled up next to our property. Our next door neighbor had called in an arborist to have  her spray all his Japanese maple trees for caterpillers (we’ve never had a caterpillar infestation, however, according to organic principles, we apply “tanglefoot” at the base of our trees, and spray with lime-sulphur. I’m going to try some Top Bar Hives and see how they do.

When I asked the technician what kind of spray she was about to apply on the other side of our fence, she said it was “Success.”

“It’s organic,” she said, but added, “Well. the carrier is not." Suspicious, I looked up this “Success” chemical online, and found that indeed it is a pesticide that is hazardous to bees. And the cautionary label reads, “Do not use around foraging bees.”

How do you tell foraging bees not to fly when people are spraying? We requested the pesticide person to come back the next day after we would put a temporary block on our hives to prevent our honey bees from getting sprayed. However, what about the bumblebees, mason bees and pollinating birds that get “Success"-ed?

These are the situations that beekeepers and gardeners are faced with in both urban and rural settings, and it’s not of our choosing. There ought to be a law, right

I love my bees, whom I address daily, “Hi Girls! Howya doing?” Bees are very sensitive to people’s vibrations and intentions. I’ve only been stung twice in four years, and that was when bees had crawled up my pant leg and got squished by mistake. I find them very gentle, so long as you treat them gently and with respect. After all, bees pollinate a third or more our food supply. And we also get the rewards of their labor in the form of delicious honey and beeswax. They're pretty amazing.

 

Guest blogger Arran Stephens is CEO and Gardenkeeper for Nature's Path Foods.