Thursday, July 16, 2009

Pay attention or we will all bee hungry

Just Food in NYC has an eat local event coming up in September. They also have a petition on their site to legalize beekeeping in NYC. I encourage everyone to sign it.

Pasted below is an article from the Journal News in Westchester County, NY on the importance of bees to our food supply:

July 3, 2009
Honeybees make sweet work at Pace
Greg Clary
The Journal News

A couple of years ago, when somebody mentioned to me that there was big die-off of bees that could be catastrophic for humans, my first response was "Why? Because we would have to live without being stung?"

Most everybody's had a run-in with a bee - but at the time I barely knew the difference between a honeybee and a bumblebee.

I thought all those little critters did was pollinate flowers and sting people.
Yesterday, I found out how much I didn't know.

"Honeybees are pretty passive, unless you get into their flight path," said James Eyring, the assistant director of Pace University's Environmental Center in Pleasantville. "They don't like you in their way."

Eyring started a beekeeping operation at Pace two months ago, at the suggestion of Nick Robinson, the school's environmental law legend and an amateur beekeeper himself.
"He said we should do it because it's the right thing to do," Eyring said. "It's also good for the students to get a close look at how nature works."

Watching and listening to Eyring, I found it pretty clear that honeybees are almost always working.

"We should get 100 pounds of honey by the end of the summer," he said, lifting up racks of worker bees turning pollen and sugar water into beeswax and the familiar golden liquid. "At four bucks a pound for honey and eight bucks a pound for beeswax, however, I wouldn't want to make a living as a beekeeper."

Pace's powers that bee opted to fund the project - about $600 for the two working hives - because as Robinson said in an Earth Day speech, one-third of the U.S. food supply depends on bees.

"We need them to pollinate our crops, like the almond trees of California, where most of the world's almonds are grown, or the apples trees of the Hudson Valley," Robinson said. "The continued use of these chemicals is a threat to our food supplies and to our spring pollination."
Robinson cited ice-cream producer Häagen-Dazs' warning that 40 percent of its 60 flavors depend on fruits and nuts that are pollinated by bees.

I don't know about you, but when pesticide makers mess around with my favorite food, I start paying attention.

What's happening to bees is called "colony collapse disorder," and Eyring is one of many who believes the deadly plague is connected to the use of pesticides, most specifically a chlorinated nicotine based insecticide.

"The bees are in trouble. CCD is akin to the canary in the mine shaft," said Eyring, a Lake Carmel resident. "If we lose honeybees, we're in trouble. We're already losing production on our farms, agriable lands. It's scary to think of how wrong things have gone if we're losing honeybees. They should be a wake-up call."

If you don't think bees are important to your daily diet, consider that farmers truck in hives and rent them for two or three weeks during blossoming time, letting the beekeepers keep the honey as long as the bees work the plants. A bigger crop is the result and well worth the investment, Eyring said.

Look at the national facts on the matter, from the Environmental Protection Agency:
- Honeybees are essential for crop production, particularly for specialty crops such as nuts, berries, fruits and vegetables.

- They pollinate more than 90 commercial crops, so that the plants can reproduce and provide the abundance and variety of foods we enjoy.
- Pollination is responsible for $15 billion in added crop value.
The other thing that struck me yesterday was how smart bees are as a group.
Everybody knows the queen is the hub of the hive - she produces the next generation, is served by the drones and workers, sleeps until noon ...
But what might be less well-known is that it is at best a constitutional monarchy, because if the queen's not doing her job in the eyes of her attendants, they depose her.
"They're all working with one goal in mind: the good of the hive," Eyring said. "If she's not doing her job, not producing properly, they either kill her or push her out."
There might be a civics lesson in that for us.

For the original article with photos:

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embracing a sustainable lifestyle as a Locavore ... using locally grown and produced ingredients whenever possible ...

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