Tuesday, December 21, 2021

Winter Solstice

People become beekeepers for a number of reasons. Some are interested in producing honey; some want to increase the number of pollinators available for their gardens; and some are simply interested in learning the craft of keeping such interesting social insects. Many new beekeepers are already aware of the environmental conditions affecting bees and people. Almost all beekeepers rapidly become environmentally conscious. They see that honey bees have the same requirements as those other social creatures—humans: food, water, a dry place to live, and an environment free of toxins. Until parasitic mites of honey bees arrived in the mid-1980s, a person could order a bee hive and a colony of live bees from a mail-order catalogue and expect that they would have live bees and honey for years to come. However, with invasive pest species, changing agricultural practices, and the ever-increasing use of pesticides, keeping honey bees alive has become much more challenging. Well-informed beekeepers have taken the challenge seriously. Individuals who keep a few hives in their backyards, those who keep dozens of hives as a part-time business, and commercial beekeepers each study the biology of the honey bee and the pests and the pathogens that affect bees. They learn the science of bee health and the behavior of honey bees from text books and training classes. They learn the craft of beekeeping from the generous sharing of knowledge by experienced beekeepers via local, state, and national organizations.


A number of urban beekeepers experienced the loss of colonies as the result of environmental poisoning in 2021. Since healthy colonies have enough bees to withstand the loss of a sizable number of worker bees, some colonies survived. Other colonies died. Some of the affected beekeepers were able to politely inform their neighbors of the importance of the bees and the need to handle pesticides prudently. Beekeepers are environmental stewards. Today, the winter solstice, marks the beginning of the honey bee year with queens starting to lay eggs again.


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