This past Tuesday evening Grow Appalachia held a beginning beekeeping workshop at Pine Mountain. The workshop was led by Gary Branson, an active participant in our program. Gary has been keeping bees for the past 4 years and has had up to 22 hives at a time, he is very knowledgeable and shared some great information with us and answered all of our many questions with great detail!
During the workshop Gary covered many aspects of beekeeping including, setting up a hive, supporting bees through their first year, personal safety measures, supplemental feeding, extracting honey, and much more. One thing that we all really appreciated about Gary’s presentation was the great amount of knowledge he shared about natural bee management techniques, such as the use of a spearmint sugar syrup spray or tobacco smoke to calm bees while robbing their hives and the use of powdered sugar, mint oil, and even candy canes to prevent and treat mite infestations in hives.
These natural techniques are becoming ever more important because of the continual lose of honeybees across the United States and around the world due to Colony Collapse Disorder. Colony Collapse Disorder was first detected in 2006 when the bees of many thousands of hives seemed to disappear in a matter of months leaving the hives empty and the queen bees to starve and die. Over the years many possible causes of CCD have been investigated including the effects of warmer winters, monoculture growing, and mite infestations to name just a few, however, recent studies are increasingly contributing CCD to the use of a class of pesticides know as neonicotinoids. These pesticides coat the seeds of millions of acres of corn, soy, wheat, and cotton, and are commonly found in home gardening products. These chemicals are a nerve poison, that when encountered by bees through collection of nectar and pollen, damage their homing ability and may account for their failure to return to the hive.
As all of you gardeners probably well know bees are very important to our ecosystem and to agriculture in particular. About one sixth of the world’s flowering plant species are pollinated by bees and some 400 of the world’s agricultural plants are pollinated by bees. About one third of everything we eat depends on the pollination of bees and it is estimated that without pollination from bees the U.S could lose $15 billion dollars worth of crops. The survival of the bee population really does affect us all, as home gardeners you can help the bees by planting bee friendly plants such as sunflowers, asters, mints, and larkspur, by buying local honey, protecting swarms, and most importantly limiting the chemicals you use in your own garden!
For more of the latest information about CCD read this article
Crops that are pollinated by bees (I know you eat at least one item on these lists!)
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