Have You Considered Keeping Bees?

I just read an interesting piece on Sustainablog titled “Why I Decided to Keep Honeybees” and it was such a thought-provoking read for me I thought I’d share some of it here.

I never would have considered keeping bees (I don’t think) but I have been concerned about the rapid decline of bees in recent years and the author, Ziggy, brings up some interesting thoughts on this and the potential for more dispersed, small-scale beekeeping to (hopefully) help solve this problem.

First of all, if you haven’t heard, the still rather mysterious Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD) has resulted in beekeepers losing 30-90% of their bees for completely unknown reasons in recent years. Think this is no big deal? Approximately 15-30% of human food is pollinated by bees. That throws a little more urgency into this matter, doesn’t it?

Image Credit: Danny Perez Photography Bees are in fast decline. One solution may be more dispersed, home-scale beekeeping operations.

Bees are in fast decline. One solution may be more dispersed, home-scale beekeeping operations.

Bees are a critical part of our food system. And protecting the bees is not just something to do out of altruism (although, altruism is always a great thing). Protecting the bees is important to protecting the food supply of our future generations. How to do this? Well, that’s not completely clear yet, but here’s one idea.

Ziggy writes: “one of the things we can do to help honeybees is to simply start keeping them, and giving them a safe and healthy environment to live in. The benefits for you, the bees, and the environment will be great, in addition to all of the sweet honey and beeswax you will gather. For all of these reasons, I’ve decided to start keeping bees myself, after a friend loaned some spare equipment to me so that I could begin.”

Over 1,000 beekeepers travel across the US with their hives each year to pollinate trees and plants on huge industrial farms. With CCD being much more common in industrial beekeeping, one obvious question is, “Are the loads and loads of pesticides on these industrial farms a major cause of CCD and the rapid collapse of the bees?” Another interesting possibility Ziggy brings up is, “Is monoculture killing bees?”

Whatever the cause, these industrial bee farms are getting wiped out in great percentages and it is becoming clear that industrial beekeeping is not so sustainable. With bees being such a critical part of our ecological and agricultural systems, more efforts to keep bees on a more sustainable scale would do us a ton of good. And who wouldn’t like some delicious “homemade” honey.

Combine beekeeping with a little organic gardening or farming this year and see how it goes.

  • sabina98

    Is industrial anything sustainable? Backyard beekeepers are growing by the droves and I’m happy to be one of them.
    There is no doubt that the troubles of the US Food supply (from GMOs to heavy use of pesticides and mono-cultures) is affecting more things than the ‘experts’ could have ever predicted.

    We let go of thousand of years of learning how to raise animals and plants for the past few decades of increased profits for mega corporations.

    Just as in beekeeping, if we want to make a change, we will have to do so individually, without relying on ‘industrial operations’.
    Thank you for this post,.

  • http://blog.sustainablog.org Jeff McIntire-Strasburg

    Just saw this, Zach… thanks so much! ziggy wrote a great post…

    • Zachary Shahan

      yeah, i loved it (clearly) :)

  • Deborah Stephenson

    While I love the idea of keeping bees, and have seriously looked into it for several years now, I feel it is important to weigh the environmental costs of keeping them carefully before making a decision. Honey bees are not native to North America, while carpenter bees, bumble bees and others of this type (mostly solitary) are. These native bees are extremely industrious pollinators, but their habitats are being seriously degraded and their numbers are down. Keeping honeybees introduces a new factor into their existence–competition for those increasingly limited resources. Just something to think about before you run out and start a new non-native hive.

  • http://www.greenwaycommunique.com Nathan Schock

    This past weekend, I helped my parents set up a colony of bees at their house in the country where we’ve been keeping bees for years. I’m looking forward to the delicious honey later this year!

  • Zachary Shahan

    Deborah, good points. I wasn’t aware of most of that.

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