By Rachel Egan, Sustainable Danville Area
When somebody asks you what you are afraid of, what do you say? Spiders? Heights? Public speaking? Bees? Yes, spiders are creepy looking. Being up high can make you feel you may fall. Speaking in front of other people can be nerve-wracking – all those eyes on you! And bees can sting when provoked. But what if I were to tell you that one of these things is actually a big contributor to the food on your table? Would you reconsider your phobia?
As I was starting my senior year at Cal Poly, I decided I wanted to take one fun class each quarter that didn’t necessary fill degree requirements, but did fulfill my interest in the topic. In the Fall Quarter, I decided my fun class would be beekeeping. I had no idea how much it would open my eyes to the world around me. Not only did I learn a bit of Egyptian history, I also got a few biology lessons, watched interesting documentaries, and left the class with a new passion for bees – and an A.
If you are afraid of bees, you probably have not given much thought to the positive impact they have on your everyday life. Being someone whose bee stings swell up to the size of baseballs, probably one of the most useful tips I learned in my beekeeping class is to ice the sting location and put a dab of toothpaste on the sting every once in awhile and voila, good as new in a few days. I was only stung twice during the three month class – and it was completely my fault, but I forgave the bee since they help farmers grow our food, pollinate the flowers in our gardens, have the capability of reducing allergies and produce one of my favorite foods, honey. In fact, bees pollinate 1 of every 3 bites of food we eat. If that doesn’t convince you to become ‘Bee-friendly’, consider this: you could actually survive on honey alone since it’s the only known food containing all the necessary nutrients that humans need to survive. And some say, a teaspoon of raw honey at bedtime (along with daily exercise) can help you lose fat faster than exercise alone.
Over the past few years, farmers have noticed a shocking trend with their bees: often when they check on the hives, there are no bees to be found. Bees have started abandoning their hives and are dying at surprising rates. This phenomenon is called Colony Collapse Disorder, or CCD. Thus far, scientists have been unable to figure out why CCD occurs, but it is not surprising that, with nearly 80% of crops being pollinated by bees, farmers and scientists alike are worried about the bee population. China has already seen CCD change the course of its agriculture industry – since the ‘80s, farm workers have needed to hand pollinate all the blossoms in agricultural land because there is no longer a bee population to do it naturally.
Beekeeping is surprisingly easy. By visiting the Mount Diablo Bee Association website (http://www.diablobees.org), you will find information about how to raise bees, what to do with a bee swarm, how to create the best environment for your bees, and more. Raising bees can take as much or as little time as you want it to? How often you care for the bees depends on how involved you want to be in the harvesting of wax and honey. Give beekeeping a try; you may be surprised at how much a bunch of bees can improve the health of your plants in your garden and neighborhood. .
Join Sustainable Danville Area and Monte Vista High School’s Garden Club for a Honey Tasting and a filming of “Queen of the Sun”, about the environmental importance of honey bees. The evenings’ activities begin at 6PM on Wednesday, January 25th. A $5 suggested donation benefits MVHS student efforts to build an organic garden on campus.
Reprinted with permission from Danville Today News