Thursday, May 05, 2011

Queen of the Sun - and cancelled beekeeping workshop

We recently found out that the beekeeper who was going to lead our Basic Beekeeping workshop here in July lost all her bees over the winter.  When she opened up the hive in spring they were all dead - and this was completely unexpected.  She thinks it was a disease caused Nozema, which is a form of dysentry for bees.  But it adds to the continued unusual disappearances and deaths of bees in North America, a disturbing reality given how vital bees are to our survival.  They have been called a keystone part of nature, with their key role in pollination of all fruits, vegetables, etc.  So, for now, our beekeeping workshop is cancelled and we hope to connect with another local beekeeper who has an observation hive and the interest in leading an introductory workshop to city folks.

Interestingly, coming at the end of the month and into June at the Princess Cinema (our local independent movie cinema) is Queen of the Sun: What are the Bees Telling Us? a documentary film on the alarming honey bee crisis and colony collapse disorder.  Check out this important film to learn more - here is a list of where it will be screened in the coming weeks and months.

Here is a short article by David Suzuki about the impact of the disappering bees, If the bees disappear we'll all be stung.  He writes that nearly 90% of the world's plants rely on pollinators (bees being the most common pollinators) for fertilization and reproduction.  Something we can all do is to plant and protect bee habitat, as well as encouraging native North American bees as "alternative pollinators" to non native European honeybees (below are pictured native Ontario bees humming through our oregano and goldenrod last summer - often it's the "weeds" or less "attractive" plants that are actually best loved by bees).  Here is a good link for more information on encouraging native bees.

Here are a few general tips for attracting native bee pollinators to your garden:
- no uses of pesticides
- proper nesting places (bees love sun and dry places for nesting)
- there are soil and wood dwelling pollinators - provide unmown undisturbed soil and fallen brush/log piles
- fresh water sources (ponds, bird baths)
- food sources year round (flowering plants that bloom at different stages all through the growing season)

and from Berkeley comes the Urban Bee Garden website - a great resource that includes an extensive bee gardening plant list and a bee garden builder page.

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