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Oh Honey bee, how we love thee

June 15, 2012

By now most of us have heard that the honey bee lives a threatened existence. Conspiracy theories, like the one suggesting that our increased usage of cellphones and cell towers has caused Colony Collapse Disorder, have been circulating for some time.  In reality there are multiple reasons for the decline of the honey bee: mites, climate, parasites — to name a few.

The parasite that has evolved to locate a weak spot in the abdomen of a honey bee, that has been successful at infecting and killing them {they wreak havoc from the inside out} is called the phorid fly. As NPR has reported, they are causing the bees to leave their hives at night, very unusually, and abandon their hive altogether {en masse this causes CCD}. It can be unsettling when nature takes it’s course, can’t it?

We depend heavily on bees for pollinating our crops and we’re always doing things with their honey {e.g. mead, candles, and healing ointments}.  In Maine we have a large grower of blueberries called Wyman’s that distributes their fruit all over the world, and they rely on honey bees “from away” to pollinate their crops {read this great article!}.  The blueberry barrens are vast {60,000 acres vast} and buzzing with bees every spring — 55,000 full hives, as it’s estimated — and they’re brought in from places like Texas, Florida, and California.  Luke has seen this in person for two seasons now and says it’s quite amazing to drive through and see that many bees, thick in the air, doing their thing! Just imagine the acreage of crops worldwide that rely on honey bees.

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As our culture shifts further into a mindset that values a grow-your-own mindset, the bee is evermore our friend. In Portland we have a meadery called Maine Mead Works {home of the delicious HoneyMaker wine} that uses local hives for their honey {learn about their Bee to Bottle process}.  Last weekend a friend gave me some medihoney for my scrape. {I also like to use honey as a natural remedy for a sore throat and often pair it with peanut butter for lunch.}  

We’ve talked about keeping bees ourselves and each year we hear of more backyard beekeepers. With the population declining I feel as if we should have a hive in our own yard, as though we’d be giving the bees a fighting chance to add to their numbers!  We have wild low brush blueberries and have planted high bush blueberries in our yard so they would have a happy home.  Plus, I just know our friends and family would love getting honey in addition to some fresh eggs!

p.s. The Maine State Beekeepers Association is full of good info, if you’re interested!

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