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For reasons many environmental experts don’t exactly know, bee populations are shrinking. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service recently added a species of bumble bee to the Endangered Species List. Seven species of bees in Hawaii are also endangered. Some Native American beekeepers are doing what they can to lend bees a helping hand.
Marla BullBear (Sičháŋǧu Lakota) – executive director of Native American Advocacy Program
David Manuel (Anishinaabe) – foods coordinator for the Red Lake Food Initiative and beekeeper
Pam Kingfisher (Cherokee) – Cherokee beekeeper and health advocate
Break music: Honey Be (song) Red Earth (artist) When Worlds Collide (album)
Bart Humphries says
Colony collapse isn’t so big anymore. Since 2011, the numbers of bees and hives reported in the US has been steadily increasing. The real reason was basically pesticides and varroa mites. See http://grist.org/food/why-the-bee-crisis-isnt-as-bad-as-you-think-but-still-matters/
The University of Pennsylvania is breeding new Queens that make bees that instead of placidly accepting a varroa mite, then dying from it, will turn and bite the mites, killing the mites. You can also use glycerin to try and “trap” the mites before they can get into the hive. Our hives have been free from mites for years now.
But there are a lot of nonprofit groups whose sole reason for existence is colony collapse, so, that narrative isn’t going away any time soon.
The CDC released a report earlier this year about how wild bee populations are now on the decline, but the university whose data that the report was mainly based on took issue with the report. For instance, the CDC said there are about 23,000 bee species in danger, but there are only about (off the top of my head) about 18,000 named bee species, and there are other discrepancies, so that whole report is rather suspect.
Bart Humphries says
I left a comment about pollination services, but it seems like the website ate it. Let me try to recreate it.
One person was talking about offering pollination services, and having kids do that to help them learn a business. Sure, that’s an option, but it’s a lot trickier than it seems. Let me explain. Beehives can only be moved at night, while the bees sleep. And a farm/field/whatever basically all has to be pollinated at about the same time, or within a few days or so of each other, because you want all the fruit/whatever to ripen about the same time (or in a particular pattern) so that you can just go harvest all of it and aren’t harvesting a little, then harvesting some more, then some more, etc. So…
1. You need a lot of hives
2. You need to move them all at night
3. If you have that many hives, you’re going to be generating a lot of honey, which means you’ll need to be harvesting honey during the day (because you’ll be too busy moving hives all night long).
Sure, you can bring more people in, but the more people you bring in the less money everyone makes, and it’s not a pure division like “twice the people, half the money” because you have matching taxes like medicare, social security, and unemployment, that the company has to pay even if the individual won’t make enough to pay any taxes. If a person is working as an independent contractor, then they have to pay all that themselves, and surely no business would teach kids to try to work under the table, right? So it’s more like “twice the people, 1/3 the money”. So you can’t get too many people involved or you just don’t really make any money.
It’s also not a year-long proposition. It’s like taxes. An accountant can be a bookkeeper, or a fiscal auditor, and find work all year long but if they want to focus on taxes then there’s basically just a few months in the year when they have to work like dogs, and it’ll generate enough income for them to live on for the rest of the year (although most then go back to their other accounting-related job). Pollination only happens during particular times of the year.
So you can offer pollination services, but it is a tough demanding business. You also have to be careful how you truck bees around. When you strap the hives down on the back of a semi, you have to use a net to hold the hives down — if you use a tarp then the bees will generate enough heat under the tarp that they’ll die. There are many other things that you really have to watch out for and that’ll kill off your bees if you mess up, but if that’s the type of business you want to get into then it’s certainly an option.