How to save the bees

Friday, August 10, 2018 3:54PM
To the editor:

In 1971, I landed a job working in the bee yards of a large commercial beekeeper. From a queen-rearing operation in Presidio, Texas, we moved colonies north into New Mexico and Colorado, crisscrossing the Continental Divide, following the dandelion bloom. I learned all about bee behavior, supersedure and swarm cells, bee diseases, treatments, honey and pollen production and the pure joy of keeping bees. I’ve been at it ever since as a hobbyist and I’ve observed with interest how honey bee health has become an environmental cause célèbre.

This paper’s June 7 front-page article, “Raising money, saving honey,” and the accompanying editorial, “Save the bees,” are examples of that. I applaud efforts to raise awareness of the plight of honey bees, especially among children, however both write-ups were short on facts and perhaps a little misguided in their prescription for saving the bees. For instance, the editorial states that honey bees are “in danger of extinction.” According to the USDA’s National Agricultural Statistical Service, the number of honey bee colonies in the U.S. has declined by about 13 percent over the past 30 years. While that’s concerning, it hardly constitutes danger of extinction.

The editorial also endorses an effort to raise $20,000 to support a mural painting of honey bees on the exterior of the Peterborough Community Center. Nice idea, visually appealing, but how will that save the bees? In my opinion, research will yield better results than art in the effort to sustain these wonderful little creatures. If you’re interested in really saving bees, plant a wildflower garden and consider supporting an organization dedicated to honey bee research, for example the Eastern Apicultural Society (see easternapiculture.org). The society underwrites studies related to honey bee health, including Colony Collapse Disorder.

Tim Lord