“It’s good for the beekeeper because it’s a fascinating undertaking. … Bees are so integrated as part of the environment that everything around them affects them in some way.” -Michael Bush of Bush Farms
Keep Bees! The work is simple, enjoyable, healthful and could be the difference between a healthy ecological system and a system in peril. Bees are a ‘free lunch’ in terms of pest, mold, and various other plant disease control agents. With each visit, bees help plants communicate by passing information from one to another. If one plant the bee visits is being attacked by caterpillars, for instance, the bee travels from that plant to the surrounding plant community with that ‘message’ in the form of defense chemicals and scents from the original plant. Other plants respond to this by producing the anti-caterpillar defenses before they become the caterpillar’s next meal. Bees are a key species in the farm ecosystem and are being targeted by carelessly applied chemicals.
The benefits of promoting and nurturing bee populations are overwhelming. Agro-biodiversity benefits in every way; on-farm crops benefit from bee visits for pollination and plant protection; off-farm ecology benefits and in turn restores natural controls through a return to ecological balance.
The best way to help the bees is to start keeping your own. To start keeping your own bees pick up a book, or better yet, talk to your local beekeeper association or society; they are proud, happy and informative people. Responsenet is working on a set of pedagogical and direct action programs to support wild bees and to promote sustainable beekeeping practices. The International Bee Research Association has resources for professional and new beekeepers. And Apimondia the International Federation of Beekeepers’ Associations offers a network for information, and connections to local beekeepers.