To bee, or not to bee?

By Tom Read

That is not really a valid question, but it is the title of a little skit to be performed on April 25 as part of Texada’s Earth Day celebration. It’s not a valid question because there can be no doubt that the presence of bees is a requirement for life as we know it to continue. From a purely human perspective, bees pollinate the plants we need for food. No bees, not much food for us, unless we find other means of pollinating food plants. We are fortunate that Texada Island is one of the few places left in North America where local honeybees are still healthy, free of varroa mites, colony collapse disorder and other such bee afflictions.

Clover is starting to leaf, dandelions are appearing, bees are flying.  Our surviving hive is partially wrapped in tar-paper to provide additional protection from the cold (we're still getting occasional frosts).

Clover is starting to leaf, dandelions are appearing, bees are flying. Our surviving hive is partially wrapped in tar-paper to provide additional protection from the cold (we're still getting occasional frosts).

Here at Slow Farm we’re in our first year of beekeeping — last fall we took delivery of two hives filled with healthy bees moved here from Gillies Bay. Due to my inexperience, one of the hives didn’t get enough ventilation. Result: too much moisture accumulated in the hive and it perished over the winter. I felt a lot of guilt and sadness when I discovered the death of this hive, and my complicity in that outcome has given me new resolve to become a better beekeeper.

But life goes on, resilient in spite of human ineptitude. Our other hive is still going strong, and with a little help from my beekeeping mentors, it may soon be divided so that we can multiply our bee population this year.

So, for Texada’s Earth Day 2009 our community will celebrate long life and good health to pollinators. We’ll build mason bee nests in the afternoon, then come together for a community potluck dinner. Somewhere along the line we’ll be entertained by dueling poets and the aforementioned “To bee, or not to bee” story about pollinator stewardship brought to us by the “Clinging to the Rock for Dear Life Players.”

Let every day be Earth Day, as they say.

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2 Responses to “To bee, or not to bee?”


  1. 1 Ron Miller April 17, 2009 at 15:47

    Hi Tom

    Interesting article. I did not know you had become a bee keeper.

    I have been following the stories on Bees, and their disappearance.

    GM Crops, and pesticides are doing them in at our peril.

    Regards

    Ron

  2. 2 David Moore April 21, 2009 at 11:14

    Dear Tom,
    Ah, beekeeping; it’s inspirational as well as practical. I read a recently published (2008) book called Fruitless Fall by Rowan Jacobsen. His title is a clear reference to Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring where she lamented the loss of songbird populations to the unintended effects of pesticides. Two generations later, the lessons must be relearned.

    I copied down two quotes from the book:

    “MOTHS AND BUTTERFLIES may not be essential pollinators of many fruits or plants that show up in our daily lives, but they do make caterpillars, which are nature’s hot dogs – boneless, fatty, high-protein snacks which are the preferred fast-food source for the world of birds.”

    “There is a weakness – a Great Big Frailty – to the simplistic ‘economic’ argument for conservation of forests and wildlife. It’s like telling kids they need a mother because who else will make them toast and jam. True, but it misses the point. Every kid needs a mother for the irreplaceable goodness they give with or without the toast.”

    Rowan Jacobsen in Fruitless Fall


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