Save the Bees

This is taken from Avaaz.org. Worth reading and acting on.

Silently, billions of bees are dying off and our entire food chain is in danger. Bees don’t just make honey, they are a giant, humble workforce, pollinating 90% of the plants we grow.
Scientists increasingly blame one group of toxic pesticides for their rapid demise, and bee populations have soared in four European countries that have banned these products. But powerful chemical companies are lobbying hard to keep selling this poison. Our best chance to save bees now is to push the US and EU to join the ban — their action is critical and will have a ripple effect on the rest of the world.

We have no time to lose — the debate is raging about what to do. This is not just about saving bumble bees, this is about our survival. Let’s build a giant global buzz calling for the EU and US to outlaw these killer chemicals and save our bees and our food. Sign the emergency petition now and send it on to everyone and we’ll deliver it to key decision makers:

http://www.avaaz.org/en/save_the_bees_2/97.php?cl_tta_sign=79555f65efc92c1743d15dfe156e36a5

Bees are vital to life on earth — every year pollinating plants and crops with an estimated $40bn value, over one third of the food supply in many countries. Without immediate action to save bees we could end up with no fruit, no vegetables, no nuts, no oils and no cotton.

Recent years have seen a steep and disturbing global decline in bee populations — some bee species are now extinct and others are at just 4% of their previous numbers. Scientists have been scrambling for answers. Some studies claim the decline may be due to a combination of factors including disease, habitat loss and toxic chemicals. But new leading independent research has produced strong evidence blaming neonicotinoid pesticides. France, Italy, Slovenia and even Germany, where the main manufacturer Bayer is based, have banned one of these bee killers. But, Bayer continues to export its poison across the world.

This issue is now coming to the boil as major new studies have confirmed the scale of this problem. If we can get European and US decision-makers to take action, others will follow. It won’t be easy. A leaked document shows that the US Environmental Protection Agency knew about the pesticide’s dangers, but ignored them. The document says Bayer’s “highly toxic” product is a “major risk concern to non target insects [honey bees]”.

We need to make our voices heard to counter Bayer’s very strong influence on policy makers and scientists in both the US and the EU where they fund the studies and sit on policy bodies. The real experts — the beekeepers and farmers — want these deadly pesticides prohibited until and unless we have solid, independent studies that show they are safe. Let’s support them now. Sign the petition below, then forward this email:

http://www.avaaz.org/en/save_the_bees_2/97.php?cl_tta_sign=79555f65efc92c1743d15dfe156e36a5

We can no longer leave our delicate food chain in the hands of research run by the chemical companies and the regulators that are in their pockets. Banning this pesticide will move us closer to a world safe for ourselves and the other species we care about and depend on.

With hope,

Alex, Alice, Iain, David and all at Avaaz

MORE INFORMATION

Bee decline could be down to chemical cocktail interfering with brains
http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2010/jun/22/chemicals-bees-decline-major-study?INTCMP=SRCH

Bee briefing
http://www.soilassociation.org/LinkClick.aspx?fileticket=RXLEm9WXrHk%3D&tabid=439

$15 Billion Bee Murder Mystery Deepens
http://www.businessinsider.com/colony-collapse-disorder-still-unsolved-lead-researcher-had-connections-to-bayer-2010-10

“Nicotine Bees” Population Restored With Neonicotinoids Ban
http://www.treehugger.com/files/2010/05/nicotine-bees-population-restored-with-neonicotinoids-ban.php

EPA memo reveals concern that pesticide causes bee deaths
http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/blogs/green/detail?entry_id=79910

Beekeepers want government to pull pesticide
http://www.palmbeachpost.com/money/beekeepers-want-government-to-pull-pesticide-1107701.html

British Beekeepers’ Association to stop endorsing bee-killing pesticides http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2010/nov/16/beekeepers-end-pesticide-endorsement?INTCMP=SRCH

Pesticide industry involvement in EU risk assessment puts survival of bees at stake
http://www.corporateeurope.org/agribusiness/news/2010/11/16/pesticide-industry-future-bees

Red Honey and the Perils of Urban Farming

This summer all the bee hives around Red Hook had really red honey. Our hives in Carroll Gardens are just a stone’s throw away and also glowed with red. Here is an example:

P1050094.JPG

Work on the street was that the bees had found a maraschino cherry factory. And it turns out the word was true, as uncovered by a NY times article on the same.

The red came from the food coloring No 40. Makes me wonder what other toxins they are ingesting and putting into the honey for us to eat… the toxic cloud of our world is very strange.

Brooklyn Bee Maintenance

We checked on some of our hives today a week after putting them into new hives. They were doing great. In their productive enthusiasm they had built comb in a place where it would cause spacing problems so we had to take it out.

Both hives had excess comb we had to remove. One was larger than the other:

P1010287.JPG

P1010291.JPG

We took the comb out and placed it in front of the hive so the bees would easily crawl back into the hive (below).

P1010313.JPG

P1010312.JPG

Once they had all left the extra comb we gave the comb to our daughter to chew on! Bees wax with syrup is like chewing gum!

P1010314.JPG

We checked out the bees on the comb and they were already well on their way to packing their newly made comb with flower pollen and nectar (see the brown combs below). How the hell do they make the honey comb so perfect?? As a green builder this fascinates me. The perfection of those combs mesmerize me. It makes our building look so crude. And to think they build an environment the equivalent size of one city block in a week! With their own spit! It puts us to shame.

P1010304.JPG

The bees looked nice and healthy:

P1010294.JPG

P1010295.JPG

P1010293.JPG

And check out the queen! The apiary that raised her put a  blue dot on her back to easily recognize her. She was so busy moving around from comb to comb laying eggs! She was always surrounded by helper bees who gave her space and cared for her:

P1010297.JPG

Once we had checked all was good we filled the hive up with lots of sugar water to help them get up and running:

P1010300.JPG

A Bee (or two) Lands in Brooklyn

We just got our bees for the Brooklyn Green Show House! They arrived late at night and we put them in their hives (hived them) at the crack of dawn. We put the hives on the green roof so the bees can help pollinate our strawberries!

First we put the stands made of salvaged wood:

P1010072.JPG

Then we put the hive parts:

P1010074.JPG

Meanwhile the two packets of bees were waiting by the side. Here is one:

P1010083.JPG

P1010082.JPG

First we took out the queen and her little helpers. They are in a small box closed off with sweet stuff. We take the box and put it in the hive. Over a day or two the bees will eat through the sweet stuff and release her into her new hive. The queen and her helpers:

P1010108.JPG

P1010089.JPG

We put the queen’s box into the hive:

P1010093.JPG

Then we take the bees and dump them in the hive!:

P1010094.JPG

P1010109.JPG

And that’s it! We will let the new hive chill for a week or so before checking in on them to make sure all is well.

IMG00859-20100427-1604 (1).jpg

P1010168.JPG

It is so special to be able to keep bees in Brooklyn. We really feel good about the whole process. Bees are a cornerstone of the planet’s wellbeing. They help form the foundation from which everything else grows. To be allowed to help them do their job is a real gift. We are honored to have bees on the show house roof.

As Brooklyn green builders and contractors we feel that green building is so much more than salvaged two by fours and low VOC paint. Being a green builder is literally about building a green environment. Green building is less about assembling inanimate objects like in normal building. Green building is about working with the biosphere so that it all grows together – bees, plants, people, houses….The Brooklyn brownstone is no longer just bricks and sheet rock. It is a living organism that needs to be carefully assembled so that it grows food, fresh air, happy people and animals.

So yes bees are a very important part of this symbiosis.

Megan Paska from Brooklyn Honey is giving us advice on the bee keeping process. She is very knowledgeable. We got the bees with the help of Andrew Coté who runs Silvermine Apiary as well as Bees Without Borders. Thanks guys!

Legalize Bees in NYC

Bees are technically classified as a venomous insect and thus illegal by New York law. Stupid but true. Help legalize beekeeping by signing this petition.

Here is some info on Bees, taken from JustFood.org:

Question: What do cities like Atlanta, Chicago, Portland, Paris, San Francisco,
Seattle, Toronto, and Vancouver have that NYC does not?
Answer: Legalized beekeeping.
Bee keeping is currently illegal in New York City. The New York City Health Code under
Section 161.01 prohibits the possession, keeping, harboring and selling of “wild animals.” This
ban, in it’s listing of “all venomous insects” includes and in doing so outlaws bees.
Honeybees are garden heroes! Honeybees help gardens grow more fruit and vegetables and
produce sweet honey. They are nature’s best pollinators and contribute to productive harvests
in community gardens, public parks and nature centers.
This fact sheet highlights the many benefits of honeybees, outlines legal beekeeping initiatives
in other cities, addresses questions about the dangers of honeybees, and proposes that the
New York City Department of Health amend its code, and thereby lifts its ban on beekeeping.
Beekeeping Benefits Public, Economic and Environmental Health
• Local Food Production: Honeybees are pollinators and pollination is essential to
maintaining and increasing the productivity of NYC’s community gardens, botanical
gardens and public parks.
• Small Business/Economic Development: One colony of bees can yield anywhere
between 30-150 pounds of honey, as well as honeycomb, beeswax, pollen and royal jelly
for sale. With a retail value of at least $10-$12 per pound, honey sales can contribute
significantly to a beekeeper’s supplemental income. Beekeeper cities such as San
Francisco, Savannah and Chicago are forming small business enterprises that feature
honey along with value-added products (lotions, balms, soaps).
• Job/Youth Training: Beekeeping programs across the country provide job skills and
training to youth and the unemployed in production, sales, marketing and management.
• Education: Beekeeping provides a rare opportunity for urban school children to connect
with how and where food is produced. The United States Department of Agriculture and
North American Pollinator Protection Campaign have a curriculum to teach children the
importance of pollinators.
• Health/Nutrition: Pollination is critical to the success of agricultural crops grown in NYC’s
600+ community gardens and urban farms, which create increased access to healthy
produce in many of the City’s low resource neighborhoods. Honey gives energy, is antibacterial
and rich in vitamins and minerals, many of which are antioxidants that help
prevent cancer, heart disease, and strokes. Additionally, local honey contains small
amounts of pollen from local plants, and has helped individuals build immunity to these
pollens and aid in alleviating allergies.
• Biodiversity: As pollinators, honeybees contribute to the production of fruits, vegetables,
and seeds. In turn, they further contribute to the health and biodiversity of an urban
environment by providing a food source for birds and other insects.
• Increased safety: Beekeeping is happening in NYC and is permitted by the State Apiary
Policy. There is already an inspector assigned to monitor hives in NYC. Legalization will
increase registration and inspection with the New York Department of Agriculture and
Markets and allow for the open adoption of widely used guidelines for beekeeping.
LEGALIZE BEEKEEPING IN NYC!
Beekeeping Success in Other Cities
Many cities permit and regulate urban beekeeping and have found that urban apiculture can
benefit human, economic, and environmental health. In Chicago, the City Hall and Chicago
Cultural Center has six well-kept hives on their rooftops as an element of their City’s
aggressive greening initiative. Value-added products from these hives are sold at local
markets and national chains such as Whole Foods, and they have created an employment
program which uses urban beekeeping to create jobs for low-income residents and formerly
incarcerated individuals to teach job skills in production, sales, management and marketing.
San Francisco has included beekeeping in public spaces as part of its “Plan for a Sustainable
City,” and has set a goal of five percent of all city honey consumption be produced in San
Francisco.
Safety
Stings are the most common concern about honeybees. However, honeybees are not
aggressive by nature and are unlikely to sting. Only 0.4% of Americans report an allergy to
insect stings in the U.S., and relatively few of these are caused by honeybees. In addition, less
than 1% of the US population is at risk of systemic reaction to stings by honeybees. Severe
reactions from the sting of any one insect in a year are 1 in 5,555,556. The chance that
someone will be hit by a car is 59.3% higher.
Honeybees in Crisis
The survival of honeybees is currently at risk. In the winter 2006-2007, an average colony loss
of 38% was reported by U.S. beekeepers. Many of these losses were linked to Colony
Collapse Disorder (CCD), which has become such a serious issue that Senate passed the
Pollinator Habitat Protection Act of 2007, which was co-sponsored by Senator Clinton and
designates pollinator protection as a “national priority resource concern.” The Pollinator
Protection Act of 2007 also stresses the important role that pollinators, especially honeybees,
play in pollinating many important U.S. crops. Communities around the country need to be a
part of the solution and encourage apiculture to mitigate the spread of CCD, including New
York City!
A Proposal for Change
In order to improve the health and well-being of our urban environment and populace, Just
Food proposes that honeybees be removed or exempted from Health Code 161.01.
Just Food, with experience organizing communities around food production in NYC, is
prepared to implement an urban beekeeping program which will include training, guidelines
for beekeeping and the provision of emergency sting kits. We will provide resources,
educational materials and will help beekeepers to take advantage of the free hive
registration and inspection process that already exists with the state Department of
Agriculture and Markets. Just Food will support community gardens and institutions that have
expressed a desire to keep bees, promote safe and responsible beekeeping practices, and
encourage the development of profitable and beneficial beekeeping operations throughout
NYC.