By Michelle Berry
It’s a bone-chilling Thursday evening and the parking lot of the Pembroke Recreation Center is packed. A handmade sign at the back door announces ‘BEE SCHOOL’. I walk in, just a few minutes late, to a large swarm of South Shore residents anxious to learn the secrets of beekeeping. There are so many hearty souls in attendance that I have to sit in the way, way back of the large but modest space. Scanning the room, I see people young and old, blue collar, white collar, moms, dads, children, grandmas, grandpas, you get the picture, and it’s a nice mix. As I wait for class to begin, sitting among strangers in my own town, I wonder: are they in it for the precious golden honey, are they looking for a hobby that’s a little edgy, are they dreaming of a beautiful, bountiful garden, or have they heard the bad news and want to be part of the solution? No matter the reason, the bees need us here. Really, we need the bees too, as much as they need us.
“Why all the hype?” some may ask. The very bad news for all of us is that bees, who are very important crop pollinators, are disappearing at alarming rates. No bees, no food. It’s a national crisis that has been attributed, at least in part, to CCD (Colony Collapse Disorder). The commercial beekeepers first brought this to our attention back in 2006. They are the people that truck millions of bees all over the U.S. to pollinate the massive amount of almonds, apples, blueberries, and more (way too many to list), we consume on a daily basis. As crazy as it sounds, millions of bees abandon their hives leaving no evidence of their demise, or sudden vacation plans.
Why are they disappearing?
The honeybee population has been on the decrease for a number of reasons; urbanization, pesticides, parasitic mites & CCD. CCD is the most mysterious culprit because it came on suddenly wiping out enormous numbers of colonies, and the cause is still undetermined. There is strong speculation that pesticides affect the bee’s nervous systems over time.
Why should you care?
- Bees pollinate 60% of our fruits and vegetables. If they disappear, most of our food will too.
- Bees collect nectar and pollen to create glorious honey. Raw honey has treated our taste buds and bodies for centuries. Just a few health benefits of raw honey are: immunity booster; minor burn soother; cough suppressant; and allergy reducer. It’s also anti-bacterial and a good source of antioxidants. What’s not to love!
- Bees produce beeswax, as you know. Beeswax makes the best clean burning & fragrant candles on the planet. It is also used in all natural beauty and household products.
- Bees help pollinate our spectacular assortment of flowers, trees and scrubs.
What can you do?
Support farmers who practice responsible sustainable agriculture. If you’re reading this, you do & we thank you! Consider an all-natural landscape at home. You will be providing a much needed nectar flow for the girls. Bees love clover, sweet pepper bush, dandelions, and other native wildflowers. Chemically treated carpets of lush green grass are actually baron food deserts for bees. Plant a bee & butterfly garden, create a little happiness for all. If you must fertilize or use pesticides in your garden; please use organic products and follow the directions specified by the manufacturer. You can also become a backyard beekeeper! If you love food (and we know you do), bee part of the solution by being bee-friendly.
Plymouth County Beekeepers Association welcomes you to learn more by visiting their website, http://www.plymouthcountybeekeepers.org.
Michelle Berry is a lifelong South Shore resident who is married with two sons. She loves living in New England and discovering all it has to offer. Her family caught the beekeeping buzz a few years ago and is now knee deep in the fascinating world of bees.