The Bee

Workers and Drones

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There sure is a lot of talk about bees lately. There are articles in the paper, news reports and documentaries. People are starting to get worried as they realize that if we want food, we need pollinators. The bee is in trouble, and talk around town is that we better do something about it.

What can we do? How do we save the bee? Well, some people say we need to plant large tracts of native wild flowers. As human development in the form of farming and settlements increases, we are effectively removing much of the bees’ food source. The USDA is trying to entice farmers to turn over some of their farm land to wildflowers by offering subsidies. Hm…that sounds familiar…farm subsidies. Some people point their fingers at our farmers blaming them for pesticide use while Colony Collapse Disorder has many baffled. I certainly don’t have the answer, in fact, I know nothing, but I love food and honey, so I have some bees.

I likely wouldn’t have bees if my dad wasn’t a beekeeper and my husband a willing apprentice. I likely wouldn’t have bees if I didn’t have the farm (although I do have a city neighbor I would enjoy irritating with bees!), and I likely wouldn’t have bees if I hadn’t started making my honey balsamic dressing. Since Jeff and I started eating this stuff, we eat at least a quart of honey a month.

We have two colonies of very beautiful bees, and yesterday was the day that Jeff decided to add a second layer to the new colonies. My dad delivered the bees in early May and at that time, the colonies were set up with four old frames, or foundations, that already had honey built up, and we added a number of new wax frames so the bees could go to work building brood comb to make babies. They have been busy! They almost filled all the frames, so we knew they were close to outgrowing their hive. In fact, I told Jeff last Thursday that while feeding the bees I had seen both queens. He got worried thinking that her presence on the top of the hive may indicate the need to move – or swarm! Fortunately we didn’t need to do any on-the-job-training catching a swarm and getting it back home!

So, with the smoker all set, the new frames ready to go and the colony open for business, Jeff took a deep thoughtful breath and jumped in!

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In the picture below, notice the new frames leaning up against the hive. The first hive was divided into both boxes and then new frames were added to fill the two boxes.

Right as Jeff was tending the bees, the farmer neighbor came through with fertilizer! We can do our part to have bees and grow masses of wildflowers, but it’s going to take some major economic restructuring to convince the corn-growers to change their ways.

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And, someday our bee yard won’t be a patch of weeds! That project is on the docket queuing up!

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Why Not Vegan?

Veganism. Pure and simple. An approach to health and lifestyle that embodies ethics, morality and all that is righteous. Why then, am I bothered by some of it? I get the idea of avoiding animal products and bi-products: flesh, bone, blood, skin, fur, milk and eggs. I get the idea that people are concerned about the ethical treatment of animals, caring for the environment and the health and nutritional well-being of humanity. I get that. What I don’t get is how vegans can promote this lifestyle while also promoting the production of plastic, non-biodegradable products like shoes and fake fur. Vegan opposition to the use of leather, seems to have limited, healthy alternatives.

We are out of control creating plastic clothing. Sure, some of it is made from recycled plastic bags, but once it gets a hole in it, or becomes rank from sweat not really “wicked” away, these garments head to the landfill or incinerator. Just like any other plastic, they emit pollutants when burned, and one has to believe that they may well emit toxic fumes in stable form.  Perhaps the alternatives for vegans should not be plastic based products, but rather a support of companies that ethically produce leather, wool and cotton. In the long run, these are better for the environment than petroleum or plastics as they are completely compostable.

I also don’t get the vegan promotion of processed foods like meat and cheese alternatives. Some of these things come from reputable food companies and are natural or organic, but many of these products are loaded with salt and preservatives. They are far from healthy.

I’m a vegetarian because I think the idea of eating an animal’s flesh is disgusting – for me. It’s a personal thing kind of like not liking tomatoes. I may not want to eat meat, but I don’t mind if other people do. In fact, I favor the continued cultural practices of animal husbandry. I believe animals are helpful to humans and should be ethically and morally used to those ends. I believe in the family farm with horses, cows, chickens, and sheep. I believe these animals benefit from the kind care and attention of their owners, and their owners benefit from the bi-products these animals create: meat, milk, eggs and wool. If I did eat meat, I would be very selective about the meat I was choosing. I would want to know that it was grass-fed, not full of hormones, and from an animal that was treated respectfully. And, when choosing dairy or buying clothing, I buy from companies that are using ethical practices.

The last reason I am not vegan, my papa is a bee-keeper – brave man that he is! The photos below were taken in 1975 when a colony of honey bees made a home for themselves in the St. Charles Post Office, and my father, the local bee-keeper was called to remove them. I guess it’s all in your perspective as to whether bee-keeping is ethical, but just like the bears, we humans love the honey.