We are living in extreme times.
So, too, are the bees around the globe.
From Berlin in Germany to Queensland, Australia, bees are living on the edge.
The old phrase “feast or famine” seems appropriate in this story.
Most of the time these days we hear about bees dying off, especially honeybees. These tragic deaths are caused by a variety of reasons, from colony collapse disorder to environmental hazards, to toxic pesticides and fertilizers, just to name a few. Many bee problems are created by humans.
This is not the type of bee problem the residents of Berlin, Germany are having. Quite the contrary.
Like all of us, Berliners have been hearing about the plight of the honeybee and in an effort to do their part to help, many have taken up urban beekeeping. There are "on tap" devices being sold that make honey collection seem super easy. As a result, you'll find a vast array of locally grown honey in organic shops and street markets around Berlin these days.
The city is experiencing massive swarms of bees looking for homes in a city where urban beekeeping has become a trendy environmentally conscious hobby. New beekeepers have the best of intentions, but often have no idea how to properly care for their bees. After a while the bees swarm and fly away in search of a better home. Other swarm-driving factors are diseases in the hive, multiple queens and the exceptionally hot summer weather.
Berlin has around 30 swarm-catchers on call to collect thousands of honeybees when the need arises. They are very busy this year.
According to Professor Polaczek, head of Berlin’s Beekeepers’ Association who also teaches beekeeping at the Free University of Berlin, there are 20 registered hives per square mile in Berlin and countless unregistered hives owned by dabbling hobby beekeepers who mistakenly think maintaining a bee colony is easy. Compare this to 6 registered hives per square mile in most of Germany.
Meanwhile, the drought in Queensland, Australia is so severe that 110,000 hives of bees are being trucked south out of the area to pollinate almond trees in the Sunraysia area.
The poor little darlings had to be fed pollen supplements by their beekeepers this past winter and are lacking in strength. Much of their population has been decimated and they are in a weakened condition due to a lack of their natural food sources, disruption of their foraging grounds and the relentless drought.
Are they in any shape to pollinate thousands of almond trees?
The affected area is facing a true bee tragedy as well as a drought so serious that their local food supply and livelihood are at stake unless there is a turn around soon.
If you wish to become an urban beekeeper, please pair your kindness and good intentions with some practical knowledge so you can actually help these fuzzy little buzzers. There are beekeeping classes available everywhere, including online. Many are free but even if there is a cost, it is as necessary to know what you are doing as it is to buy a hive.
Bees unite the world, and honey is the glue...
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