A couple of years ago, the mainstream media in the United States latched onto the juicy, fear-mongering story of “Colony Collapse Disorder” among honeybees. This “disorder,” which sounds like it was named by prescription-pushing child psychoanalysts, has been blamed on everything from the spread of GMO (genetically modified organism) crop seeds and pesticides to mobile phone radiation and cantankerous, bee-killing mites.
We still don’t know for certain what’s damaging bees (the media has gotten distracted with other issues), but we do know that with fewer pollinators, both industrial and regional organic agriculture stand to suffer immensely.
We also know that other countries have been dealing with the issue longer than the US, and that honey bee populations have steadily declined in the US since the 1970s. One way to effectively combat the problem is for more people to raise bees using natural and sustainable techniques.
Local honey, in addition to being a byproduct of local pollinators, is an energy-infused, sumptuous, gourmet, locavore sweetener that boosts the immune system and helps deflect allergies. It also keeps well—forever, as far as humans know. Plus, it’s handy for making mead, soaps and lotions, for those with hippie-weirdo-granola tendencies.
Anyone truly interested in raising bees and exploring apiaries would be well-advised to learn through New Mexico’s acknowledged master, Les Crowder. A proponent of “topbar” beekeeping—a technique that utilizes more natural hives than the cubes one generally sees—Crowder teaches season-long courses through the Permaculture Institute. It’s a commitment of eight weekends and, gulp, over $1,300, but the resulting knowledge and experience is comprehensive.