The Book Everyone Who Loves Bees Should Have

I have been working with bees professionally for about 8 years now.  I am involved in education, conservation, training and “infotainment” all having to do with keeping bees healthy and thriving.

I talk to countless numbers of people who tell me they love bees and want to help bees but don’t want to be a beekeeper, what can they do?

You can do any one or all of these three things but if you’re only absolutely only going to do one of them, do the one that helps bees directly first.

The three things?

Buy local honey from local beekeepers.  That honey money is often the only thing that allows them to keep at what they do.  You’re not just getting awesome honey, you are helping beekeepers keep bees alive and healthy.

Become a Patreon patron of my Bee Smart beekeeping project at my Patreon page” p.  You are getting beehind the scenes access to information and activities while helping ensure that we can rescue local bees instead of them being exterminated. You are helping to make sure I can continue to do more and improve on the podcasts, videos and live presentations about bees, beekeeping and bee conservation.

Buy the book, “The Bees in Your Backyard: A Guide to North America’s Bees” by Joseph Wilson and Olivia Messinger Carril.  Read it.  Use it.

This book does much more than just show you multiple types of bees and how to identify them.  It shows you how to make your yard an attractive habitat and a safe place for bees.

 If you only do one of these things, BUY THIS BOOK!

Then do the other two things anyway.

Honey Bee Bashing Needs To Stop Yesterday

There seems to be a slight trend building in response to the problems facing bees that is actually working against the overall goal of improving conditions and health of bees everywhere.

The news that honey bees were facing a mysterious mortal crisis really hit it’s stride back in the early 2,000’s.  Colony Collapse Disorder was a thing on the mainstream media and the world began to pay attention to the situation facing honey bees.

With all of the attention focused sharply and intently on honey bees, enthusiasts of more than just Apis mellifera began to get perturbed that other types of bees were feeling the heat of environmental calamities but not getting their own 15 minutes of fame.  So these focused fans began to work harder to bring the details of environmental crisis to native bees to light.

It started well enough, the #beetoo movement.  We saw that bumblebees like the Rusty Patch bumblebee was placed onto the Endangered Species list soon followed by another bumblebee species in Hawaii. Grim tidings to bee sure.

Yet, it doesn’t seem enough to some people to get some attention.  To these more radical few, it’s not good enough until you have ALL of the attention.  So began the ramp up in rhetoric to make honey bees not only less-victims, but perhaps even villains.

They make the point that honey bees aren’t native to North America and that as occupational immigrants, they aren’t deserving of prioritizing related to research and protection.

They say that honey bees aren’t as effective pollinators as most native bee species.  Which is true.  What is also true is that honey bees are efficient, partly due to their ability to focus on a flower crop and not be very likely to stop focusing on say, alfalfa, to just hop over to some thistle or other flower type.  Honey bees stay focused on a flower type until they have worked all of those flowers in the area before focusing on a different nectar source.  This makes them more desirable to farmers working to maximize an entire crop.

These hyper-fans also tell us that many native bees make more efficient use of bee population numbers to accomplish more.  For example, fewer Mason bees can pollinate more area than a much larger population of honey bees.

This is also true.  However, by and large, honey bees are THE champs at being able to be managed by people in large numbers and transported to a variety of crops over a larger part if the growing season.  Many native bees are simply not manageable or as available over the same period.

“Only” seven species of honey bees are around to produce honey out of the more than 24,000 plus species of bees in the world.  Native bees outnumber honey bees.  Yet again, true.  Honey though, is a highly sought commodity.  It brings millions, if not billions of dollars into the market beyond pollination services.

My point is this…We do not need to throw honey bees under the bus in order to see awareness for native bees increase and improve.  As a matter of fact, honey bees help bring more awareness to the overall conditions and situation of all bees.

I love all bees.  I teach about honey bees and provide beekeeping hands-on training.  I also teach classes about native bee identification, and conservation.  I am providing not just classes but a creative, interactive way to get more people actively looking for native bees bees and improving habitat and environmental conditions for them.

Being divisive about bees and throwing the spotlight species under the bus only serves to lessen overall bee conservation efforts, not improve them.  We can increase positive awareness for honey bees and native bees alike at the same time and appreciate what each species brings to the table.

That’s what the Bee Smart beekeeping project is working toward.

The First Step To Rescuing Local Bees Is

Hi, my name is Tony Sandoval, AKA, “Big Bear” and I run the Bee Smart beekeeping project.  It’s all about bee conservation, beekeeper hands-on experience and increasing public information.

The local bee conservation is a big part of the whole thing.  Can’t train beekeepers or give the public unique learning experiences without bees.

Every year, there are calls made by home owners, property management companies and others to have bees, usually honey bees or bumblebees, gotten rid of.  Only some of those removed actually don’t need to be moved, they’re not in a place to hurt anyone, the people just aren’t wanting to tolerate them.

Still others have chosen inconvenient nest locations that result in unfortunate interactions that might be public safety or health issues. Such as when they move into the wall or roof of a house or building.  They might have chosen a ground nest location where there is a lot of human and animal traffic.

Most of these unfortunate situations are resolved by extermination.  What’s really sad is they don’t have to be exterminated.  They can usually be removed and relocated alive.

Why don’t people choose relocation more often?  Cost is one factor.  It’s actually a pest management issue.  The Bees have moved into a location that puts them at odds with people thus being considered pests.

When most people think of “pest management”  they think of extermination first.  However, pest management is more than extermination.  It’s prevention, it’s relocation, it’s release.  Extermination is usually the last resort if there is no immediate, mortal threat.  Yet it’s usually the first choice by people who don’t want the bees there.

Bee rescue begins with public education and is quickly followed by people choosing live removal instead of extermination.  Bee rescue starts before I get a phone call.  You have to want to keep the bees alive.

In Nebraska, by law, any bee removal from a building, any building, includes complete removal of the nest.  Most pest control companies are great at killing bees but rarely, if ever, remove the nest.  They’re supposed to, but they don’t.  It’s easier to apply a pesticide and let them die where they are.

In a live removal though, the entire nest is removed.  When I do a live removal, not only is the nest removed, the space is treated to prevent attracting new critters and filled to prevent re-inhabitation.  To top it off, I consult the contractor on how to properly seal the repair so it isn’t an entry point again.

Most people have no idea how poorly their houses and buildings are sealed to allow pest entry.  Modern, rushed, construction methods and old, settling buildings have hundreds of entrance points for small things to get in.

I work with contractors and bring apprentice beekeepers to get the bees, remove the nest, leave the nest site better than it was before and take the bees somewhere they can have unharmed and productive lives.

You have to make the decision to call me instead of an exterminator before any of that can happen though.  Which, when you do call me, makes you the hero.  You made the important decision, I’m just carrying it out.

Bee a hero, choose bee conservation instead of extermination.  The bees you save could be pollinators to the local farmer market produce you eat.  They could be the producer of the next jar of honey you buy.  They could be the inspiration and teacher of the next generation of beekeepers.

You can make that possible.  Bee a hero and choose live removal.

You can get a free inspection by calling me at 402-370-8018.  Ask for Tony.  We’ll come to an arrangement where every one wins, the bees, you, and the community that needs them.

 

 

Meet The Bumble Bee

Ah, our fuzzy friend the Bumble bee. It is actually part of the Order of bees called Hymenoptera and in the Family known as Apis or “Apidae”. Yes, that makes it related to the honey bee which is where most people recognize the word “Apis” from.  It is specifically in the Genus “Bombus” and from there we can tell them apart by a sub-genus, species, then sub-species. For most common discussion, we start with and use the genus, etc…

For example, the bumble bee that was recently added to the U.S. Endangered species list is “Bombus affinis”.  Most people know it as the “Rusty Patch” bumble bee.

Appalachian Bumble Bee (180992746).jpg
By Steve Evans from Citizen of the World – Appalachian Bumble Bee, CC BY 2.0

Actually, there are 8 sub-genus and 46 different species of bumble bees in North America alone.

Bumble bees are some of the fuzziest bees of them all.  That makes them incredibly effective pollinators.  All that fuzz helps them bee one of the best in another way as well.  They are the first to emerge in the spring and the last to settle down in the Autumn due to their special adaptation to dealing with cooler temperatures than other bees might tolerate.

Just here in the Omaha, Nebraska area where the Bee Smart beekeeping project is based, we can expect to see at least 6 to 10 different bumble bee species the Northern states and especially the Western states have an even greater diversity which can see 11 species or so on the low side up to as many as 24 different species in an area on the higher end.  What’s more is that due to the fact that not all of the continental U.S. have been thoroughly surveyed, there could very likely be even more than we realize.

Bumble bees are semi-social bees that don’t build huge nests like honey bees but small nests either at ground level or below ground most of the time.  In most cases, Queen bumble bees lay eggs that are intended to be reproductive and able to mate and start their own new nests the following Spring.

Once a new queen has emerged and mated in the Spring, she typically flies off to a new location, abandoning the nest site where she was born.  Once she finds a new site to her satisfaction, she begins building a new nest and, collecting food up and then laying several eggs.  When those bees emerge, they generally aren’t mated but work to help build the nest and allow the queen to focus on laying more eggs, building the colony while the others handle the foraging and defenses.

File:Bumble Bee (2631102304).jpg
Bumble bee at the Brooklyn Botanic Garden. By Paul Stein.

Bumble bees are some of the largest bees around and to match that size, they have some of the biggest stingers for defending the nest.  Despite their weaponry and in some cases aggressive tendencies to defend the immediate nest site, bumble bees are also well known to be some of the most docile and least aggressive of all the bees out and about when they are foraging.  You are least likely to be stung by a bumble bee away from their nest while they are bobbing around your flower garden.

Bumble bees are affected by pesticides and have a number of predators and parasitic pests that spread disease among them like honey bees and other types of bees have to deal with.  It is ALWAYS highly recommended to leave a bumble bee nest alone if you find one somewhere as they typically won’t cause harm unless their nest entrance is located somewhere human and animal traffic will be very near and cause disturbance.

 

There is no contest, all bees rock

Sometimes looking at particular articles or watching videos, etc… a person might get the impression that some folks want you to beelieve that some bees are more important than others or that some species of bees are more important to expend effort and resources on than others.

Of course that’s ridiculous.  I know it, you know, and deep down, even those people know it too.  All bees are pollinators, true.  Some species are more effective and others are more efficient.  Some specialize in specific types of plants and others aren’t so limited, but they all get the job done one way or another.

Some bees considered native bees can bee fantastic pollinators that often get overlooked and not much attention.  Others, like honey bees, get lots of attention but get the “outsider” treatment because they are considered feral or non-native.

Why is it that honey bees get so much attention even when other bees may be more effective or efficient pollinators?  In large part because of honey.  Honey bees not only pollinate, they selectively or specifically pollinate and they produce harvest-able stuffs like honey and beeswax in great quantities.  They are also extremely manageable, much more so than most other types of bees.

Not that makes honey bees “better” or more worth saving or getting attention.  It just means that they offer something unique to human society that is extremely desirable.

Bumblebees, honey bees, mason bees, alkaline bees, squash bees and all the other bees are awesome insects and provide a super necessary service in pollination that allows people to have crops in abundance.

Let’s not focus on one or another.  Instead let’s show them all some bee love.