Fall mornings start later, cooler and a little more slowly. Instead of flinging themselves out at the fist hint of light, the workers creep. Some push a curled-up dead body to the drop-off. They are cautious and wary until the watery sunlight fully bathes the hive.

There is still a sense of purpose and duty as the days shorten. The girls continue to land with a thunk, thighs loaded with yellow goldenrod and some mystery weed but the industry and frantic pace of summer has slowed. They are packing it in, battening down and cleaning house for a cold winter.

The drones, those fat, happy fellows who are fed and watered all summer by their busy sisters before zooming off to hang with other drones, are ignored or shoved away. Then ned of summer is the end of these boys but that’s all right. They’d be dead if they found a virgin queen anyway.

The scent is gorgeous. A hint from a distance, it pulls you in. Is there really something that can smell that good? Heavy, right, full of every summer flower, it is intoxicating and begs you to stay for a while. Breathe slowly and as you breathe, you can’t help but notice a deeper, subdued hum has replaced the frenetic, high-pitched buzz of hot, hazy days. It says, Get ready, winter is almost here.

City Back Yard Beehive


Dr. Daniel Pesante opinion regarding Pollinator Shortage and Global Crop Yield from Apis Newsletter 9/2010

Dr. Daniel Pesante wrote an opion piece on the FAO Caribbean discussion attempting to put into perspective a recent study by Garibaldi et al., 2009. Communicative and Integrative Biology 2:1, 1-3. I am reprinting some  of it here, since it will have limited exposure (if any) in other bee publications.

“To suggest that the present demise of honeybee populations is being directly caused by global economics of (exotic) food items is somewhat misleading, albeit not all that farfetched.  I have no problem relating global economics, greed and ignorance to the fact that it has increased the likelihood of honey bee diseases and pests being transported from one geographical area to another.  If these areas were free of the disease or the pest, it usually translates into, higher honey bee mortality for a number of years as well as increased operational costs. Add to that, that these “importations” have happened more than once over the last couple of decades. These continued exposures of honey bee populations to new diseases and or parasites have affected the bee’s biology at a rate and magnitude, faster than what is possible for the bee to adequately adapt.

“Add to that the increasing number of chemicals and agrochemicals being placed into the environment, included I may say, those being used by beekeepers, and the possibility of the bee’s physiology being further compromised (especially with such a low number of genes) is more than a mere possibility. And yes, there is evidence of yields of honey bee pollinated product being on the decline. Just look at the information which points to the fact that less acreage of cucumber, pickles and cranberries are being planted because there are not enough colonies available to rent for pollination.   This is just a “small fraction”, of all produce but it points to the real effect being experienced, and it makes sense given the significant number of colonies that are simply no longer available for pollination and honey production. If we look more and deeper into the possible effects of reduced pollinators on agriculture (and nature), I am sure more evidence will come to light.

“The tropics are experiencing less drastic overall mortalities, but they are also occurring and significantly impacting the beekeeper, just not as much as those in temperate areas.  The tropical environment, exhibiting less marked seasonal changes, may be providing a buffering effect to part of the stress being experienced by bees in areas with more marked seasonal changes.  There is information which points to the fact that transporting colonies (pollination, migratory beekeeping) further increases the mortality rate as a consequence of inducing higher stress levels in the population.  In an already compromised physiology by pollution, agrochemicals, pest and diseases, it is not farfetched to expect the immunology of the bee to be further impacted by transportation or other management induced stress.
Nonetheless, beekeeping continues to be a major joy and experience; yesterday I caught a nice sized swarm and my eyes still sparkled as I hived it!”

Take a look at “Help Save Bees”

This is a nice link, although in England, it has terrific information quite simply delivered. The plight of the pollinators are the same in the US as in England. If you are so inclined, the best way to help is to contact your local beekeeping association.

Bumblebee full of pollen

We haven’t gotten something for nothing, we’ve left nothing from everything.

Water for your bees

This is important, bandits.

Give your new hive a clean water source close to your hive. The bees need water–lots of water and once they find their source, that’s it for life unless it dries up. Nothing will alert your neighbors to a secret hive more than a bunch of bees visiting their pool every day!

The funniest story I’ve encountered was a backyard beekeeper (known to his accomodating neighbors) had a hive that decided upon his neighbor’s beautiful marble fountain for a water source. The owner of the fountain said he had no problem with the daily visitors sipping from his water fountain, they weren’t bothering anyone.

Until…one morning the beekeeper got a call: “Do you mind coming over? I think there’s a problem with your bees.”

The marble fountain was covered–completely covered by a swarm of bees. Evidently it looked like a bee fountain. Fortunately the beekeeper was able to capture the hive (I’ve wondered how? It’s not an easy task to knock bees from a fountain into a bucket, but anyway!) The gracious neighbor received about a gallon of honey that year for his understanding.

Most people are not as open-minded.

The Bandit’s First Post

Ahh, beekeeping. I found my calling in my mid-forties. The fascination of bees began when I was in 2nd grade and we visited a farm with an observation hive.

I love bees. I love their industry, their purpose, their feistiness and their honey. The hive is fascinating: one queen, thousands of workers and a handful of drones. When everything is perfect, it’s heaven. When things aren’t perfect, they make it work. When things aren’t going their way, they still try to make it perfect.

The plight of the honeybee, like many other insects, plants and wild animals are a reflection of the state of living today. They are mirroring the circumstances of the world. It’s a tough planet. It’s been altered, polluted, over-utilized and it’s temperature is changing. Man has caused most of these unfortunate changes. The bees are telling us what that means to life as we know it.

I don’t despair for the honeybee, I just want to help it live and make a difference with one hive. If that works, perhaps I can try a second. The global view of what’s going on is utterly overwhelming but in my backyard, the bees are doing well. So that’s where I’ll start.

Here’s a link to the On Point Radio program on beekeeping and honey. My comments are included. It was while writing these comments that I came up with the idea that I’m a bandit beekeeper. I don’t want my neighbors to know, I don’t want the city to know, I just want to bees to live and thrive.

Hello world!

Welcome to Bandit Backyard Beekeeper.

Keeping bees for all the right reasons. Saving the planet by keeping the pollinators healthy, happy and save.

Beekeeper: manages the hive by feeding, observing, medicating, protecting the bees. Not a Bee-Haver: someone who thinks it’s a great idea to have a beehive, sets it up then leaves them to themselves to either perish or overpopulate and swarm( invade neighbors homes and eaves–my biggest concern as a beekeeper in the city).

Keeping bees in the city is one of the most amazingly satisfying endeavors and the bees thrive. It’s incredible. Just don’t let anyone know. It’s possible–a well-managed hive in a busy city can be kept secret from even your closest neighbors if you are a responsible beekeeper.

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