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NWP Global Registry of Apprentice Ecologists - Canandaigua, New York, USA

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Canandaigua, New York, USA
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Registered: December 2013
City/Town/Province: Canandaigua
Posts: 1
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Did you know that one third of all the food you eat is directly or indirectly affected by honey bees? Yes, that insect no bigger than half an inch can virtually control our world by pollinating our food. We don’t realize the impact that these little fuzzy nuisances have on our lives. Yet without them, we are doomed. Chinese farmers are already feeling the detrimental effects- due to pesticide overuse, all their honey bee colonies perished. Little to no pollination took place without the honey bees, resulting in a nonexistent harvest. The next year, the farmers hired workers to individually visit each and every flower, dabbing them with small brushes covered in pollen.
This strange disappearance of honey bees is not just occurring in China. It’s an epidemic sweeping the whole world, leaving scientists and farmers puzzled and desperate. Colony Collapse Disorder, or CCD, has no single known cause. Some believe it’s due to pesticides. Others believe it’s due to Varroa mites, which suck out the bee’s hemolymph bloodlike substance. But in reality, it’s both and a multitude of other variables causing whole colonies to suddenly die off. As a seventeen-year-old girl living in Canandaigua, New York, I am starting to see the affects of CCD and the swift and sudden disappearance of Mother Nature’s pollinators. Right in my backyard, local businesses relying on bee services are going out of business. For example, Jim Doan owned a prosperous bee keeping company in Western New York with over 6,000 hives. He rented out his hives to other local businesses such as apple or blueberry farms to pollinate their crops. Due to CCD, the 6,000 colonies suddenly got reduced to fewer than 100, and Mr. Doan went out of business. If this continues, all farmers will have to resort to hand-pollinating crops- an activity that would take countless hours and cost over ninety billion dollars!
But if the scientists have not yet found a solution to this terrifying problem, what can we as everyday folks do to stop the inevitable disappearance of the honey bees? There’s a simple way- don’t kill the bees. This won’t stop the problem of CCD, but every little action counts. Every hive counts. Frequently, when a colony gets too large for its hive, the colony splits and forms a second queen out of royal jelly. The newly born queen and her colony move out to search for a hive elsewhere. Often, it’s a hollow tree, or an attic or barn. This happened to my family- a colony of bees moved into the floor of our barn, building their comb between the underside of the wood floor and the dirt underneath. When thousands of buzzing insects with stingers move into an unwanted place, our instincts are to exterminate them. My dad wanted to just spray them before they expanded the hive all across the floor. But the fragile existence of the honey bee on Earth begs for forgiveness. I couldn’t stand back and let them die! After talking to my ecology teacher Mr. Cosman, we decided to turn it into a class project. Mr. Cosman, being an experienced bee keeper, showed up after school with his pickup truck full of bee keeping suits, gear, and a super, which was the box that we would move the colony into. Kids from class showed up and suited up in a frenzy of excitement. None of us had seen a real honey bee hive before! Pressing a stethoscope to the floor, I heard the heartbeat of the hive busily buzzing. We marked the exact location of the hive on the floor, and then began making holes with a drill press. From these four small holes, bees began angrily pouring out to inspect the intrusion. In the smoker we burned hemp bailing twine that we had gotten from local hay farmers. Each student took turns puffing the billowing sweet-smelling smoke at the bees. This smoke calms down the bees so we could proceed with our work. Next we cut out the square of floor with hand saws. Mr. Cosman grasped the loose square of floor and gingerly lifted it up. We all gasped in awe! Hanging from the underneath of the board laid rows upon rows of perfect golden honey comb, covered in teeming insects. Angry about being suddenly thrust into bright sunlight, the tone of the bees’ hum grew steadily fiercer. We engulfed them in more puffs of smoke and laid the wood board into the open box. The barn felt alive with the hum of the bees and the sweet scents of honey and smoldering hemp twine. But our project was only half over. We left the super at the entrance of the barn, knowing that eventually all the bees would be lured into their new home by the buzz of their comrades and the strong scent of honey. After a few days, the hive was moved to the school grounds. Our whole ecology class was dying to transfer our rescue bees into the observation hive kept in the classroom! Since our bees were wild, they had built their own honey comb opposed to storing their honey in frames provided by the bee keeper. The next step to this project was to carve the comb off the wood then attach it via metal wire to a frame. These frames could then be placed inside the observation hive. Now every day in school, our famous rescue bees are visited by many curious students and staff to observe their phenomenal lifestyle.
Although this seemingly was a small Apprentice Ecologist project, it saved about thirty thousand honey bees and allowed countless mouthfuls of food to be grown. What would a world look like without bees? The Earth would be devoid of any fruits, vegetables, or plants not pollinated by wind, or we could spend ninety billion dollars a year to self-pollinate crops. As Hannah Nordhaus is quoted in her book The Beekeepers Lament, “honeybees are the glue that holds our agricultural system together.” Without them, our agricultural system will never be the same. Our Earth is a precious place. We need to tread lightly on her, for we cannot live without her resources. We cannot feed our population of seven billion humans without Earth’s number one pollinator, the honey bee. So next time you curse and swat at that pesky bee buzzing around your picnic, remember that she and her comrades are responsible for one third of the food on your plate.
Date: December 31, 2013 Views: 4941 File size: 11.1kb, 830.5kb : 1920 x 1080
Hours Volunteered: 25
Volunteers: 20
Authors Age & Age Range of Volunteers: 17 & 17 to 50
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