SCBeeCo Featured in South Bay Accent Magazine

Hi all!

It’s certainly been a while. I wanted to share this publication here. Back in March, I met a writer for South Bay Accent Magazine while doing a workshop at Hive and Hum in Santa Cruz. She was kind enough to interview me for this article highlighting south bay honey and bay area beekeepers. I was pleased to also see them use a few of my bee photos, too! I hope you enjoy the read and delicious recipes!

http://www.hudsonprinting-digital.com/Publications/SouthBayAccent/South_Bay_Accent__OctNov_2018/page_77.html

<3 and bees,

Emily

Project Pollinate Hive Installation Video

Hello there!

I am finally getting a chance to post this fun video that Project Pollinate made. It's a video of the two nucleus hives we installed at the Homeless Garden Project this spring. This apiary expansion was made possible through a generous grant from The Bee Cause Project and the Whole Kids Foundation. Enjoy!

SC BeeCo Featured in Register-Pajaronian Article: March, 2018

Hello! I wanted to share this article profiling Santa Cruz BeeCo's work. It was published in the "Focus on Agriculture" section, which is sent in several local papers to different central coast communities from Santa Cruz to San Luis Obispo. Many thanks to the Register-Pajaronian and Live Earth Farm for making the connections and enabling this interview to happen. Click the source link below to read the full article! Mahalo amigos ;)

 

Source: https://register-pajaronian.com/article/wh...

Autumn woes in the world of the treatment free beekeeper

This was something I wrote a couple months back that I just unearthed. I decided it was worthy of being a blog post. The struggle is real. I hope that over the years, through careful observation and gentle manipulations, I will do the bees a service and maintain my committment to Treatment Free Beekeeping.

I am a natural beekeeper with four years of experience. I am committed to being treatment free and not using any inputs in the hive to combat parasitic varroa mites. I believe that honey bees are highly adaptable and able to adjust to a variety of living environments. Furthermore, honey bees have had a number of pests and diseases over the centuries (foul brood, chalkbrood, wax moth, tracheal mites, etc.)

It is terribly depressing to see CWV bees, mites on bees, slumping and snotty brood. But, it’s also terribly depressing to force a foreign substance on a honey bee colony without their consent- that feels as cruel letting them die from a parasite.

How can we know if we are doing the right thing as beekeepers? How can we know if there is a “right” thing? These are all value judgments and assumptions that bees have the same emotional capacities as human beings. It’s impossible not to anthropomorphize honey bees, since we can only know experience and consciousness through our own human lens.

Does it matter? Will it make a difference weather I treat or do not treat? What about seeing it like litter or fossil fuel consumption- as a tragedy of the commons.

When it gets to this point, I begin to go into an existential tailspin and assume that nothing has meaning anymore and I might as well crawl under a rock and be broody.

But really, what is the conscious and enlightened choice? Especially if you want to “protect your investment” or “run a fiscally solvent business”? I don’t want to sell out, but it is hard to lose colonies out of stubbornness to hold onto beliefs that could be entirely arbitrary.

What if honey bees aren’t able to evolve past varroa mites? What if the existing mites that survive treatment keep becoming stronger and more resilient and take down all untreated hives?

When you have a parasite jump sub-species hosts due to an anthropogenic action, can we realistically believe that the bees will be able to survive and tolerate living with a parasite?

I don’t want to be seen as radical or reckless in my beliefs and actions. I am not someone who buys into hoaxes-- I believe in science.

It isn’t the bees fault that humans decided that globalized trade and transport of honey bees was a good idea and profitable- moving around species spreads diseases, causes invasive and noxious pests and parasites, and has any other number of unintended consequences.

 

Main lessons I learned from 2017:

  • Late spring/early summer brood breaks are crucial for a knockdown on mite populations. While this will impact your honey bee workforce, the bees will thank you come September/October. I did not do enough brood breaks of healthy, overwintered colonies from 2016, and a couple of those hives succumbed to varroa associated viruses.

  • You can’t bank on swarms of unknown origin, no matter how promising they may initially seem. Some do well, others fall flat, and I think a lot of it has to do with the fact that you do not know their lineage (they’re not “proven” stock).

  • Late season swarms that missed the main spring nectar flows should be supplemented with syrup early. If your bees are just squeaking by all summer, they won’t be strong enough to combat varroa and the developing winter bees won’t be fed well and won’t be strong enough to survive all winter long.

My "Unveiled" Interview with Beekeeper's Naturals

Hey Guys! 

Last year, I was approached by Beekeeper's Naturals, a company that makes great value-added bee products, for their "Unveiled" Interview series. They regularly interview other Beekeepers around the globe who are doing innovative, regenerative work with honey bees. They interviewed me before I had my website and blog. I realized this would be a great time and place to re-post it! Read the interview here:

https://beekeepersnaturals.com/unveiled-interview-emily-bondor/ 

And make sure to see what cool projects they're up to, too!

 

2nd Project Pollinate Live Hive Dive

Hey Everybody! Sorry It's been SO long since my last blog post. Indeed it has proven to be a busy bee year! I have expanded my local client base with Santa Cruz Bee Co, continued my work with Napa Valley Bee Co and I am still teaching my beekeeping classes at Cabrillo College. This spring, I contracted out some of my queen rearing skills to local bee supplier Wings of Nature Bees. I've been enjoying volunteering as the president of the Santa Cruz Bee Guild, donating my time and expertise to Project Pollinate and having a blast bringing the Observation Hive to community events! If you don't already, follow my instagram handle (my "mini blog") @santacruzbeecompany and like my company's FB page @scbeeco.

 

Thanks for your support and appreciation of local, sustainable beekeeping!

Homeless Garden Project Hive Transfer: A Facebook Live Stream from April 30, 2017

Yesterday I, along with a volunteer beekeeper from the Homeless Garden Project and an experienced beekeeper from the Santa Cruz Bee Guild, transferred a honey bee colony from a Top Bar Hive into a Langstroth Hive. We had gorgeous weather and with the support of our community partner, Project Pollinate, were able to live stream the process on Facebook. It was an awesome experience! The people watching online could ask questions in the comments section and Dru Golver, the Director of Project Pollinate who was filming, could then relay those questions to me so that I was able to answer them right away. I teach a number of beekeeping classes, but this was a novel and very enjoyable experience as many people could see the inner workings of the beehive all at the same time, unlike in the apiary where everyone has a different vantage point and must take turns getting up close and personal with the bees. I am looking forward to more opportunities to live stream beekeeping work in the future, such as catching swarms, removing bees from structures and more! I've embedded the video below in case you're interested in watching. Please feel free to share as well. Thank you all for your interest and support as I grow this educational beekeeping venture. Happy May Day and Spring everyone!

 

Hello, World!

Nepali Beekeeper Interview

My interview with Nepali Beekeeping Expert Ishwori Pd. Khatiwada

Ishwori runs “Eco Bee Product” in Sauraha, Nepal which is a town bordering the Chitwan National Park in the south of Nepal, which borders northeast India’s Uttar Pradesh. He is the head of a local bee collective of fifteen beekeepers in southern Nepal. Ishwori raises and distributes queen bees, produces royal jelly and, of course, produces honey. Their beekeeping group meets every two months and you must request to be a member. The other beekeepers in the collective requested Ishwori bring the group together.  Ishwori shares his knowledge and experience, and is a source for queen bees. The other beekeepers in the collective primarily use their bees for honey production, which is still the main economic driver for beekeeping in Nepal.

Since he was a child, Ishwori has loved honey and dreamed of being a beekeeper one day. His family had a couple of bee hives when he was young and he had a beekeeping mentor. In his youth, he helped expand the family apiary from two to six hives.  Ishwori went off to school to study and get a good paying job. But, as so often happens in economically depressed countries, Ishwori’s family requested that he stop his studies and begin to work so he could contribute financially. This was about twenty years ago, in the mid 1990s. Luckily, at that time, there was a government training program for Nepal Farmers through USAID Funding. This two-year program utilized volunteers from the U.S. to help teach rural Nepali farmers how to successfully keep bees.

It was around this same time (early 1990s) that the Western honey bee (Apis mellifera) was introduced into Nepal by way of India. This was due to an outbreak of Thai sacbrood virus which killed around 90% of native Eastern honey bee (Apis cerana) colonies. However, this global movement of honey bee subspecies, as we now know, was the catalyst for the spread of varroa mites, aka Varroa destructor, the parasitic mite that is contributing to many issues in modern beekeeping. A side benefit from the influx of Western honey bees into Nepal is that they are able to produce and store larger quantities of honey, which is how Nepali beekeepers make the most income. Varroa mites are not as bad of a problem in Asia, even in the populations of Western honey bees. I believe part of this is due to the fact that fewer beekeepers in Nepal use prophylactic treatment of miticides.  Varroa mites evolved with Apis cerana, the Asian/Eastern honey bee, so cerana has essentially developed a resistance over time to Varroa mites.

What is a problem in Asia is the Tropilaelaps mite. Tropilaelaps mites evolved with the giant honey bee, Apis dorsata, which is also native to Asia. Tropilaelaps is similar to Varroa in that it reproduces and lives inside capped brood. However, Tropilaelaps can be far more devastating as they reproduce more rapidly and reach maturity in only six days. One upside to Tropilaelaps is that they cannot survive for more than three days without brood (their mandibles aren’t strong enough to pierce through adult bees), so they’re easier to eradicate through forcing a break in the brood cycle. As Varroa can feed on adult bees, they can survive for 25 days without brood. One interesting theory Ishwori had was that Tropilaelaps larvae eat varroa eggs. His belief for this is based in the fact that you won’t see an infestation of Varroa in a hive that has an infestation of Tropilaelaps. That is because Tropilaelaps will often out-compete Varroa, and when both mites are present, there is a decline in the reproduction of each. If you have a colony of mellifera and a colony of cerana side by side, they will not both have mites. The mites, be they tropilaelaps or varroa, will only infect one sub-species at a time. Luckily, we do not have Tropilaelaps mites in the U.S., hopefully it stays that way!

While we don't have any native honey bees in North America, Nepalis get the pleasure of having four different native sub-species they can work with, out of nine sub-species that are known worldwide! These sub-species are Apis cerana (eastern honey bee), Apis laboriosa (cliff honey bees), Apis florea (dwarf honey bee) and Apis dorsata (tropical giant honey bee). As I mentioned, they have imported Western honey bees (Apis mellifera) which they use on farms and down in the lowland valley regions for pollination and honey production. The government of Nepal actually had the proper foresight to try and segregate the bee subspecies, keeping mellifera in the valley and cerana, dorsata, laboriosa and florea in the mountains and jungles of country, around the periphery. This helps with competition as well as the prevention of disease transmission. Their smaller, native “wild” honey bees are the Eastern and dwarf honey bees. The look like European/Western honey bees only are ⅔ the size and move much more quickly, more akin to a wasp’s movements. These bees evolved in this region but tend to swarm and abscond more than European honey bees and are also more aggressive and don’t produce as much honey. For these reasons, they’re not as desirable as European honey bees to keep commercially. These “wild” bees are usually kept in log hives and are not managed as actively for honey production as the European honey bees.

The larger, native “rock” /cliff honey bees are Apis Dorsata (Khad Mauri in Nepali). These honey bees are unique in that they evolved making their nests on cliffs, rock outcroppings and tree canopies. These bees are unique in that they will build exposed nests that consist of just one long piece of comb. You will often find many nests in close proximity to one another, with anywhere from ten to two hundred in the same tree! Each colony will build a nest and inhabit it for 3-4 months before migrating seasonally between the wet and dry seasons. The dorsata worker bees are so large, they’re bigger than your fattest mellifera queen, it’s really quite amazing to see! These “rock” bees are the ones that have long provided honey and  beeswax to indigenous, mountain dwelling people in the practice known as “honey hunting”. There are rhododendron groves throughout the Himalayan range. The Nepali Gurung people have hunted this honey for centuries. As this honey bee subspecies migrate, the Nepali people living in the southern Terai region also cherish this special honey. The nectar and pollen of the white Rhododendron contain grayanotoxin and when the honey is eaten is produces intoxicating and hallucinogenic effects. Apis Dorsata also produce less honey than Mellifera, so rock honey is prized and expensive for a number of reasons!

Ishwori is a wonderful, knowledgeable and caring beekeeper who works with local farmers and beekeepers several times a year. He is sometimes paid for the help but often does it for free in the hopes of helping other Nepali farmers learn the joys and challenges of beekeeping. There is a lot more potential for making money through selling honey in Nepal. There is also much more education needed. Many farmers have historically used pesticides to get bees to not visit their crops, because they think the foraging of the bees is "sucking the goodness out of there crops", when in fact it is quite the opposite! Ishwori is part of his local Lion’s club and Rotary International and hopes to get to come to the U.S. sometime to learn more about beekeeping and expand his opportunities. Things were looking good for him to get a temporary visa, but of course with the changing winds of politics that may not happen anymore… I wish the best for him! He invited me to go on our own cliff honey hunting expedition on my next visit to Nepal. If you're a true adventure beek, contact me and I will try and set it up for us!

Sources for additional information:

http://apimondiafoundation.org/foundation/files/184.pdf

http://beeaware.org.au/archive-pest/tropilaelaps-2/#ad-image-0

 

 Ishwori and me checking on his royal jelly production in a cell building hive.

Ishwori and me checking on his royal jelly production in a cell building hive.