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Few dare to begin the dedicated and tiring work of beekeeping. The fear of bee stings and annoyingly loud buzzing typically turns away those able to take on such a task. Despite the relatively demanding undertaking of beekeeping, some determined Evanston residents and the City have decided to take on the challenge in order to prevent the looming extinction of these essential creatures.
Just over two years ago, the Evanston Ecology Center created its very own apiary (collection of beehives) in order to house 40,000 bees in light of the decreasing bee population. The May 3, 2017 News List posted by the City of Evanston, says the apiary is being used as a way to educate the community about the “biology, anatomy and behavior of honey bees, as well as to educate community members about threats to the honey bee population and what they can do to help.”
The Ecology Center has great uses for the bees. The center also promotes the health of these essential insects. Since bee populations tend to decrease exponentially in winter time, the Evanston Environmental Association says that “the Ecology Center staff works during the summer to build up the hive populations so that they are healthy enough to withstand the winter.”
With all the effort put in by the City to promote the health and wellness of bees, honey bee populations continue to lack globally due to the excessive amount of pesticides in agricultural industries which is why the work put into apiaries and bee hives is critical.
The shocking truth about bees and their immense contribution to the food industry is that if honey bees were to go completely extinct, humanity would experience a world-wide famine. The preservation of bees is essential to survival on a global scale.
Pollinators such as birds, bats and bees contribute to about one-third of the entire world’s food crop pro-duction. Most fruits and vegetables are affected by the pollination process of honey bees in one way or another. The Ulster Beekeepers Association (Northern Ireland) says that “even if a crop is not directly pollinated by a honey bee, the crop still benefits indirectly from being in an environment in which honey bees are working, due to the increased biodiversity in the area which stimulates the crop.”
Furthermore, bee pollination affects the plants and crop fed to cattle, impacting the meat packing industry, thus tending to over 97% of the world’s population that eats meat.
If more members of the Evanston community were to engage in beekeeping or rather the preservation of bees in general, honey bee rehabilitation could make a global impact right at home.
Evanston resident David Bond has recently begun the process of beekeeping. On April 17, 2018 Mr. Bond decided to take the leap and purchase 10,000 bees. Ever since he began beekeeping, he has grown more fascinated with the hobby.
“It’s a blend of art and science… but just the art of reading the colony and its behavior and understanding is the best part.” Mr. Bond says.
Although there is this beautiful aspect to beekeeping, the hobby requires a lot of dedication and interest in order to maintain a successful hive.
“One of the most challenging things is to learn and think like a bee.” Mr. Bond says. “Most people keep bees for honey… and I like to get honey too but I kind of love the idea that I’m helping out Mother Nature.”
For Mr. Bond, a big part of beekeeping is knowing that he is contributing positively to bees in the area. “It feels good to do that [learn about bees] in an area where it feels like there is some inherent value to the world.”
But the trouble going on within the bee population does not go unnoticed, even for new beekeepers. Mr. Bond focusing on improving wellness for bees in a broader sense; this means making sure his colony thrives along with other colonies in the area.
“The four P’s: pests, pesticides, poor nutrition and pathogens are the four things that endanger bees the most… those are the things that a beekeeper has to manage.” Mr. Bond says. “Bees are having a little trouble these days. Their number one enemy is called the Varooa Mite (Varooa Destructor Mite) and when that mite came to the United States it changed beekeeping forever.”
Mr. Bond has expressed from time to time interest in starting an Evanston beekeeping club in order to promote a more organized and healthier network of bees in the City. By doing so, beekeepers can coordinate mite checks, decreasing the possibility of mite spreads within colonies. Through a club or network of Evanston beekeepers, bees would be able to thrive in the City thus contributing greatly to the overall health within the bee population.
“I don’t necessarily think the prescription for the success of bees is for everyone to have a hive in their backyard, but I do think that everyone can take a minute to plant some pollinator plants – that’s the least amount of effort with the most amount of gain.” Mr. Bond says. He also emphasizes tips for those willing and prepared enough to take on beekeeping: “follow all the rules, join a local bee club, find a beekeeping mentor and read books.”