Beekeepers to discuss their future in Tahoe


The California State Beekeepers Association is meeting in Stateline Nov. 19-21. Photo/John Miller

The California State Beekeepers Association is meeting in Stateline Nov. 19-21. Photo/John Miller

By Kathryn Reed

Survival of the honeybee is of much greater importance than whether or not there will be honey on store shelves.

“We are having a hard time keeping bees alive … mostly the honeybees,” John Miller, president of the California State Beekeepers Association, told Lake Tahoe News. “Domestic honeybees are the global champions of pollination and honey production. They may be the most beneficial insect on Earth.”

But their habitat is shrinking as farmers plant nonnative crops that then take away areas for bees to forage.

Some of this is happening in North Dakota – one of three locations where Miller operates Miller Honey Farms. (The other locales are in Newcastle in Placer County and in Idaho.) North Dakota farmers are planting soybeans and corn on land that once was “summertime pasture for bees in California.”

This is one of the topics that will be discussed Nov. 19-21 during the state organization’s annual meeting at Harrah’s Lake Tahoe.

“We are the gatekeepers of the food supply. Thirty percent of what people now eat in America is directly traceable to honeybees,” Miller said.

The afternoon session on Nov. 19 will be about improving access for honeybees as well as the link between bees and almonds. Miller said the two are co-dependent.

“Without the bees, the almond industry will not continue to thrive and prosper, and without the almond industry, the beekeeper business model will fail,” Miller said.

What people are putting on their crops is of importance too, because bees consume pesticides and herbicides. Even the average homeowner should avoid applying pesticides in the middle of the day when “pollinators are visiting.”

Miller says the domestic-European honeybee is the most productive bee. All fruits with a pit benefit from them, as do pumpkins, kiwis, apples and berries, to name a few foods.

“As we become more wealthy as a planet, we improve our diet. As we improve our diet, we buy more of the foods that are dependent on bees for pollination,” Miller said. Without bees, he said, people will be eating a whole lot more corn and rice.

What groups like his can do is advocate for conservation programs to be reinstated. Miller said for various reasons a lot of public land is not available to beekeepers.

“We have to be the voice for our living. There is no government program,” Miller said.

He pointed to the Placer Land Trust as an entity that has been good to beekeepers. The group planted a seed mix that is a benefit for native species and pollinators.

While bees on their own fly from area to area pollinating plants and creating nectar, it is the beekeepers like Miller and his brethren who bring the bees in large numbers to farmers.

They are portable as they happily live in a hive. Some people are hobbyists, while others make a living as beekeepers. It’s not unheard for a beekeeper to have 10,000 hives.

The beekeepers can then make honey, which comes from just about every state. Flavors are all over the board, and this is because the bees are foraging on so many different plants.

Some facts about honey from Miller:

• Honey is the only food consumed by humans that is produced by an insect.

• The average honeybee will make only one-twelfth of a teaspoon of honey in her lifetime.

• To make 1 pound of honey bees travel as far as 55,000 miles, getting nectar from more than 2 million flowers.

• A colony produces 60 to 100 pounds of honey a year.

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Comments (8)
  1. Perry R. Obray says - Posted: November 18, 2013

    The canary in the mine?

  2. Haaaa says - Posted: November 18, 2013

    I also thought honey is not able to be made by any other means that insect production. Covet bees, love bees, keep them safe. If you want unadulterated food that is.

  3. eco alarmist says - Posted: November 18, 2013

    Honey bees are a non native European species used on an industrial scale to pollinate mono culture crops like almonds. While I am all for honeybees; these non native insects that are trucked around the country (florida citrus, california almonds, northern blueberries, etc) and don’t rely on native plants. They function in a completely artificial pollination system that ships them around by truck to pollinat mono culture crops and stores the colonies in huge refridgerated warehouses. Think about this issue critically : what insects pollinated native plants before the non – native European honeybee was brought to this continent?

  4. copper says - Posted: November 18, 2013

    Ya’ got me, eco a; what insects were those? I don’t often bite on the strange theories that screwballs plant on the internet (including LTN), but you give off an aura of actually knowing what you’re talking about.

    Educate us – one way or the other, we’ll either learn about pollination or further our education about the internet. Go for it; it can’t hurt.

  5. Ria de Grassi says - Posted: November 19, 2013

    Readers/commenters here might be interested and enlightened to watch Dr. Marla Spivak’s TED Talk http://www.ted.com/talks/marla_spivak_why_bees_are_disappearing.html.

    Other experts on the topic of European honey bees and native pollinators include Eric Mussen, PhD, UC Cooperative Extension Specialist (apiculturist, http://entomology.ucdavis.edu/Faculty/Eric_C_Mussen/), Robbin Thorp, PhD, retired Professor of Entomology, UC Davis (http://beebiology.ucdavis.edu/PEOPLE/robbinthorp.html), and Neal Williams, PhD, Assistant Professor of Entomology, UC Davis (http://beebiology.ucdavis.edu/PEOPLE/nealwilliams.html).

    Dr. Williams received a three-year federally funded research grant aimed at improving pollinator habitat plantings in nationwide agricultural settings. http://169.237.77.3/news/pollinatorgrantwilliams.html

    In this article http://agalert.com/story/?id=6099, bee biologist Gordon Wardell is quoted, “I think we need to start to look at bees—instead of as an invader—look at them as a way we can really make this system whole.”

  6. dumbfounded says - Posted: November 20, 2013

    Albert Einstein said that the human race had about four years before extinction should the bees die off. He was a pretty smart guy…

    Having a bad day. copper?

  7. eco alarmist says - Posted: November 21, 2013

    Mr. Curtzwiler and R dG provided good links on native pollinators. I would add the two following articles that look at the complex relationship between modern mono-culture farming and the industrial scale use of honeybees to support this farming system. Not good or bad, just the way things work :

    http://www.npr.org/blogs/thesalt/2013/03/01/173167125/wild-bees-are-good-for-crops-but-crops-are-bad-for-bees

    http://blogs.scientificamerican.com/guest-blog/2013/06/07/honey-bees-and-monoculture-nothing-to-dance-about/

    Insightfull comments by all…