Saturday, November 15, 2008

Save the Bees, Please

Last summer, when I took a break from Corporate America and the requisite nine-to-five, I spent every morning having coffee in the garden. And while I sat there, goofing off, I watched bees -- tireless, relentless, completely immersed in their buzziness.

It inspired the following, written for my grandsons:

"Behold the bumbling bumblebees
Drowsing among the flowers
Lining their pockets with pollen
For hours and hours and hours

They zig-zag about the garden
From daisy to hyssop to phlox
Rolling in poppy blossoms
And buzzing the hollyhocks

They tickle the morning glories
And dive-bomb through the broom
They even sample the broccoli
When it begins to bloom

They stay so buzz-buzz-busy!
They never stop for lunch
They never sit and linger
Over a morning brunch.

They keep their wings a-whirring
From sun-up to sun-down
Singing their busy-bee song
All… day… long!

I think I’d like a job like theirs –
where instead of working for money,
I spend the day in the garden
And then go home and make honey."

If you love having bees in your garden, take note. There's something you can do to protect and preserve this important resource in Denver.

On Monday, Nov. 17, the Denver City Council will consider an ordinance amendment to allow backyard beekeeping in the city. If you act quickly, you can support this initiative by sending an email to your city council member and the two at-large members, asking them to support the proposal.

You can find out who your city council person is checking out the map provided here. You can find a list of city council people with contact information here.

So, why would anyone want to promote bees in the city? Beekeeping in Denver will benefit the whole community, not just people who put a hive in their yard. My friend John, fellow writer and DUG Board member offers the following key points:

Urban beekeeping helps the bees
  • The honey bee is in danger. In the last few years, many beekeepers have reported losing over half of their bees each season. This epidemic, called colony collapse disorder, is believed to have many causes, possibly including viruses and parasites. But most experts agree that the use of bees in industrial agriculture has weakened their ability to cope with these threats. We depend on honey bees to pollinate a vast amount of our food, so their disappearance would have a devastating effect on our food security.
  • Small-scale local beekeeping is an excellent way to keep many bees in more natural and healthy conditions. Having many backyard hives full of healthy bees would improve their chances of survival.
  • With the wide variety of flowering plants in its gardens and parks, the urban environment may be even better for bees than rural areas, which are often dominated by monoculture and heavy pesticide use.

Backyard beekeeping will benefit many new beekeepers and existing gardeners

  • Honey is a healthier sweetener than refined sugar or high-fructose corn syrup. It's a whole food, full of micronutrients from the flowers it's made from. Many people believe local honey alleviates seasonal allergy symptoms because the local pollen it contains may help immunize the body. And like every other food, home-grown honey tastes much better than what you get at the store.
  • Having bees in a backyard or community garden improves pollination of flowering plants, including tomatoes, squash, pumpkins, cucumbers, beans and potatoes, as well as ornamental flowers. If you have a fruit tree in your yard, it's in your interest to have a healthy bee population in the city.
  • Beekeeping is fun, educational, and easy. Learning about the amazing honey bee is a great activity for kids and a fascinating connection to natural world for everyone. Traditional hive equipment can be expensive, but simple designs like the top-bar hive can be built with scrap lumber at very low cost.

Denver's 80+ community gardens would be especially good places for beehives.

  • Our community gardens would provide a large amount of diverse forage for the bees, who would improve pollination and increase yields.
  • Honey would be another source of good local food for community gardeners, enhancing their health and food security.

Backyard beekeeping is safe.

  • Honey bees are not aggressive. Most stings attributed to bees are actually wasps. Honey bees sting only to protect their colony or when they feel otherwise threatened. It is very rare for a bee to sting while out foraging. The proposed ordinance contains safeguards that are adequate to minimize accidental human-bee encounters and protect the small percentage of people who have a dangerous allergy to bee stings. Under the proposal, hives must be in the rear 1/3 of the lot, at least 5 feet from the side and rear property lines, with a fence or foliage barrier to make the bees fly up to a height of at least 6 feet before leaving the property.

Beekeeping is a natural part of the local eating and sustainable living movement.

  • Like gardening, small-scale beekeeping is a great way to diversify and localize the food system, which enhances everyone's food security.
  • Many major cities allow backyard beekeeping, including Chicago, Dallas, Boston, San Francisco and Portland. Chicago has beehives on the roof of its city hall. Here in Colorado, beekeeping is already allowed in many cities and towns, and the number is increasing. The town of Windsor recently adopted an ordinance similar to this one.

Denver is taking many steps toward improving environmental quality and sustainability in the city. Ensuring that Denver has a healthy population of honey bees is an important part of this effort. Let's get buzz-buzz-busy and vote to allow backyard beekeeping on November 17!

3 comments:

Kitt said...

Thanks for this! I just sent off a letter to my councilman. I hope to be one of those backyard beekeepers one of these days.

tori@dug said...

Becky, this is a beautiful poem! Are you an artist as well? This would make a lovely children's book...not that you aren't already doing a million and one great things!

Brock said...

how did the vote turn out?