Amy Roberts: The buzz about bees |

Amy Roberts: The buzz about bees

Red Card Roberts

Several years ago I was dating a guy who was at my house one evening when his mother called. He had mentioned during the call he was with me, and his mom, whom I had not met yet, asked him, “What’s Amy like?”

He paused for a moment and looked at me as if to consider how to sum me up in a brief conversation nearing the end. “Well,” he said after a bit. “She’s kind of crunchy.”

They hung up and, having never before been described as a type of mid-morning snack, I immediately wanted answers. “What do you mean, I’m crunchy?”

He rattled off a number of my habits to prove his point: “You walk to work. You only buy fair-trade coffee. You like that vegan bakery, and you still own Birkenstocks!” He explained.

“Yes, but crunchy? That makes it sound like I don’t shave my legs or wear deodorant. Your mom probably thinks I make my own toilet paper out of leaves,” I replied.

While I wasn’t particularly fond of the adjective he used to describe me back then, over time it grew on me. So this weekend, when a friend visiting from out of town referred to me as crunchy, I chuckled.

We were chatting on my porch when my neighbor popped over and nonchalantly asked me if I’d recently ordered a bee hive. I was confused because I hadn’t. He pointed to my tree, where two football-sized swarms of bees had set up camp.

Instead of believing that I hadn’t actually taken up beekeeping, my friend said, “Are you sure you didn’t order a hive? It sounds like something you might do. You are kind of crunchy you know.”

Crunchy as I might be, I wasn’t exactly sure what to do about these swarms, which I later learned contained about 20,000 bees. I was aware of the plight of honeybees long before Cheerios started putting flower seeds in cereal boxes. I know bees equal food, and they’re declining at an alarming rate. But I was also conscious of my lack of an Epipen. And, at the end of the day, there’s only room for one queen at my house. The bees needed to find a new home quickly.

So I asked around and got in touch with a bee keeper. He buzzed right over.

Within minutes of arriving, he skillfully removed the swarms and gave me quite a B-plus education. I learned that in this year alone, nearly 50 percent of honeybee colonies have collapsed. Changing climate patterns, herbicides and pesticides, and genetic modification of crops are mostly to blame for the rapid decline of bee populations.

“Bees pollinate one out of every three bites of food you eat,” the bee keeper told me through his Breaking Bad looking safety suit. “It’s imperative we save them. There’s nothing else that can pollinate food on a commercial scale. Bees are the key that starts the agriculture engine.”

He went on to explain all the components of that engine — which is far more than just flowers or fruits and vegetables. Bees pollinate herbs for seasoning, nuts, cotton for our clothing and coffee. They also pollinate clover and alfalfa, which is the main feed for the cattle industry. Without food for cows, dairy and beef products decline. If you can’t bring yourself to care about bees, at least think of the ice cream. Of course, there’s honey to consider, and beeswax, which is used in cosmetics.

“Even if you can live without ice cream or lipstick, you can’t live without food. Which means, we can’t live without bees,” the bee catcher told me.

So while I’m happy my temporary swarm has been safely relocated, the crunchy in me needed to find out what else I should be doing to save the bees. The expert consensus seems to be:

• Eat organic produce as much as possible.
• Don’t use pesticides or chemicals on your lawn.
• Leave the weeds. Clover and dandelions are like dessert for bees.
• Plant bee-friendly flowers.
• Buy raw, local honey to support local bee keepers.
• Bees aren’t just busy, they’re thirsty too. Leave some water out for them.

Above all else, remember bees are vital to the ecosystem. A future without them really stings.

Amy Roberts is a freelance writer, longtime Park City resident and the proud owner of two rescued Dalmatians, Stanley and Willis. The opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the writer. Follow her on Twitter @amycroberts.

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