What can WE do?Consumers & City Dwellers
People who live in the cities sometimes feel so detached from their food source that they feel like they lack the power to change anything about it. Nothing is further than the truth. Money in our pockets is the ultimate vote, the game changer.
If we learn to ask the right questions every time we make a purchase, that will change the world.
If we ask the right questions every time we buy honey or other bee products, that will change the world of the bees and the beekeepers.
What are the questions that we should ask before we purchase bee products?
First of all, we need to be talking to the beekeeper himself to be able to ask questions! Reaching out to the producer, getting to know the producer is a great start to eating wholesome food which is also fair. If you are not able to do that, the next best thing would be purchasing organically certified honey. Independent certification bodies have organic honey production regulations that the beekeepers are bound. The location, the hives and the product are tested to make sure that they abide by the certification bodies. For more information, please refer to the organic beekeeping regulations in your country – they change slightly from country to country.
Here are the best questions to ask your beekeeper (and the answers you want to hear in return) to ensure he or she is focused on keeping the bees healthy.
Q: Is the honey from your own hive(s)? Do you package honey from another source? If so, from where?
A: Ideally, you want to buy directly from the beekeeper or someone who is very familiar with the practices of the beekeeper(s). Never support a vendor, processor or packer who doesn’t know the origin of the honey he or she is selling.
Q: Where are the hives located? What is the vegetation in the area?
A: You don’t need the address of course, but it is good to know where the honey comes from as honey from different locations and different vegetations may have different health properties. Also you would want to make sure that the hives are not close to sprayed fields, roads, industrial areas, coal burning power plants etc.
Q: Do they use comb foundation or let the bees make their comb?
A: The best answer depends on your consumption preferences – with comb or without? If you consume the comb, you would want to make sure that it is made by the bees.
Q: How are you as a beekeeper contributing to the health of honeybees?
A: Know your beekeeper’s methods and management practices during honey production. How the beekeeper cares for the honeybees makes a big difference in the quality of the honey for sale. If they don’t mention omitting the use of chemicals, you’ll want to ask specifically about their use of miticides, antibiotics or artificial feedings, including cane/beet sugars, high fructose corn syrup, corn syrup and pollen patties. Depending on the area, some feeding is acceptable, as long as the bees have enough to winter.
Q: How do you ensure your honeybees are well hydrated?
A: Honeybees need water to stay hydrated but also to regulate the thermodynamics within the hive and colony. They use water inside the hive as a means for evaporative cooling (air conditioning within the hive). Honeybees will place water over and on top of the wax comb to prevent it from melting and to keep the eggs and young developing honeybees in cells laid by the queen bee from overheating and dying. That said, beekeepers should always provide clean water at each hive, especially when honeybees cannot forage outside the hive due to cold temperatures or cloudy, foggy or rainy weather.
Q: How do you prevent your bees from starving during the winter months?
A: Beekeepers should leave enough honey in the hive for honeybees to feed on over the cold months of winter and into early spring.
Other things that city dwellers can do to help the bees:
1. Keep bee friendly plants and flowers in your garden
Most double flowers are of little use, as they’re too elaborate. Some are bred without male and female parts, while others have so many petals that bees can’t get to the nectar and pollen. So, single dahlias and other single blooms are popular with many bees, while doubles are usually ignored.
Bees can see the purple more clearly than any other colour, so grow lots of purple plants, such as lavender, alliums, buddleja and catmint. That said, flowers of other colours will still attract bees, so don’t go pulling them all up! You can prolong the flowering of many plants by deadheading them.
Tubular-shaped flowers such as foxgloves, honeysuckle, penstemons and snapdragons are the favourite feeding places of long-tongued bees such as the garden bumblebee, Bombushortorum.
Flowers for all seasons
It’s vital you provide flowers throughout the year. Bees are most active from March to September, but overwintering queens and workers may emerge on warm days in winter, too. It’s also a good idea to have at least two nectar- or pollen-rich plants in flower at any one time during this period. The nectar feeds the adult bee, while the pollen is collected to feed the young. You can never have too many!
2. Find out about the beekeeping the regulations in your area and if they are favourable, become a city beekeeper
3. Contact the local authorities and ask them to implement bee friendly practices
4. Do not spray synthetic chemicals in your garden – seek nature friendly alternatives
5. Become an advocate for ecological beekeeping
6. Join an NGO or an organization that supports ecological beekeeping.
Live and Let Bee 2017. All rights reserved.