Slide Ranch is making a special effort to protect our bee population and to teach students to appreciate, and not fear, bees. This month our Teachers in Residence had a special bee training led by Drew, our animal care manager, and beekeeper Mike Turner. They deposited a hive of bees that they had rescued living in the old Commons’ walls (before it was demolished) and gave them a new home in a top bar observation hive! The top bar hive was built by a former teacher, Elena Canaris, as her “Independent Project” in 2014. Now students can observe bees inside their hives as well as in the garden.
Bees are an important part of agriculture around the world--as they gather pollen and nectar, they pollinate a wide variety of crops. Apples, cranberries, melons, broccoli, blueberries, cherries and almonds are just some of the crops that rely on them.
Bee populations, especially domesticated ones, have been struggling for several years, and this spring, there have been a number of stories about a sharp spike in domesticated honey bee deaths. According to the New York Times "about 5,000 beekeepers reported losing 42.1 percent of their colonies" between April 2014 and April 2015. Experts have suggested that bee populations are being hurt by a combination of factors: colony collapse disorder, poor nutrition, specific pesticides and a parasite called the varroa mite.
Want to help? The Humane Society of the United States has suggestions about ways to support bee populations in your own yard, and the Xerces Society offers resources about pollinator conservation that are tailored by state.