Sunday, March 28, 2010

To Bee, Or Not To Bee?

That is the question.

Or at least that was the question last week at the Sebago Canoe Club. The immediate excitement has died down a bit now, but for a few days, there was an impassioned debate going on on the club Yahoo group about the possibility of forming a beekeeping committee!

This was kicked off by the recent decision by the NYC Board of Health to legalize beekeeping in NYC. One of our members suggested that we get a hive at the club, and even had a good idea about where to keep it to keep anyone from blundering into it. A lot of club members loved the idea, a lot really thought it was the worst idea ever. I was on the "loved it" side - I LOVE honey (once paid $50 for a 12 oz. jar - there was an ulterior motive there but the honey was the one thing on the silent auction table that I really, really wanted); having a garden, I also liked the idea of hosting our own little host of pollinators; I thought that beekeeping would be a really interesting skill to learn and then of course on a grander scale, there's that whole "honeybees are dying" thing. I don't worry about bees at all - I've been gardening for I guess three years now, and our gardens do attract enough bees that they are always around when I'm caring for my little plot, and they never bother me, not even when I go shoving a camera in their faces (which I do whenever I happen to have a camera and a bee that is willing to pose, like the one in the picture above was -- I'm a regular bee papparazza!). I even had a swarm invade my 2nd apartment in NYC & was able to get them out without one single sting - they had a hive on the 2nd floor of the decaying building next door, I left a light on in the bedroom when I left for work one morning, the screen was a loosely-fitting one & the light must have drawn them all in on their way home in the evening. I let them stay the night, turned out the light, shut the door, slept on the couch in the living room & the next morning opened the window wide. Most of them found their way out on their own, of the stragglers, some I was able to shepherd out & the stubbornest ones, I finally killed. Not one hint of aggressiveness from them the whole time, even when I'd gone to lethal measures & they would've been completely justified.

Still, we do have a high use area & some members who are seriously scared of and/or allergic to bees. Might be better in the end to not have that high a concentration of bees on the grounds, I personally don't think it's really quite right to introduce something that's going to make people actively nervous about coming to the club, and as I mentioned, our gardens draw plenty of bees, so I think that just by having those, we're doing a lot to help our local bees.

What fun to even be discussing such a crazy idea, though. Hooray for the NYC Board of Health!

No bees out & about today - they don't fly when it's too cold & I think it was too cold today. Bizarre how far it's dropped since last week, which was giving me thoughts of Cyclones games even though they don't start until June. It was just that kind of weather, that's all. This week, March was back in lion mode. TQ was in town, though, so we went paddling anyways. We picked up tamales from the tamale lady for lunch, and our original plan was to stop for lunch on one of the islands, but we got out there on the bay and YUCK, it was cold and drizzly & raw & just the sort of day where you want to stay in your boat & stay warm. There was a great blue heron who'd found himself a nice sheltered corner near the Sebago dock - they are usually a bit skittish but he didn't budge the whole time we were on the dock getting ready to go - we figured he was looking at us & thinking "Stupid humans, don't know enough to stay in out of the wind, who's the birdbrain today, huh?".

We did share enough of that bird's common sense to decide to keep our paddle a bit shorter than we usually do, skip the lunch break (aka "the time spent freezing our okoles off pretending it's fun") & bring the tamales home for an early-ish dinner. That was a very good call. We just did a loop around Ruffle Bar, probably around 7 miles or so, nothing, as they say, to write home about but it was nice to get out for a paddle with my favorite paddling companion.

It would've been a terrible day for sailing - somebody let all the water out of the bay!


Carol Anne said...

At least in New York you wouldn't have had to worry about Africanized bees the way people do in southern New Mexico. Dumbledore had a hive at Elephant Butte that got taken over by Africanized bees, so he had to get rid of it -- those bees are aggressive, unlike the mild-mannered European honeybees you deal with.

Tillerman said...

I once had a violent reaction to a bee sting so I'm afraid I would have opposed the "let's have a bee hive at the canoe/sailing club" idea.

I noticed someone had let all the water out of the bay here too. In a cove near here, I saw a shoal sticking out of the water that I had never seen before.

bonnie said...

The first people I heard objecting were quoting that recent news story from Arizona as support for why we shouldn't have bees at the club. I saw that as a decision based on misunderstanding - as you say, Carol Anne, those Africanized bees are much nastier than the European ones, but they also can't survive our winters (I read somewhere that one of the reasons for that strain being introduced in the first place was because of their heat tolerance). That argument, I was ready to debate. But then I talked to a friend who's allergic (not quite epi-pen carrying allergic) and personally scared of bees & that was a lot more convincing.

I was thinking it would be interesting to have one of the knowledgeable folks from the New York City Beekeepers' Association come to the club, assess the suitability of our busy location, and maybe give a talk & have a good question and answer session, but on the whole, I wouldn't vote for a hive if it's going to make members afraid to come have fun on a nice summer day. There are enough bees around to take care of our gardens, and if I want urban honey, I can get it at a greenmarket.

Word verification: Rosie. Really!

bonnie said...

I guess the thing I'd really worry about would be somebody discovering they were allergic when one of our bees stung them. Most people who know they are allergic carry an epi-pen for the counterjab, but if a person has never been stung (not uncommon for people raised in a city, I think) they wouldn't know until it happened. That could happen anyways, we've got gardens & those draw the bees that already live in the area, but no matter how tame our local non-Africanized bees are (i.e., very), it just seems like it makes basic mathematical sense to say that increasing the number of bees at the club would increase the chances of people getting stung.

Don said...

I got to help a friend take the full racks out of his hives once. Funny hat, smoke gun, the whole deal.

Wikipedia has an interesting article on the africanized bees. Sounds like the problem with cold climates is they sometimes decide to go start a new hive in the fall, not knowing that winter is coming and they end up with not enough honey to get through.

In some countries they are the economic choice despite the aggression because they are more productive than the local bees which don't even have stingers.

Pandabonium said...

Thanks for bringing us up to date on the latest buzz.

I grew up surrounded by orange groves. As a kid my friends and I used to try to catch bees by the wings and hold them for a while - yes, we sometimes got stung.

blanket chest said...

I remember when I was still young. I get to catch bees and a whole lot of butterflies! I can't imagine I did that!

JP said...

There's a similar debate about urban bee keeping here in the UK & London: see this:

There's actually a lot of greenery here with the parks and peoples gardens.

PeconicPuffin said...

You and your friends are a bunch of freaks. You're letting bees into your club? We tolerate kiters out in windsurfing land, but nothing with more than four legs.

On the other hand who knows what wonders can be found in the bee blogging community...

Happy April!

P.S. the "captcha" word that your blog wants me to verify is "mines". That's all any of us need...Mines! I worry about hitting floating pieces of wood.