Bees and the pollination they provide are essential to growing fruits and veggies but their numbers have mysteriously declined in the past decade, so FruitGuys News has started a Bee Beat to cover these unsung farm heroes. We've reported on the FruitGuys Farm Steward beehive program and the Bees vs. Seeds conundrum in Fresno, CA. Now we spotlight a northern California bee product company dedicated to educating consumers about the beauty and importance of the api.
You can’t miss BeeKind, the Sebastopol, CA honey and beekeeper supply store. Katia and Doug Vincent opened the store in 2004 and installed a beautiful bee mural on the outside of the building on Route 116. The Vincents have an unrivaled selection of honey and a tasting bar to sample the many varieties made from different plants, seasons, and regions. You can choose Tupelo, Orange Blossom, or Sage; infused or creamed; honey from secluded Bolinas pastures or San Francisco gardens. Beeswax, from finished candles to candle making supplies, propolis, bee venom, royal jelly, and other health and beauty supplies, are also shipped nationwide. Their product list is a great reminder of the amazing capabilities of bees.
But BeeKind’s real work is supplying and educating beekeepers. They hold regular beekeeping classes and carry a large assortment of beekeeping supplies, from pith helmets to observation hives. As expert apiarists, they can capture swarms of bees that have defected from a mother hive. Usually people view them as pests but Doug says 2009 has been different. “Last year we'd get 5-10 swarms calls a day. This year an overwhelming number of people want to buy hives to save them in.” Media coverage of the mysterious bee colony collapses in the U.S. and around the world has raised awareness of bees’ importance, and possible precariousness. Honeybees pollinate an estimated $14 billion of seeds and crops in the U.S., according to a Cornell University study. Apples, carrots, almonds, broccoli, and cantaloupe are just a few of the crops that depend almost entirely on bee pollination.
The Vincents work with organizations like the Partners for Sustainable Pollination to educate the public and promote bee sustainability. They work with seed suppliers and nurseries on “pollinator blend” cover crops for use in vineyards and orchards. Home gardeners can find bee friendly-plants at nurseries by looking for stickers from The Yellow Dot Project.
Nationwide, beekeeping classes have increased attendance, even in New York City where its illegal to keep bees. In Pennsylvania there has been a 30-40 percent increase in beekeeping classes. “Colony Collapse Disorder has been bad for bees, but sure has increased awareness in the importance of bees.” says Lee Miller President of Pennsylvania State Beekeepers Association. Even The White House has installed beehives to pollinate its new garden. August 21 is National Honey Bee Awareness Day. A sweet idea indeed.
Heidi Lewis writes about farms, bees, and fruit from her home in Sonoma County, CA. She's been with The FruitGuys since they were FruitKids.