Rachel Lipscomb

Imagine a ritual passed down generation after generation. It becomes older, it’s complete history is the only thing you hang onto, but times are changing and we need new ways to provide the story to the next generations. That is what is happening to local Bee Keepers. The Loma Vista 4-H’s Bee Keeping Club had a project at the Ventura County Beekeepers Association (VCBA) on 3/11/20. It was held at Santa Paula, Agricultural Center. Local Bee Keepers have many threats to their business and hobby. Many things are effecting local Bee Keepers.  

Bee Keeping is already an expensive and time-consuming hobby. From having to drive sundown to sun up to the California Valley Region to have their bees pollinate almond trees, and the cost of keeping the bees healthy, Bee Keepers face many challenges. While I was at the meeting, I took notes, a very interesting topic came up, mites and Africanized Bees. Mites are little creatures that often prey on the bees larvae. This is the case for the Varroa Mite. The Varroa Mite, or Varroa Destructor and V. Jacobsoni, are threatening beehives.  The mites are so concerning they even have a syndrome named after their effects which is called the Parasitic Mite Syndrome. The syndrome causes abnormal larvae production patterns and dead larvae in the cells. This causes a break in the beehives population, which affects the queen. This syndrome annihilates beehives. Other worrying problems are Colony Collapse disorder. Colony Collapse Disorder is when Bee Hives “vanish”. What Bee Keepers find is a hive with a queen and a few distraught leftover adult bees and many unborn eggs, the honey cells are untouched.  This is unusual because normally if a beehive swarmed, they’d wait for the bees and they’d take the honey with them. It’s like the bees disappeared. There are no signs of the bees anywhere in the area. It’s like they vanished into thin air. The vanishing bees worry beekeepers, what happens if their hives are all gone? It’s expensive to start a new hive without the proper tools.

What concerned me most was what other people were doing to affect beekeepers. Local honey sales, a beekeeper’s second source of income, are tanking. Vietnamese imports are mislabeling honey and misdirecting customers. These kinds of honey are cheaper and taste the same in every bottle. To most consumers, there is no difference, but there are many large negative differences. These imports are heating up the honey, stripping away it’s enzymes that benefit humans. The enzymes help people who are allergic to pollen become more resistant. Taking away the enzymes is striping the honey of all it’s good properties. These imports then have alternatives and additives mixed in. The honey can then sell at a lower price and taste exactly how a consumer wants it. These kinds of honey can be labeled “raw honey” or “organic honey” as well as many other labels. These manufacturers misdirect consumers with faulty labeling. Regulation checks happen so rarely that the imported brands often get away with their trickery. The Bee Keepers said that they have no way of ensuring honey is “organic.”  Bees have a six-mile radius of travel to collect nectar. If a farmer on another field sprays pesticides on his crops and farmer who has the bees doesn’t, the bees don’t know the difference and may collect nectar at another field. Thus, you can’t ensure bees have “organic honey”.  The beekeepers told me about the new pesticide laws and how they aren’t being held up.  There are new “2 hour pesticides” that can’t be traced in the crop or “organic pesticides” farmers use to keep away bugs. These mislabeled pesticides blur the line of “organic food”. Local Ventura County Bee Keepers at Ventura County Beekeeper Association are ready to go to court over this problem. It is negatively impacting their business on a humongous scale. 

The new fashion trends are also harming the business. People want genuine honey, year-round. It is hard for beekeepers to supply this because honey can only be harvested for a certain time of the year.  The trends are siphoning money to the imported honey companies.  

What struck me the most from the meeting was one simple question I asked, “ Do you feel a need for younger people to start beekeeping?”  One lady responded, “Yes!”, “You can not get five beekeepers in a room to get to agree on something.  Except this. We need new technology, new science. We can’t keep going like this.” The room erupted in conversations, but then I had to leave. Beforehand I asked another question, “Do you feel like there is a Bee Keeping community?” They responded yes. You don’t have to be a beekeeper to help and support the Bee Keeping community. We can buy local honey instead of honey imported from out of states. We could also be scientists or engineers and create new solutions for new devices to help bees in the future. In conclusion, there are many challenges beekeepers face. From environmental to human-generated problems. Global warming and pollution are affecting the bees as well as people. We vote with our dollars. So stop buying imported honey and go local instead!

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