Defend Our Future recently wrapped up a successful, exciting and overall productive Climate Week 2021. The culmination of this was our virtual event Defend Our Bees, which took an in-depth look at the importance of bees and pollinators to our environment, what you can do to help, and how these little furry flying creatures are affected by climate change.
The real fun came weeks before the event when I had the amazing opportunity to spend some hands-on time with local Maryland-based beekeeper Rob Jenson, owner of Bee Daddies Apiaries, as I was able to participate with him in his weekly maintenance of local beehives!
Rob maintains 16 beehives located in folks’ backyards across the Maryland suburbs just outside of Washington. DC. Each beehive has an average a population of about 40,000 bees! People who have multiple hives have what’s called an apiary. The main responsibility of this maintenance is to make sure the bees are living healthy (disease free) and producing honey. At the end of a season a single hive can produce on average about 25 pounds of honey! Trust me, it is not an easy job to maintain beehives! I was shocked by the weight of a single frame in a bee box, and the thousands of bees circling around me made the regular maintenance of a beehive eventful!
After we finished maintenance on the apiaries, I had the opportunity to ask Rob some questions that had been buzzing around my head, (pun intended). The first being, how are bees affected by something so large as climate change? Rob’s answer was an insightful look at how bees are connected to every aspect of life on this planet. I also found out why beekeepers blow smoke while performing inspections, causing bees to huddle together in the protection of the colony. The reason for this behavior is for millions of years, bees have known that the smell of smoke is directly related to fire, and this is a warning sign that the hive is under threat from a nature disaster. Because of their sensitivity to outside forces, climate change has been extremely detrimental on bee populations. We were opening up hives just days after Hurricane Ida had devastated the South and Eastern United States. When these powerful storms sweep through, the pollen on plants is washed away, putting more stress on hives to adapt to food shortages. This is a reaction similarly shared by humans as the climate crisis threatens food shortages for millions globally.
The good news is that there are things we can do daily in our own neighborhoods to protect our pollinators!
The first being to allow nonnative grass, that’s occupying most yards across America, to grow! By allowing small clovers and dandelions to grow, bees and other pollinators will have a source of food relatively close to their hives. You can take things further by turning your yard into a ’pollinator corridor‘ by growing only native plants. Finally, at the end of the summer, set aside a small pile of fallen leaves to provide protection for pollinators during the colder months. Over 70% of beehives are formed in the ground using this type of yard debris!
If you are looking to become a hive owner or beekeeper, always remember to reach out to local groups rather than the internet for all your questions. Folks like Rob Jenson are extremely knowledgeable about all your inquiries and would love to help!
After you’ve helped the bees, you can also take action by urging your members of Congress to make bold investments in climate action and our communities by signing our petition.