The Best Bees in Massachusetts

It turns out, if you want to buy 10,000 bees and a queen bee in New England, you have to plan early. In February we received confirmation that our Flow Hive would ship in late March and realized we needed to get the bees to go with it. As we started looking around, Jon and I realized that we knew *nothing* about bees, and we would be relying on our friend Randi for a lot of education. 
2016-04-27 13.56.07Here’s a great example of knowing nothing, from an email exchange between Jon and Randi back in February when Randi asked for opinions on buying bees:

Jonathan: Ones that produce lots of honey, are good for our local environment (preferably native) and have a chance to overwinter.  Basically, I don’t know diddly and would go with whatever Randi thinks.  The couple of places I looked at this morning, seem to indicate that their bee packs are sold out for 2016 already.

Randi: Just FYI, Apis mellifera (honeybees) are from Europe. There are no native honeybees, though there are lots of other native bee species that are still important pollinators. Not hive-bees though.

2016-04-27 13.29.34See that? Right off the bat we didn’t even know that honeybees aren’t native to the US!  Our honeybee education had begun.

All of us quickly learned (including Randi) that you have to reserve your bees early around here!  All the obvious places were sold out! Luckily, Randi’s friend Dr. Noah Wilson-Rich, the founder of The Best Bees Company, was able to help us out and reserve us a “package!” I should pause here to say that the main business of The Best Bees Company is residential and commercial beekeeping. For an annual fee they will set up a hive at your location and maintain it for you. You get the benefit of having the pollinators around, providing a haven for bees (let’s hope it’s safe) and fresh, and local honey, with none of the work. Their profits fund research to improve bee health – in fact, that’s where Randi and Noah met – they got their PhD’s at the same time at Tufts!
2016-04-27 13.16.27Fast forward now to April, and Randi and I were headed out to visit The Best Bees Company in Boston (yes, in the city) to pick up our bees.

We met Noah and he showed us around their facility.  They have a lovely front of house area, and a cool area where they build beehives, they had an artist decorating hives, stacks and stacks of hives, and stacks and stacks of packages of live bees, waiting to go out to their new homes!2016-04-27 13.28.40

This is where I learned that Noah is not just the owner of The Best Bees Company, but also a researcher and author! He wrote The Bee: A Natural History and is currently affiliated with the MIT Media Lab. In 2015, the company split off The Urban BeeKeeping Laboratory & Bee Sanctuary as a separate 501c3.  I realized what a great opportunity he has there for research when he pointed out that he has staff in 8 states who visit over 100 hives every month and record answers to a set of questions that he provides as the staff are tending the hives.  One seriously awesome thing they’ve discovered through their research is that urban bees tend to do better than rural bees! In 2014, Northeastern published a great article on Noah’s background and research into vaccinations for bees.  It’s very accessible, so I direct you there for more information on his research!

2016-04-27 13.45.51After the tour, Noah showed us an example of what our queen would look like once we got her cage out of the larger cage holding the bees (and brushed off the queen tenders that would cling to her cage).  He explained how we would take out the cork plug, and then the queen tenders would eat through the sugar plug to get her out.  That process would take about 3 days, giving the bees time to get used to the new hive and their new queen.

After talking it through with Dr Noah Wilson-Rich, we were ready to take our 10,000 bees home and install them in their new hive!

Happy Greening!

Alicia

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Your Perfect Lawn Makes Me Sick

Every day I drive the carpool to school and we drive past lots of yards.  Some have gardens, some have bushes, some have scraggly grass, some have grass with brown spots, but a couple are absolutely, perfectly green. They don’t have any weeds, no dandelions, not one blade is out of place and they are a very bright green.  These lawns make me feel ill every time I drive by.

Why? Why does a perfectly manicured lawn make me feel sick? I almost feel like it’s the creepy start of a horror movie. Then I see a perfect lawn that has little yellow flags on it. Those little flags say that you shouldn’t walk on the lawn for two days. Do you ever wonder why you shouldn’t walk on the lawn for two days? Perhaps you know.  Perhaps you know that those flags mean that chemicals have been put on the lawn and those chemicals are toxic to humans.

If they’re toxic to humans, aren’t they toxic to birds and squirrels and other animals? In our area I see bunnies, chipmunks, geese and even wild turkeys walking around yards.  They’re also toxic to weeds – that’s pretty much the point of the chemicals.  The labels brag about being able to get rid of dandelions. 2015-06-20 10.58.06 Recently I learned that dandelions are “first foods” for bees.  That means they come out and have nectar and pollen before many other flowers are available.  Bees depend on dandelions and other “weeds” to get them started after a long winter and to hold them over until our gardens are in full bloom.

Do you have gardeners that help with your yard? Do you know what products they use on your yard? Do you take care of your yard yourself? Do you know what is in the products you use on your lawn? Why is it necessary for them to use something that is so toxic to human health that they have to put up warning signs to keep off?

You or your gardener may be using a product called Round Up with an active ingredient called “glyphosate.” Recently, Round Up was banned by the country of France for sale to consumers. This product has been linked to increased cancer rates. Is that something that you want to risk to keep your yard perfect? Perhaps you don’t have children running through your grass, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be concerned about a product that causes cancer being used around your house.

Have you noticed that these signs used to be everywhere at large institutions such as universities, hospitals, large properties, but now they’re uncommon. Many large organizations have realized that it is not necessary to use herbicides and pesticides to maintain their lawns and frankly, it’s not worth the risk.

2016-05-08 17.56.46

Natural lawn with dandelions in the front and some mix of grasses.

Personally, I find that a perfectly manicured one color, one plant, lawn looks unnatural to me. You never see anything like that out in nature. Lawns with variation in color with the occasional dandelion, with Clover, are much more interesting and pleasant to look at. They also tell me that the owner is more interested in our planet than perfect appearances. I have to confess, I’ve started to judge people based on the appearance of their yards and if yours is perfect and bright green, the judgement isn’t good.

Happy Greening,

Alicia

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Creating a Beehive Co-op

bee hive

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Earth Day UN Climate Agreement Signing

From climateactiontracker.org http://climateactiontracker.org/global/173/CAT-Emissions-Gaps.html

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CPA-parade

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superbowl_50_levi_infographic

The one team that I care about playing in  Super Bowl 50 NFL Championship game is team Solar!  Levi's Stadium in San Francisco has 375 kW of solar panels that generate enough electricity each year to power all of the 49ers home games. … [Continue reading]

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Keystone XL Pipeline stamped REJECTED

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love song to the earth

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Interview with Jeff Sutherland – Inventor of Scrum and Renewable Energy Advocate

Photo of home with both roofs covered in solar panels

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How much did the US spend on Imported Oil in 2014?

1/3rd of a Trillion Dollars

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