The Africanized Bee Myth

Beekeeping is on the way to being legalized in Los Angeles. But there’s one issue that keeps coming up: Africanized bees.

African honeybees (Apis mellifera scutellata) were introduced to the Americas in Brazil in 1957. Over the years, on their journey north, they have hybridized with European honeybees (Apis mellifera). African and hybrid “Africanized” honeybees can’t tolerate cold temperatures so there is a northern boundary to their territory.

Visually, Africanized honeybees are indistinguishable from purebred European varieties. The only way you can tell the difference is through DNA testing. They are just a hybridized subspecies of honeybee.

The hysteria over African honeybees is just that, hysteria. I have helped move many hives here from walls, trees and kitchen vents to people who have wanted to have bees. Most likely, all of the hives I have moved have been Africanized. I have yet to encounter a feral hive that I would consider aggressive. Africanized bees should not be used as an excuse to ban beekeeping in Los Angeles or anywhere else that has Africanized bee populations.

The people fanning the Africanized bee hysteria all have agendas (and, I’ll point out, they have never actually worked with Africanized bees–only killed them). Exterminators want your money. Government bureaucrats need an enemy to justify their jobs and pensions (government vector control “experts” the TSA, NSA and DEA have a lot in common including a bumbling incompetence). Conventional beekeepers are so blinded by honey production and pollination service income that they fail to see the long term evolutionary advantages of African bee genetics, specifically disease resistance. And I can’t help but think there’s a subconscious racism here of the sort that you find at the extreme end of the anti-invasive species movement (see Gert Gröning and Joachim Wolschke-Bulmahn for more on that subject).

Africanized colonies have been living for years in walls, trees and utility boxes of the warmer parts of North America without any human intervention. They have, through the process of natural selection, survived all the problems that have decimated the hives of commercial beekeepers: varroa mite, American Foul Brood, nosema, etc. and I have no doubt they will figure out how to deal with the small hive beetle. Instead of demonizing Africanized colonies, we should see a possible answer to colony collapse disorder. As permaculturalists like to say, in the problem is a solution.

Saturday Linkages: Balloon Jumping, Front Yard Graves and a Poo Themed Restaurant

ku-bigpic (1)

What If There Was No Landscaping? http://landscapeofmeaning.blogspot.com/2013/09/what-if-there-was-no-landscaping.html …

Make Your Own $35 Straw Mattress http://www.notechmagazine.com/2013/10/make-your-own-35-straw-mattress.html …

How to solder: http://www.tvbgone.com/cfe_mfaire.php 

Outrageously Themed Magic Restroom Cafe Soft Opens, Serving “Golden Poop” Rice http://eater.cc/1fxFy2N 

ORDNING stainless steel breadbox to modern mailbox http://www.ikeahackers.net/2013/10/ordning-stainless-steel-breadbox-to-modern-mailbox.html …

How To Grow Your Own Garlic http://www.nwedible.com/2013/10/how-to-grow-your-own-garlic.html …

During Your First Freezes Be Concerned About The Wind http://www.finegardening.com/item/30377/during-your-first-freezes-be-concerned-about-the-wind …

Pumpkin Tap turns pumpkin or watermelon into keg: http://boingboing.net/2013/10/21/pumpkin-tap-turns-pumpkin-or-w.html …

Tombstone as Landscape Feature by Susan Harris http://gardenrant.com/2013/10/tombstone-front-yard.html?utm_source=feedly …

“We’re going to check the burger with our hands here” http://barfblog.com/2013/10/were-going-to-check-the-burger-with-our-hands-here/ …

Jeff Speck: America Has So Many Problems. Walkability Solves Most of Them. http://dc.streetsblog.org/2013/10/15/jeff-speck-america-has-so-many-problems-walkability-solves-most-of-them/ …

Distracted Driving Is Claiming the Lives of More Pedestrians and Cyclists http://dc.streetsblog.org/2013/10/23/distracted-driving-is-claiming-the-lives-of-more-cyclists-and-pedestrians/#.Uml6jtaXz3w.twitter …

Balloon Jumping: Yesterday’s Fun (and Dangerous) Sport of the Future http://paleofuture.gizmodo.com/balloon-jumping-yesterdays-fun-and-dangerous-sport-1450733941 …

HOWTO make a $10 digital microscope kit for your phone: http://boingboing.net/2013/10/22/howto-make-a-10-digital-micro.html …

Pico-Dwelling: Urban Living in Less than 200 Square Feet http://feedproxy.google.com/~r/dornob/~3/UcyD8r98jAQ/story01.htm …

Branch-Like Modular Benches Have Endless Possibilities http://feedproxy.google.com/~r/dornob/~3/9OyXv2JJKMo/story01.htm …

The Venetian Handcart http://www.notechmagazine.com/2013/10/the-venetian-handcart.html …

5 MPH Home: Ultra-Tiny Caravan Towed by Mobility Scooter | Designs & Ideas on Dornob http://dornob.com/5-mph-home-ultra-tiny-caravan-towed-by-mobility-scooter/ …

Six-Legged Caravan Gives New Meaning to ‘Walking Home’ | Designs & Ideas on Dornob http://dornob.com/six-legged-caravan-gives-new-meaning-to-walking-home/ …

Out of Stock: Simple & Easy-to-Assemble 3-Shelf Wall Set http://feedproxy.google.com/~r/dornob/~3/WFfQM7iaKJg/story01.htm …

Truck recycling? http://www.we2ours2.in/2013/10/truck-recycling.html …

Pumpkin Bread with Chocolate Chips and Bourbon http://www.nwedible.com/2013/10/pumpkin-bread-with-chocolate-chips-and-bourbon.html …

Infuse Your Booze! A Complete Guide To DIY Flavored Liquors http://www.nwedible.com/2013/10/infuse-your-booze-a-complete-guide-to-diy-flavored-liquors.html …

For these links and more, follow Root Simple on Twitter:

Are We Keeping Too Many Bees?

Someday I’ll get around to writing a fill in the blanks form for journalists doing the inevitable urban homesteading backlash story. You know, “Folks are tired of all the chores and are dumping their [chickens/vegetables/bees] and returning to a life of [shopping/golfing/riding jet skis].” This month’s backlash story concerns urban beekeeping in London.

Reader Cassandra Silver (who has a really beautiful blog) alerted us to a bee story in the Independent, “How do-gooders threaten humble bee.” The gist of the article is that urban beekeepers in London have more hives than the nectar and pollen sources can support:

The London Beekeepers Association (LBKA) is warning that there could be “too many bees” in the Greater London area for the environment to sustain. One beehive needs 120kg of nectar and 20kg to 30kg of pollen a year to sustain its bees; honey production will decrease if there are not enough pollinator-friendly plants to meet demand.

I’m confused about the article and the quotes from the BLKA. Is the concern about the bees or about having less honey? Focusing on honey can indeed lead to bee overpopulation. Bee populations self-regulate. If there are not enough food sources colonies will die off.

That is, unless people are feeding bee colonies sugar to prop them up (and I assume they are because feeding bees is one of the many misguided bits of advice that mainstream beekeeping organizations promulgate). Natural beekeeper Michael Bush has many good reasons for not feeding bees except under certain limited circumstances. One of the unintended consequence of feeding bees is that you could easily contribute to an overpopulation problem. It would be better to let populations decline and stabilize, in my opinion.

One good thing that might come out of London’s alleged bee overpopulation problem, that the article points out, is that the situation might prompt people to plant more flowering plants. Public and private urban spaces all over the world would benefit from landscaping that takes pollinators into account. Such landscapes tend to be beautiful, nourishing both to the bees and the human soul.

On Monday, the African bee myth.

What I’m Growing this Winter

Rucola Coltivata sel Ortolani K

Winter in our Mediterranean climate is when we grow cool season vegetables. It’s my favorite time of year here. The hills turn green, the smog blows away and we have that phenomenon called “rain” (hopefully).

As usual, I’m planting seeds from an Italian seed company, Franchi. Here’s what I’m growing:

Arugula “Coltivata Sel. Ortolani”
One can never have enough arugula. It’s my favorite vegetable. This year I’m trying Franchi’s arugula “Coltivata Sel. Ortolani.” Franchi sells both “cultivated” and “wild” varieities of arugula (confusing, since the “wild” varieties are actually cultivated). Cultivated varieties tend to be milder and less sharp in taste. I like them both. Franchi highlights certain varieties by featuring them as “Selezione Speciale” which is why I chose this particular arugula.

ib_p029_0_554-500x500

Chicory “Pan di Zucchero”
I chose this chicory on the recommendation of Franchi’s West Coast distributor The Heirloom Seed Store, who had a booth at this year’s Heirloom Exposition. The owners of the Heirloom Seed Store, who run a farm in the Santa Cruz area, raved about this particular chicory. It’s a large-leafed variety that can be used in a salad or cooked.

ib_p029_0_141-500x500

Radicchio and Chicory Mix: “Misticanza di Radicchi”
I’ve never gone wrong with Franchi’s salad mixes. The best damn salads I’ve ever had in my life have been made with these mixes.

ib_p029_0_202-500x500

Mache “Valeriana Verte de Cambrai”
This is my first attempt at growing this cold tolerant weedy vegetable.

ib_p029_0_4115-500x500

Portuguese cabbage
I’m usually hesitant to grow cabbage due to pest problems. But I thought I’d give this unusual variety, that does not form a head, just for the novelty factor. It’s the primary ingredient in a traditional Portuguese soup called caldo verde, or “green broth.” This cabbage variety is also heat tolerant as it’s from southern Portugal which has a climate similar to ours. I’m hoping the open leaves don’t provide as much slug habitat as normal varieties.

If you grow during the winter (or are in the Southern Hemisphere) let us know what you’re planting this fall.