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Bees Make Food Production Possible

Many people think of bees simply as a summertime nuisance. But these small and hard-working insects actually make it possible for many of our favorite foods to reach your table. From apples to almonds to the pumpkin in our pumpkin pies, we have bees to thank.  Depending on an individual’s diet, between one and two thirds of the crops humans use for food production depend on pollination by insects such as bees in some way.  Also, the vast majority of wild plant species also require pollination to survive.

This valuable service that Mother Nature has provided at no cost for thousands of years, however, is increasingly failing. As an example, after 3000 years of sustainable agriculture, farmers in the Chinese province Sichuan have to pollinate apple flowers themselves by using pollination sticks because of the lack of honey bees to pollinate their crops.  These pollination sticks are commonly brushes made of chicken feathers and cigarette filters. This is one small example of a pollination problem occurring world-wide.

Closer to home, the California almond crop is critically at risk each year due to the lack of pollinators that are necessary to pollinate the thousands of blossoms that are on each tree.  To explain how large the problem is, the 2013 almond crop is approximately 800,000 acres, according to Extension apiculturist Eric Mussen of the UC Davis Department of Entomology.  The recommended number of hives or colonies to pollinate the almond crop is two per acre, which means that 1.6 million colonies are needed this year alone.  California only has about 500,000 colonies, so over a million need to be brought in from other parts of the United States.

Because of heavy honey bee colony losses sustained across the nation over the last few years, beekeepers that provide pollination services are not going to have enough colonies to pollinate the almond crop to full capacity this year.   And the almond crop is only one that is at risk. Many fruit and vegetable crops are at risk because of the lack of bees and other pollinator insects.

Bees are the most efficient pollinator.  It is true that birds, bats, beetles, various types of ants and flies, as well as butterflies can be classified as pollinators. The problem with these pollinators is that they are not designed for the job and do not do it as efficiently as the honey bee.  Bees are especially efficient at pollination because their goal in life is to collect pollen and nectar exclusively, as these become their food.  To accomplish this, bees visit many flowers of the same species during a single trip and have hairy bodies that easily pick up pollen grains.

How Much do Honey Bees Provide to Food Production?

In the United States, Honey Bees are required to ensure pollination and help guarantee the production of more than $15 billion crops each year.  If you enjoy eating Watermelon, Cantaloupe, Squash, Almonds, Apples, Cherries, Various citrus fruits, and various berry crops such as strawberries and blueberries, you have been enjoying the labor of honeybees.  Without bees to pollinate these crops, the blooms would not mature into fruit.  Bees provide crops such alfalfa, carrots, canola, and various clovers the ability to ensure that seeds are created to grow the next generation of plants.  Remember without the seeds it would be impossible to plant alfalfa or clover to feed to cattle, or grow carrots, peppers, cabbages, and various other vegetables in the garden.

Internationally, global food production worth over 200 billion dollars each year relies on the pollination services of honey bees and to a lesser extent other insects.  This means that as the honey bee and other pollinator’s populations decline, there will be a direct impact on the stability of food production and consumer prices.  It will also mean serious consequences for human health and the food supply. This means that an awful lot rests on the small honey bee.

Here is a partial list of crop plants pollinated by bees.  These are some plants used for food or food production:  Okra, Kiwifruit, Onion, Cashew, Celery, Strawberry, Starfruit, Beet, Mustard, Rapeseed (canola oil), Broccoli, Cauliflower, Cabbage, Brussels sprouts, Turnip, Chili/Red/Bell/Green pepper, Papaya, Safflower, Caraway, Chestnut, Watermelon, Tangerine, Coconut, Coffee, Coriander, Cantaloupe, Cucumber, Squash, Pumpkin, Gourd, Marrow, Zucchini, Lemon, Lime, Carrot, Strawberry, Soybean, Cotton, Sunflower, Flax, Apple, Mango, Alfalfa, Passion fruit, Avocado, Lima bean, Kidney bean, Haricot bean, Adzuki bean, Mung bean, String bean, Green bean, Allspice, Apricot, Sweet Cherry, Sour cherry, Plum, Greengage, Mirabelle, Sloe, Almond, Peach, Nectarine, Guava, Pomegranate, Pear, Black currant, Red currant, Boysenberry, Raspberry, Blackberry, Elderberry, Sesame, Eggplant, Various clover varieties, Blueberry, Cranberry, Vanilla, Vetch, peas, Tomato, Grapes

If it were not for honey bees, food production would be very difficult and many of our favorite foods would not exist.  Remember to support your local beekeeper. They help to keep our food supply safe.

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Honey Tariffs and Anti-Dumping Regulations

Nearly all consumer and most beekeepers are unaware that since 2001, American Honey producers have operated within a semi protected production zone within the borders of the United States.  This is not necessarily a bad thing.  In fact it is a very good thing to protect American beekeepers and the honey consuming American public.

The honey tariffs and anti-dumping regulations against Chinese honey help to protect American beekeepers, the domestic honey industry, and the billions of dollars in agricultural crop output that relies on pollination services of American Beekeepers. Also, equally as important, is the need to protect consumers from substantial risk due to illicit, often adulterated, food products entering uninspected and unsuspected into the food supply from China. In the past, Chinese honey has been found to contain antibiotics, unapproved beehive treatments chemicals, and even heavy metals. Honey Tariffs adn anti-dumping regulations were not enough for the Eastern European Union.  As a result of the poor quality and adulterated nature of Chinese honey, the European Union has outlawed it completely and unconditionally.

The United States Commerce Department began investigating honey being imported from China as early as 1995.  After the amount of honey doubled from 1998 to 2000 the commerce department issued a report detailing the problem with Chinese honey-dumping on the wholesale and retail markets.   After reviewing the Commerce Department’s report and recommendations, the International Trade Commission made the decision to start protective tariffs on Chinese honey imports that year and they went into affect December 10, 2001.  These honey tariffs and anti-dumping regulations impose a fee of between 25 percent to about 184 percent on imported honey from China.

Ever since the inception of the honey tariffs and anti-dumping regulations, the Chinese Ministry of Commerce has repeatedly urged that the honey tariffs and anti-dumping regulations be lifted on the grounds that they are protectionist.  Of course, they failed to address honey product quality or contamination concerns. They are only interested in the removal of the honey tariffs and anti-dumping regulations so their inferior honey can flood the market.

These tariffs are revised in a “Sunset Review” every five years.  The second such review just happened on November 19, 2012.  At the review the International Trade Commission was able presented information on whether the honey tariffs and anti dumping regulations should or should not continue.

In reports submitted to the International Trade Commission during the most recent review, The American Honey Producers Association and the Sioux Honey Association detailed how the revocation of honey tariffs and anti-dumping regulations against Chinese honey would likely lead to “continuation or recurrence of material injury within a reasonably foreseeable time” for the domestic honey industry.  Specifically, the trade associations pointed out how honey sold below market value would severely harm the industry.

After this and other testimony, the Commission decided that “removing the tariffs would likely hurt the domestic industry.” The International Trade Commissions voted 5-0 to maintain the protective measures on Chinese honey.  This effectively means that the honey tariffs and anti-dumping regulations will be in place for at least another five years.  The ITC will then publish its determination and views to the Dept. of Commerce on Nov. 29, 2012.


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Introducing Two Beekeepers

Welcome to the Two Beekeepers Apiary

The Two Beekeepers is an Apiary started and run by Lori Otey and Martin Szudarski. The goal of Two Beekeepers is to raise bees in the most natural way possible, produce honey and other related products such as candles and soaps, and eventually pass on knowledge to others.  Lori and Martin have deeply rooted interests in agriculture production, even though they live in the Chicago suburb of Wheaton, Illinois.  Martin grew up in a rural community and Lori has always been interested in growing plants and keeping animals.

Beekeeping will allow Martin and Lori to get involved in an agriculture related activity.  The first goal of the Apiary is to produce natural raw honey. A second goal is to provide healthy local pollinators in DuPage County.  The third goal of the apiary is to eventually begin working with the wax, which is a valuable bi-product of beekeeping.  Not only can the wax that is produced by bees be used in new hives, it can also be made into candles and even soaps. These items will be sold on the Two Beekeepers website in the future.

Lori and Martin have been working hard toward getting the apiary set up.  A few locations have been found that can be used to keep hives at.  The next stage for the Two Beekeepers Apiary is to get all the supplies that they need to keep bees at these locations.  Keep checking back to learn how you can help build our apiary, purchase some local honey, or honeybee related products.  Or just stop by to view photos and read some blogs.

Thank you for your interest and support

Lori and Marty

The Two Beekeepers