I’m often asked to post photos somewhere of my bees, how I work with them, how we get the honey, what the hives look like and more. So I decided to try my hand at a little web site to share my experiences in suburban farming. We like to call our home a kibbutz, and the idea was that everyone would play a part. But in reality, I run this gig. With the kids away in college I can usually get Brad to put on a bee jacket and help with the hives, if necessary. He actually doesn’t mind, and tends to worry quite a bit about the bees. I know that when Aliya is home, she can be counted upon to harvest asparagus, sugar snap peas, cherry tomatoes and any ripe berries. The only problem is, she eats them all, so that’s not incredibly helpful. Josiah will help me bring hive boxes up to the hives, and Elias will open the tall hives if I can’t get the leverage to open one, but the boys aren’t home much, so again, it’s mostly left to me. But I don’t mind, I love the bees and the garden, and hope to get new chickens at some point, though I’m also somewhat relieved not to have to care for them since they were tragically victims of predation last August.
Have any questions? I’ll try to answer them, or feel free to leave a comment in the guestbook, or to email me at email@example.com.
Help bees and other pollinators, don’t use lawn chemicals, and here’s why:
Throughout the spring, summer and fall, lawn care companies are out in force. Unless you tell them not to, they will most likely be using dangerous chemicals on your lawn. They are dangerous not only to bees, but to your pets, to you, and to your children! They may call their lawn treatment a “fertilizer,” but ask what’s in it, and 9 times out of 10, it contains pesticides. Every time you see a little yellow flag left by a lawn or tree company, it’s warning you of a pesticide application. Stop them before they start–you can tell your lawn and tree companies you only want to use non-chemical treatments, and only when necessary. And ask them to email you the label they are using, then look up the active ingredients. You will be shocked to see what they’re using and what dangers they pose!
At a minimum, require that your landscaper notify you at least a day in advance of any treatment, and don’t let children or pets onto treated lawns until after a soaking rain, but understand that these chemicals have half-lives that can be many months, they’re supposed to stay active to keep killing. Also, close all windows and turn off fans and air conditioners when your property (and your neighbors’) is being treated, or you’ll be sucking those chemicals right into your house. Some states (thankfully Connecticut is one of them) allow homeowners to register with the state to be notified of a pesticide application on any property contiguous to yours. For information in CT, see: http://www.ct.gov/dep/cwp/view.asp?a=2710&q=324270&depNav_GID=1712
Some lawn-care companies are better than others, some are downright horrible, treating every single week with either a pesticide, herbicide, fungicide, or doubling or tripling down and applying multiple “treatments” at once. Lawns will survive without the chemicals, and if you end up with some clover, or even a dandelion, check them out, they may have a honeybee on them. It may be mine.
The following is from Audubon Connecticut, please read, and feel free to copy and forward to others who would benefit from the information (that’s everyone):
1. 67 million birds are killed every year by pesticides.
(U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, Audubon, March-April 2007, p. 88)
2. Fertilizers and pesticides from lawn runoff are highly damaging to the ecology of our streams, ponds, and the Long Island Sound.
(Burg, Robert, ed. “The Long Island Sound Study,” Sound Health 2006. EPA Long Island Sound Office, Stamford, CT.: p.12)
3. 100% of Americans have traces of pesticides in their body tissue.
(Second National Report on Human Exposure to Environmental Chemicals, U.S. Center for Disease Control, January 2003)
4. Children living in households where pesticides are used have higher rates of leukemia and brain cancer.
(Leiss, J. et al. 1995. “Home Pesticide Use and Childhood Cancer: A Case Control Study,” American Journal of Public Health 85: 249-252)
5. Three separate studies in 2011 have linked common pesticides to long term reduction in cognitive development in children.
(Bouchard, M.F. et al. 2011. “Prenatal Exposure to Organophosphate Pesticides and IQ in 7-year old Children,” Environmental Health Perspectives Online, Engel, S.M. et al. 2011. “Prenatal Exposure to Organophosphates, Paraxonase 1, and Cognitive Development in Childhood,” Environmental Health Perspectives Online, Rauh, V. et al. 2011. “7-Year Neurodevelopmental Scores and Prenatal Exposure to Chlorpyrifos, a Common Agricultural Pesticide, Environmental Health Perspectives Online)
6. Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma (the 2nd fastest growing cancer in the U.S.) is linked to common herbicides and fungicides.
(Zahm, S. et al. 1990 “A Case Control Study of Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma and the Herbicide 2,4-D,” Epidemiology 1 (5): 349-356)
7. Dogs whose owners use 2,4-D (common weed killer) on their lawns are twice as likely to die of cancer.
(Hayes, H. et al, 1991. “Case Control Study of Canine Malignant Lymphoma: Positive Association with Dog Owners’ Use of 2,4-D Acid Herbicides,” Journal of the National Cancer Institute, 83 (17): 1226)
For organic lawn care tips, non-toxic landscaping methods, wildlife-friendly plant suggestions, and other ways to increase the eco-friendliness of your home, visit: www.audubonCT.org/AAH or contact Audubon Connecticut’s ‘Audubon At Home Coordinator’ at 203-869-5272 x236.
MORE ON PESTICIDES
I want to also draw attention to lawn and tree care companies’ use of tree “treatments” using imidicloprid, which is a pesticide in the neonicitoid class. These chemicals are often touted as “safer” tree treatments, because instead of being sprayed over a wide area, they are injected into the ground and taken up by the roots of the trees. However, what this does is to poison every aspect of the tree–the sap and flower nectar produced by the tree become toxic as does the pollen. Bees use tree sap to make propolis, the sticky substance that seals their hives, the nectar from flowering trees becomes their honey or carbohydrate source, and the pollen is their protein source. If it’s all been poisoned, the bees die. Honeybees are responsible for 2 out of every 3 bites of food we consume, so killing bees directly harms people and our economy making food more expensive as bee shortages cause food shortages which drive up prices.
See this article from the UK Guardian: http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2013/apr/28/europe-insecticides-ban-save-bees
Ask your tree company why they believe a “treatment” is necessary for a particular tree. Often, a horticultural oil or soap spray will be just as effective, though it may need to be repeated within a season. Oils and soaps will kill bees too, but it wouldn’t be used on a tree when it is flowering, so no bees are likely to be present, and if even if bees some bees are killed due to spray drifting on nearby flowers, it does not poison the entire colony, like Merit and other imidicloprids will.
Many pesticide applicators are advertising their mosquito spray businesses from spring through summer. For the health and safety of your family. do not consider these sprays. They are usually a synthetic pyrethroid, which are extremely deadly to bees. But more than that, they are proven carcinogens and mutagenic compounds. I am constantly amazed at the false claims made by companies that their mosquito sprays are safe for children–they are NOT. See above from the info about Audubon regarding the incidence of health problems related to pesticide use in yards where children live. Not only are the sprays seriously dangerous to people, pets and the environment, they are useless. Poison sprays do not interrupt the life cycle of the mosquito, as they kill only the adults that are directly exposed to the spray. If you have mosquitoes, you most likely have water nearby and that is where the mosquitoes are coming from.
1. eliminate standing water on your property including plant saucers, bird baths, rain gutters, etc.
2. if you have a pond, use a “mosquito dunk” in the water. It’s a product you add to standing water that kills mosquito larvae, but not beneficial insects and is harmless to birds and other wildlife. It will interrupt the life cycle of the mosquito and you will see a drastic reduction in their population. They can’t travel far, if you have them, they are developing very, very locally, like within 1-2 blocks at most. http://www.amazon.com/Summit-111-5-20-Pack-Mosquito-Dunk/dp/B0002568YA/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1367249435&sr=8-1&keywords=mosquito+dunks
3. use a natural, herbal-based mosquito repellent, or Avon Skin So Soft. DEET-containing products are especially dangerous to kids.
Eliminating deer ticks is a real necessity given the prevalence in our area (southwestern CT) for Lyme Disease as well as other tick-borne illnesses. However, don’t let lawn care companies scare you into spraying your lawn with chemicals. It’s a great way for them to make money, but you’re wasting it. Ticks don’t live on lawns, they live on mice, chipmunks, squirrels and sometimes birds. They’re called deer ticks, because they develop on deer as larvae, but they become infected with disease when they feed on an infected rodent–those are the disease vectors, not the deer, believe it or not.
So to reduce tick populations, you need to reduce the rodent populations, or at least, use the rodents’ natural instincts to help you reduce ticks. Rodents will naturally gather bedding to line their nests. Give them some!! Buy a case of Damminix tubes and place them around your property 2 times a year. A box of 24 tubes will treat a 2-acre parcel. It costs $75, so if you have 1 acre, one box will last you for a year (use half in spring, half in fall).
Damminix tubes are small cardboard tubes, a little longer and a little thinner than a toilet paper tube. They are colored dark green and are filled with cotton balls that have been treated with permethrin–it’s a synthetic pyrethroid, the same kind I cautioned about above, but because it’s not being sprayed all over your yard, it doesn’t carry the health risks of broadcast use.
Mice and other rodents gather the cotton balls to use for their bedding and the pesticide in it kills any ticks the mice carry, so the rodents don’t serve as a disease vector to you or your children! Place the tubes in the crevices of stone walls, under tree roots and under pachysandra, places where rodents live (that could include your garage, basement, or attic). My next door neighbor has three little children and a small dog and together we get a box of these tubes twice a year (together we have 2 acres) and we place them in such a way that kids and dogs never see them. Keep checking yourself and your kids for ticks, but this works. http://www.amazon.com/Damminix-27203-Tick-Tube-24-Pack/dp/B000OWB7ME/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1367250376&sr=8-1&keywords=damminix+tick+tubes
Finally, here’s a link to a recipe for homemade tick repellents for people and pets. I can’t vouch for their efficacy, but I plan on making some of this up for myself and the kids. In case you want to give it a try: