Being attacked by hundreds of irritated honey bees is one of many anecdotes beekeeper Jerry Shue can relate after over 40 years of tending to the notoriously industrious, forever-buzzing, expert-gatherers of nectar and pollinators of plants.
“Every beekeeper has those stories,” Shue said.
But Shue also spoke of another side of honey bees, perhaps one not always at the forefront of consciousness.
“Honey bees are a window into a world that is not ours to control, that exists for huge interconnected purposes that we barely understand, or don’t bother to understand. We can learn a lot from slowing down and learning how natural systems work,” Shue said.
Bee-colony collapse has been documented worldwide since 1972, reaching epic proportions in 2006 and showing no sign of stopping since. This pattern led to the designation in 2013 of a task force asked to determine a strategy to fight the decline of bees and other pollinators by the Environmental Protection Agency under the direction of President Barack Obama. One of several theories explaining the cause of the losses is that man-made pesticides, herbicides and other chemical compounds have led to the creatures’ demise.
Their plight has even gotten so bad that some now are indentured servants, being transported around the country like migrant farm workers, always to a new destination when the current job is finished.
“Being trucked around the country to pollinate huge monoculture crops has stressed the bees with parasitical, nutritional, pesticidical and reproductive problems to the point that most bees are propped up with antibiotics, chemical miticides and feed supplements in the hopes of keeping them alive,” Shue said.
Despite the overall downturn in honey bee populations, Shue has recently been kept quite busy locally with his beekeeping work, spending one day last week in Green River pulling frames of eggs, larvae, pollen cells and honey (without the queen) from crowded hives in order to “split” the colony and attempt to force the raising of a new queen and thus a new colony, and the next in Monticello, rescuing a colony from under the floorboards of a shed and salvaging “20 to 30 pounds of honey that has already put smiles on a lot of faces” and hopefully a healthy colony in the process.
A small patch of hope in the torrent of bad news about honey bees does still exist though, Shue said.
“In isolated communities like Moab, we can begin raising local survivor bees that are adapted to this location and aren’t dependent on chemical intervention,” Shue said. “We’re working on that here in Moab and it’s a fascinating, challenging and rewarding experience.”
Shue will be lecturing even further in-depth about the importance and imperative nature of the current global situation with honey bees at the Moab Information Center on Thursday, Aug. 7 at 6 p.m. The free lecture is part of the 2014 Lecture Series sponsored by Canyonlands Natural History Association and the Museum of Moab.
Lecturing at the Moab Information Center will be a reunion for Shue. He is a former Canyonlands Natural History Association staff member and worked at the Moab Information Center for several years, Moab Information Center operations manager Sharon Kienzle said.
Teaming up with the Canyonlands Natural History Association was a “natural fit” for the Museum of Moab, said director John Foster. By bringing in “a wide range of experts in history and science to our area to cover different aspects of the region’s story,” the museum is able to actively work toward one of it’s missions, promoting “educational programs that accurately reflect the natural and cultural history of the Moab area.”
The 2014 Lecture Series runs from April through October at the Moab Information Center, on the corner of Main and Center streets. The informative series of lectures concerning southeastern Utah usually take place on Thursday evenings at 6 p.m. For more information visit www.cnha.org/mic.cfm.
“Honey bees are a window into a world that is not ours to control. We can learn a lot from slowing down and learning how natural systems work.”
What: Honeybee lecture by Jerry Shue
When: Thursday, Aug. 7 at 6 p.m.
Where: Moab Information Center, 25 E. Center St.
Jerry Shue to give lecture on honeybees Thursday