SEBASTOPOL, Calif. (Reuters) – The staggering decline of honey bee colonies has alarmed specialists throughout america, however an unconventional apiculturist in California thinks he has discovered a technique to save them.
Michael Thiele has championed an method he calls the “rewilding” of honeybees, permitting them to stay as they did for hundreds of thousands of years — in pure log hives excessive above the bottom.
“We are able to do that very, quite simple factor — return bees into their pure nest setting, into their pure biosphere,” mentioned German-born Thiele at his house in Sebastopol, California. “If we lose them attributable to human-induced mass extinction, will there be a tomorrow?”
Thiele’s methodology consists of hollowing out logs and strapping them excessive on tree trunks to imitate bees’ hives earlier than they have been domesticated. He additionally generally suspends them from barn rafters or perches them excessive on picket tables for the same impact.
Honey bees are essential to the planet’s ecosystem as a result of they pollinate vegetation that produce a couple of quarter of the meals consumed by Individuals, in line with U.S. authorities experiences.
Final winter, U.S. beekeepers misplaced nearly 40% of their colonies, in line with a report this 12 months by the Bee Knowledgeable Partnership, a gaggle of trade contributors.
It was the worst winter die-off in additional than a decade.
Wild bee populations are declining too, however researchers present in 2015 that wild bees from round Ithaca, New York recovered from the introduction of the lethal “varroa mite” within the 1990s whereas domesticated bees didn’t.
Thiele additionally says domesticated bees are extra weak as a result of they’re raised utilizing smoke and chemical compounds and fed sugar water, which he claims is dangerous for his or her well being.
Habitat loss, together with heavy pesticide use, local weather change and growing urbanization are the primary causes for declining bee populations, specialists say here
Thiele mentioned his life with bees started with vivid goals about them about 20 years in the past when he was dwelling in Large Sur in northern California. “And so they have been so intense that, you understand how it’s after a really sturdy dream, you get up and it stays with you.”
So he borrowed an empty field from an area beekeeper and shortly it was swarming with bees, drawn by the outdated odor of bees within the field.
Thiele over time rejected the “rectangular white packing containers” of conventional beekeeping and refused to make use of chemical compounds, smoke or protecting clothes when interacting with bees, scooping them up from their hives bare-handed.
“It feels so intimate and I really feel how deeply we belong and the way essential it’s to guard them,” he mentioned as a swarm of bees crawled over his hand and arm.
As soon as a hollowed-out log hive is connected to a tree, it turns into enticing to bee “scouts” searching for a nest website, who then alert their bee colonies to maneuver into it.
He’s been making the log hives since 2008 and says they’re generally colonized inside days and often inside a number of weeks.
Thiele doesn’t take into account himself a beekeeper within the standard sense. He created his Apis Arborea agency (Latin for bees in timber) solely to rewild honeybees and mentioned he doesn’t farm the honey the bees produce until the colony leaves the hive or dies. His hives, he mentioned, are each a conservation mission and a private mission.
“It’s nearly as if honey bees make the fragility of life so palpable,” he mentioned. “And as if they’re actually mirroring the place we’re on this time on this planet.”
Reporting by Jane Ross; writing by Maria Caspani; Modifying by Invoice Tarrant and Cynthia Osterman