From The Vault: Let It Bee

 We love bees.

Two years ago we told you how vandals had attacked bee hives at Hayes Valley Farm, San Francisco, resulting in the loss of over 60% of the resident bees. We’ve just heard it’s happened again, as part of a sustained campaign of vandalism over the last 2 weeks. If you want to show them a little support, you can reach them at the Facebook page for their nonprofit organization, SF Bee-Cause.

(Let’s hope they get a camera soon and catch these wretches before they do even more damage).

Bees, it barely needs to be said, are vital elements of the food cycle that keep us alive. Was Albert Einstein exaggerating when he said the end of bees would mean humanity had 4 years left before its own extinction? Let’s hope we never find out. In celebration of this incredible, species-saving creature, here are our best bee-related posts of the last 2 years, from beautifying honey therapy to the Chim Chimney backyard bee-keeping movement sweeping through London…

Check your local ordinances and if backyard beekeeping is legal in your area, determine where you’d put your hives. A sunny spot that’s not directly situated next to a recreational area like a picnic table or playground is ideal. It’s best to plant a hedge or put up some kind of barrier around your bee colonies to prevent vandalism, protect the hive from wind and induce the bees to fly upward when leaving the hive (rather than through your neighbor’s yard.) Speaking of neighbors, you’ll need to talk to them about your plans. As long as none of them are allergic to bees, a little bribery with some honey should put them at ease.

The Buzz On Backyard Beekeeping For Beginners

In the last two years, California’s crops were affected by a mysterious disappearance of bee hives. Known as Colony Collapse Disorder, the worker bees simply fly away and never return. Since October 2006, over 35% of the honey bee population in the United States has vanished. In some states, as many as 90% of bees have disappeared. Scientists don’t know what causes CCD, but theories range from stress due to travel (bees are trucked across thousands of miles, in some cases, to pollinate), or pesticide exposure. A case for local, organic food?

Mysterious Mass Deaths Redux

Recent history: Bees are dying all over the place, “colony collapse disorder” enters the national consciousness, a leaked EPA memo points to a particular pesticide, Army researchers enter the fray. In the midst of all of this news, just as it seems scientists might be closer to identifying the cause of Colony Collapse Disorder, a new mysterious bee die-off is happening – right now – in San Francisco.

I discovered this entirely by chance when I met a fellow cookbook author named Penni Wisner at a professional gathering. The day we met, she had just learned that the beehive in her Lower Castro San Francisco backyard had collapsed, practically overnight.  As she told the story of how the process unfolded, everyone in the room was swept away by the heartbreaking mystery of the hive’s demise.

Exclusive: EPA Ignores Its Own Science And Approves Bee-Killing Pesticide: Mysterious New Die-Off Unfolds

Brightly colored clothing might be fun for summer, but certain hues can bring bees buzzing. If you’re worried about yellow jackets don’t wear bright yellow, orange, florescent red or light blue.

How To ‘B’ At One With Backyard Bees

Conventional beekeepers place sheets made of plastic or wax in their hives for their honeybees to build upon, but the problem is, bees aren’t too fond of plastic and the wax is contaminated by chemicals and pesticides. The hexagonal cell pattern on the sheets is often too large, encouraging the growth of oversized bees that may gather more pollen and make more honey, but are also more susceptible to mites and thus require chemical treatment.

The Backwards Beekeepers – made up of Kirk Anderson, Charles Martin Simon and Michael Bush – believe that this just plain unnatural system is adding unnecessary stress to bee populations. Their own system relies on wood strips painted with chemical-free beeswax taken from their own previous harvests.

Backwards Beekeeping: Natural Care Of Feral Bees

It really started at age five when my grandmother slathered honey on my morning waffle. I distinctly remember my senses awakening. The scent of the honey mixed with the melting butter on the crisp waffle and then the flavor exploding in my mouth. I was hooked at that moment and somehow knew that bees would play an important role in my life. However, it wasn’t until about five years ago when a colony of bees built their home in my garden wall. When I learned that my landlord was set to exterminate them because he was told they were “killer bees,” I called a local beekeeper to help me move them from the garden wall to my newly purchased house. Many exterminators use the term “killer bees” as a scare tactic.

Q & A with Los Angeles beekeeper, Staci Valentine

According to the British Beekeepers Association, the number of registered Chim Chimney Beekeepers in central London has more than doubled within the past couple of years. There are over 2,500 hives and more than 700 beekeepers. The posh are in on it (the queen’s bees are kept at Buckingham Palace) as well as the middle class, who keep bees in allotments and on rooftops. The enthusiasm for London beekeeping and the resulting honey (considered to be among the best in the world) has prompted annual festivals, international beehive design competitions,eco products, and amendments to the school curriculum.

The Chim Chimney swarm has become so avid that last year the North London Beekeepers Association had to start turning away members. The Guardian calls it the latest environmental movement; we’re calling it the new chicken coop.

Chim Chimney Beekeeping: The New Homesteading

Want a centuries-old beauty trick? Tie on your sunbonnets and lean in. (Yes, now I am whispering.) Honey is the secret to everything. Okay, maybe not everything, but it comes pretty darn close. It’s the multi-tasker of natural beauty. Cleopatra made milk and honey baths infamous. Poppea, wife of Rome’s Emperor Nero, used milk and honey to maintain a youthful appearance. And best of all? It is everywhere and it is relatively cheap.

5 Reasons Why Honey Is The Ultimate Beauty Must-Have

Among its clearly outlined beliefs and commitments, Burt’s Bees believes that natural products should be 100 percent natural. Together with the Natural Products Association and other leading Natural Personal Care Companies, Burt’s pioneered The Natural Standard for Personal Care Products, a set of guidelines that helps to define what a “natural” personal care product is and what it is not. Products that fill the bill are branded with a Natural Seal, which indicates that the product has met guidelines related to natural ingredients, safety, animal testing, and packaging. While only half of Burt’s Bees’ existing products qualify as 100 percent natural, the company is open about working toward complicity across the entire product line, and each product’s “percent natural” is clearly indicated on its packaging.

Burt’s Bees also works to ensure safe working conditions in the sourcing of its ingredients, maintain a strong stand against animal testing, and use packaging made with high levels of post consumer recycled materials. The company also pledges at least 10 percent of all sales revenue to partners through The Burt’s Bees Greater Good Foundation.

Behind The Label: Burt’s Bees

Images: Don Hankins, aussiegalgregavhr.icioMike BairdStaci Valentinevickyb, and alsjhc.

Mike Sowden

Mike Sowden is a freelance writer based in the north of England, obsessed with travel, storytelling and terrifyingly strong coffee. He has written for online & offline publications including Mashable, Matador Network and the San Francisco Chronicle, and his work has been linked to by Lonely Planet, World Hum and Lifehacker. If all the world is a stage, he keeps tripping over scenery & getting tangled in the curtain - but he's just fine with that.