Q&A with beekeeper Todd Myers on National Honey Bee Day.
On August 22nd, beekeepers observe National Honey Bee Day to promote local beekeeping and encourage “support of beekeepers in their own communities.”
For centuries, even in the face of disease, parasites, and colony collapse, beekeepers have maintained healthy bee hives. And while most “beekeeping is local in nature,” this spring, the White House Pollinator Health Task Force unveiled a national strategy to reduce honeybee losses and restore pollinator health. Given the ability of beekeepers and their hives to rebound, and with U.S. honeybee colonies now at a 20-year high, do bees need a national pollination strategy?
To find out what practitioners think about a national honeybee policy, we talked to our friend Todd Myers, a beekeeper with hives in the foothills of the Cascade mountains. Todd, also an environmental policy analyst, has written about bees on the Washington Policy Center blog and for Business Pulse magazine.
Q: How did you get your start as a beekeeper?
A: My sister has been a beekeeper for about a decade and I got tired of hearing how interesting honeybees are, so I decided to give it a try. I am just a hobbyist beekeeper and I have four hives on a small farm near my house.
Additionally, having worked in environmental policy for more than 15 years, I see beekeeping as a great way to connect theoretical policy issues with the real-world challenges of natural resource management.
Q: What do you enjoy most about beekeeping?
A: Bees are just incredible. As much as you learn, there is always more to learn. There are always things you see that make you think and differing opinions that challenge your understanding. Everyone starts off asking me about honey, but when I tell them how bees can do calculus or how they create an immune system for the hive, people are amazed and interested in the complexity of honeybees. The more I learn, the more I work with them, the more fun it is.
Q: What is one component of the beekeeping business that most people are surprised to learn?
A: Most people don’t realize how significant the almond crop in California is to commercial beekeepers. A huge number of hives —accounting for more than 31 billion honeybees —travel to California early in the year. People would also be surprised to know how many beehives are near them, even in cities. Many people keep backyard beehives, even in areas people would think are simply too urban to support them.
Q: What role do bees play in the ecosystem?
A: Honeybees play an important role, but it is often exaggerated. First, honeybees are not native to North America. Second, many plants are wind pollinated. Third, there are many other pollinating insects. One often hears that without honeybees we would all die. That simply isn’t true. Furthermore, thanks to the resilience of beekeepers and their hives, there isn’t a risk that we are going to end up without honeybees.