Of course back then few people realized the long term risks from pesticides, all we knew was that it either killed insects or kept a farm virtually weed free.
I know there are many suspected reasons for CCD (Colony Collapse Disorder) some of which include pesticides and also the fact that the bees are pollinating a mono-culture. I think both of these go hand in hand and yet, town bees seem to be doing better. Why? One reason, I believe is the variety of flowers they visit. If a bee only visits one type of flower, let's say those on almond trees, it is likely to suffer because of it.
Just as we are encouraged to eat a wide variety of foods, the honey bees need a wider range of flowers to visit. I will say, the chemicals do play a part but I know many urban gardeners also use some pretty toxic chemicals and yet the bees are still surviving.
I think the time has come when we need to seriously take a look at agriculture. Everyone wants 'cheap food' and this is in essence binding the farmers into producing foods which may be detrimental to bees.
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So what's the answer? Farming isn't going to stop with its large swathes of mono-culture crops. Maybe they don't have to. By planting flower borders or interspersing the crop with flowers, this could create a haven for bees instead of a deathtrap. The last time I visited the Central Valley, I looked at the vast clean rows of orchards and thought, how unnatural this all looked. Every tree had the same number of branches and was virtually a clone of the one in front and behind it.
For a small farm or homestead having hives of bees, which you can take to fields during the pollination time, could be just the thing you are looking for. Bees are in demand like never before. Almond orchards are paying $140-$160 for smaller 6-frame colonies; and between $170 - $200 for larger 8 to 10-frame colonies . Many of these bees are coming from out of state. However do not bring your hives to California in the hopes of getting a contract. Get your contract in place first before bringing your bees. All contracts with almond growers should be in place before July.
The honey gained for the beekeepers is also a valuable commodity however, the honey produced from almond flowers is not palatable and therefore the price to almond farmers is higher. Some beekeepers are also charging a surcharge for research into the problems surrounding CCD.
The inclusion of bee hives is something homesteaders and those with small farms should seriously consider. The stronger the bee population is, the better for everyone.
Besides the rental of the hives, you have the addition of honey which can be sold. I have met very few people in my life who don't like honey. This can be sold locally at farmers markets as there are always customers looking for quality honey.