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Going to Bat for Bees


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Marie Flanagan (2)

Grabbing a honey stick at the farmer’s market is a sweet treat, but honey bees do more than make honey. Did you know that pollinators are necessary for the reproduction for as much as 85 percent of the world’s flowering plants, whose fruits and seeds together provide over 30 percent of our food and beverages?

Despite the necessity of pollinators, the essential service of pollination is at risk, according to Eric Mader, assistant pollinator program director at the Xerces Society and Assistant Professor of Extension at the University of Minnesota’s Bee Lab. Mader says habitat loss, alteration, fragmentation, pesticide use, and pathogens have all contributed to recent pollinator declines.

A love for honey and a concern about pollinator decline has sparked a wave of honey bee enthusiasm in the Twin Cities. From the bee-bedecked bicycle riders at Beez Kneez to the beekeeping honey bon-bon crafter Mademoiselle Miel, Minnesotans are all abuzz with protecting honey bee populations and enjoying the sweet spoils of happy honey bees.

Whether you’re a bona fide honey connoisseur, or you want to help declining honey bee populations, consider checking out a class about raising honey bees.

Dr. Marla Spivak and Gary Reuter from the University of Minnesota Bee Lab are offering introductory beekeeping classes for the public in November and February. A MacArthur Fellow and Distinguished McKnight Professor, Spivak has been working with bees since 1975. A honey bee handy guy, Reuter maintains the research colonies, helps train and work with students in the field, and designs and builds specialty equipment. For $93, you’ll learn the basics of how to raise bees successfully from two experts in the field.

Want something sooner? Community Bees on Bikes, an educational program affiliated with the Beez Kneez, has a stand-alone class scheduled for August 18th at Eloise Butler Wildflower Garden. The class is an introduction to honey bees and how to keep them, and includes in-hive time. The class is $30 per participant—$25 if you bike.

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