by Michele Colopy

Think how this could make real change for all honey bees.

There has been much ado about that new hive on the market making honey harvesting “easier.” What was astonishing was how those entrepreneurs by-passed a small business loan process, and got prospective customers to purchase a product before it even went into production. The astounding fact is these entrepreneurs raised $12M from beekeepers, and beekeeper “wanna-bees who probably shouldn’t be.” Sure gadgets attract attention. Honey flowing from the frame directly into a jar makes for good video. In the end good beekeeping takes work, attention to detail, and interaction with your bees. But, $12 million dollars!? Researchers and the nonprofits that support honey bee and native pollinator researchers are dumb-founded. Think what $12 million dollars could do for bee research? Think how $12 million dollars could make real change for all honey bees?

National and State beekeeping groups have separate funds to support local and national research, and none of them come close to raising or having $12M. The Pollinator Stewardship Council, a nonprofit supporting collaborative projects and peer-reviewed research, and the other beekeeping groups struggle to get that kind of financial support from beekeepers. Our Hive Tracking Project is a collaboration of commercial beekeepers, Montana State University, and Pesticide Research Institute. The Hive Tracking Project will track colonies as they travel the U.S. pollinating crops. The Hive Tracking Project will analyze the real-world pesticide load honey bees are experiencing. Other research examines single active ingredients in pesticides, yet that is not the real-world of our honey bees. This collaborative project will provide data as to on-going exposure, effects upon the hives during the growing season, and insight as to end of summer losses, examining the sub-lethal exposures of pesticides accumulating in the hives. Funding needed for this three year project is less than $500K.

It takes beekeepers to support beekeeping research. It takes beekeepers to support their industry, their sideline, their hobby. Even with National Strategies to improve pollinator health, national coalitions to bring stakeholders together, State Pollinator Plans to protect pollinators, it is all just a “nice idea” unless we put money behind the efforts to improve the health of our honey bees.

The Bee Understanding Project is an incubated project of the Honey Bee Health Coalition. As a member of the Coalition, the Pollinator Stewardship Council has partnered with Collaborate Up, and commercial beekeepers, pesticide applicators, farmers, and others to accelerate cooperation on one of beekeeping’s biggest problems: understanding! Through the Bee Understanding project farmers and beekeepers, crop advisors and others will switch jobs for a day, and walk a mile in the other person’s boots to see this problem from the ground level, and develop solutions together. In addition to swapping jobs, we’re capturing everything in a series of documentary short films, which we will make available to beekeepers and other agricultural stakeholder’s continuing education programs. Together we can accelerate cooperation and improve the health of the honey bee through the “Bee Understanding Project.”

At the State level, the Pollinator Stewardship Council works with state and local beekeepers and beekeeping groups on your ideas and solutions. We recently assisted an Indiana beekeeper to educate her local utility and not destroy pollinator habitat along RoW land in her community. We have helped state beekeeping groups with legislative actions sharing the local beekeeper’s voice with their elected representatives. We compile information about State Pollinator Plans (MP3s) on our website so beekeepers can easily access this information as they work on their own MP3s. We worked with Ohio State Beekeepers Association securing more than 400 emails to legislators concerning the passage of a state honey bee license plate. We have the advocacy software, and will work with state and local groups on your legislative activities, helping you share your local beekeeper voice with your elected officials. Our action software costs us $4300 annually; we provide it to you for free; for you to make real change for the health of your bees in your neck of the woods.

The Pollinator Stewardship Council helped facilitate local projects for local beekeeping groups connecting them with grant funders, or writing the grants for your projects. Working together is how we make change for our honey bees. Supporting the nonprofit beekeeping groups and projects is how we make local, state, and national change for our honey bees. $670 (the cost of that new-fangled hive) makes an impact upon just one hive of honey bees. Depending on your level of beekeeping, that $670 can be a tax deductible business expense. But that same amount to a beekeeping nonprofit can act as matching dollars for grant funding. That $670 to a beekeeping nonprofit would have more than a one-time impact. $670 donated to support beekeeping research like the Hive Tracking Project, would impact the health of all honey bees, as we gather data on the real-world pesticide exposure of honey bees. $670 to a beekeeping nonprofit working with local and state beekeepers on your local ideas and solutions would make long-term change for your honey bees, such as the Pollinator Stewardship Council’s collaborative projects for education, forage, and advocacy. $670 donated to collaborative projects makes lasting change across all of agriculture like our Bee Understanding Project.

Beekeepers should support beekeepers in order to make a life-long impact for honey bees and beekeeping. Beekeepers should support the nonprofit(s) led by beekeepers that support you. Nonprofits typically have only their “service” to provide to donors: their education programs, advocacy work, and their support of what concerns you. Their service to you and for you is the “product” they have to “sell.” Support the beekeeping nonprofit that supports you. If you are still unsure where to contribute your $670, or any charitable donation amount, ask yourself some questions to determine where to make your donations:

• Does the nonprofit respond to me when I contact them?

• Does the nonprofit support my concerns?

• Is the beekeeping nonprofit led by beekeepers?

• Does the nonprofit act on its mission through its program or project activities?

• Does the nonprofit collaborate with others?

• Does the nonprofit support local, state, or national issues? And are those issues of concern to me?

• Did the nonprofit file their IRS 990 tax report, and can I easily find it through the internet, or on their own website?

• Does this nonprofit support other groups/programs I support, such as educational meetings, conferences, industry events, and does the nonprofit participate in person at these events?

• And the most important question: what do others think of the nonprofit?

What if we raised $12M for bee research: think what we could do: together! To learn more about the collaborative projects and work of the Pollinator Stewardship Council visit our website at www.pollinatorstewardship.org, call us at 832-727-9492, or email the Program Director, Michele Colopy at progdirector@pollinatorstewardship.org.