Even if you, for some insane reason, hate honey and never touch a drop of the stuff, you’ve probably eaten a bee-pollinated food today. Coconut? Bee pollinated. Almonds? Those too. Soybeans? Another bee-pollinated product. The list goes on. But our bee supply is in trouble. A slew of problems, including viruses, fungi, and pesticide poisoning, are threatening to kill off the bees, putting the world’s food supply in peril.
Bees Without Borders, a nonprofit founded by New York City beekeeper Andrew Coté, aims to grow the number of beekeepers in impoverished areas--a move that will help communities gain new sources of income (from honey production) and help ensure that at least some bees survive in the face of colony collapse disorder, a recent phenomenon where bees disappear permanently from their hives.
Bees Without Borders volunteers have been all over the world--Iraq, India, Uganda, and most recently Kenya--in an attempt to preserve the art of beekeeping through education.
In an expedition this past January that was partially funded by the Buy a Bottle, Save a Bee campaign, Bees Without Borders brought bee suits, a solar wax melter, hive tools, smokers, and a beehive to Kenya’s Samburu tribe. The tribe had been keeping bees for hundreds of years, but didn’t know much about modern beekeeping techniques (i.e., the Langstroth hive, which has been around since the 1800s) until Bees Without Borders arrived. The tribe had previously been given dozens of Langstroth hives, but didn’t know how to use them until the nonprofit arrived.
The hope is that expeditions like this will help local beekeepers to increase honey yield and make more money. Coté told The New York Times in 2008: “We may not be able to do much more than lay some ground for the future. Slowly, well-tended colonies of pollinators can help bring back devastated areas. And honey is always a miracle. It’s the one food on earth that does not spoil. It can be eaten, sold, traded for just the tiniest edge to survive.”
While Bees Without Borders doesn’t have much money outside of donations, it’s gradually spreading the beekeeping gospel--something that can be a real moneymaker if you know how to use it. Another trip to Kenya is planned for next year.