Discover the secret life of bees at HoneyFest
By Lisa Bennett
Photo: Beekeeper and retired Kettering police officer Mike Pittman tends his hives
It used to be that the acronym CCD meant “catechism,” or, more precisely, a dreaded Sunday afternoon in a church classroom learning about the Bible. Not that the classes weren’t interesting and sometimes even fun (thank you, sisters), but just outside those lovely ornate windows was a playground and a large field playing tug-o-war with the imaginations and wanderlust of every child in the room, myself included.
Today, however, CCD has become something far more sinister than a sunny afternoon spent indoors. CCD is enough to strike abject fear into the hearts of every adult who hears it. Why? CCD stands for “Colony Collapse Disorder” – an insidious and deadly disorder wiping out a large portion of the world’s honey bee population.
While some folks only see bees as annoying, stinging bugs that invade their gardens and occasionally send an allergic relative scrambling for an EpiPen, honey bees are an essential part of our food production. Without bees to pollinate our food, much of the world’s food supply would disappear, leading to a potential global famine. To put it in perspective, imagine what $15 billion-worth of food would look like. That’s the minimum amount of food honey bees are responsible for annually.
Thankfully, there are a number of local beekeepers and gardeners who are working to help save the honey bees by providing homes in the way of hives and habitats and bee and pollinator-friendly gardens. “We’re all about drawing attention to the struggle that the pollinators are having,” says Kerri Miles, Kettering Parks, Recreation and Cultural Arts Department environmental education coordinator. She and local beekeepers are planning to celebrate the honeybee in an inaugural festival, dubbed HoneyFest.
“We’re definitely trying to keep it family-oriented with a hometown feel,” Miles says. Thanks to local sponsors, MidUSA Credit Union and Back to Business I.T., the festival will include a kids’ area with activities, local crafts, and workshops on various topics ranging from basic beekeeping and how to helping prevent CCD to more animated workshops for kids on the benefits
There also will be lots of local vendors, food trucks, and, of course, honey tasting and honey for sale. Clay Guthrie, a beekeeping expert and beekeeping equipment manufacturer, will be on hand to answer questions and show off new bee keeping technology. One particular area of interest for parents and kids is the “bee safe” area, which teaches kids all about bees through interactive games.
Additionally, there will be a special 5K race to help raise awareness for the plight of pollinators. The race begins at 8 a.m. and costs $20. People who pre-register will receive a “HoneyRun” T-shirt.
Though colony collapse disorder has several possible causes, ranging from acarapis and varroa mite infestations to loss of habitat, the most likely and controversial is the use of neonicotinoids, a dangerous pesticide used to kill pests in the fields. Neonicotinoids are so dangerous, in fact, that they have been banned in virtually every country in the world, except the United States.
Retired Kettering police officer and beloved beekeeping instructor, Mike Pittman, says, “I think, personally, because I do a lot of studies, it’s brought on by pesticides…The United States is the only country that uses it [neonicotinoids], and you know why? Money talks.” The frustration in his voice echoes that of so many others, including many parents who live in or near rural farm areas and are concerned about the effects the pesticides are having on their health and the health of family members. Their concern stems from the fact that the use of neonicotinoids doesn’t just affect bees. From a significant decline in bird populations to toxicity in humans, neonicotinoids are so toxic the Worldwide Integrated Assessment, a peer-reviewed collaboration of 1,121 studies, deemed them unfit for sustainable pest management. And, a recent study by the European Food and Safety Authority warns that the pesticides may even harm developing brains in humans, particularly in areas of learning and memory. Despite the risks and warnings, however, here in the Midwest, neonicotinoids are still being widely used in crops such as soybeans, wheat, corn, and nuts, as well as vegetables and fruits. It’s another reason more and more are going organic.
HoneyFest is an opportunity to learn more about and possibly help these pollinators we rely upon, from some of the area experts. Don’t let it buzz by without considering it.
HoneyFest takes place Saturday, Sept. 10 at Delco Park, 701 Delco Park Dr. in Kettering. For more information or to register for the 5K, please visit PlayKettering.org/Habitat/Events or call 937.296.2477.
Reach DCP freelance writer Lisa Bennett at LisaBennett@DaytonCityPaper.com.