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MailTribune.com
  • Bees in your backyard

    More people are raising bees at home, and more local resources are available to help
  • Home gardening, food preserving and even tending livestock were threads in the fabric of daily life not so long ago. Backyard beehives often tied all the threads together.
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    • IF YOU GO
      What: "Keeping Honey Bees for Home Gardens and Orchards" with Sarah Red-Laird of Bee Girl; offered as part of the "Seeds of Spring Home Garden Seminar" hosted by Josephine County Master Gardeners, ...
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      IF YOU GO
      What: "Keeping Honey Bees for Home Gardens and Orchards" with Sarah Red-Laird of Bee Girl; offered as part of the "Seeds of Spring Home Garden Seminar" hosted by Josephine County Master Gardeners, which features more than 30 lectures and workshops.

      When: 8:30 a.m. to 4:15 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 25.

      Where: Rogue Community College Redwood Campus, 3345 Redwood Highway, Grants Pass.

      How much: Cost to attend four, 90-minute classes is $25.

      For more information and to register: Call RCC at 541-956-7303 or download a form at http://extension.oregonstate.edu/josephine/sites/default/files/sos_registration_form-2012_grayscale-1.pdf. Preregistration strongly advised; same-day sign-ups on a space-available basis.
  • Home gardening, food preserving and even tending livestock were threads in the fabric of daily life not so long ago. Backyard beehives often tied all the threads together.
    "(It's) like, everyone's grandpa was a beekeeper," says Sarah Red-Laird, also known as Bee Girl.
    Much like Americans' renewed pursuit of garden bounty from their own yards, there's a buzz around small-scale beekeeping, says Red-Laird, who plans to hold a February workshop on the topic.
    "The pendulum is just swinging back toward people's backyards, and I think bees are just a part of that."
    Bees are known for producing honey, but their most important role is pollinators of plants that yield food for people and animals. The insects thrived under human domestication for thousands of years — since the 1600s in the Americas — but since the late 1950s have steadily declined. Experts cite a variety of factors, some of which seem to combine and culminate in colony collapse disorder.
    Backyard beekeeping — like cultivating heirloom crops and raising heritage breeds of animals — is touted as one strategy for ensuring the survival of honeybees, not to mention reclaiming traditional methods of food production, experts say.
    Hobbyists are in a better position than commercial beekeepers to handle hives holistically, says John Jacob, owner of Old Sol Enterprises. The Rogue River company specializes in breeding disease-resistant bees and sells 70 to 80 percent of its starter hives to hobbyists.
    "It's a way to distribute the burden of that heavy selection pressure," says Jacob of backyard beekeeping. "Many hands make light work, in other words."
    The concept behind Oregon State University's new Master Beekeeper Program, set to launch this spring, involves tapping into the work of established beekeepers. Nearly all applicants to the program's apprentice level are hobbyists, says OSU research assistant Carolyn Breece.
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