Episode 036 – John Timmons: Bee Man
“The bees have a better understanding of the world than I have. They will humble you if you spend enough time with them.” – John Timmons
One of the things I love most about doing this show is featuring some of my incredibly passionate and talented friends. Living like a gypsy for the last ten years had its drawbacks but I got to meet some fascinating people who were on amazing journeys themselves.
One of them is John Timmons. I met John when he sailed into the marina we were in up on the Chesapeake Bay. We hit it off immediately and he’s one of those guys who can do just about anything, from designing a solar array for his boat to rebuilding the engine…
What I came to find out by accident really is that he was an expert in beekeeping.
He went from hobbyist to a fully integrated member of St. Louis’ beekeeping community. He was instrumental in growing awareness on the local levels and he had some serious run-ins with the large industrial agricultural machine that really didn’t like his stance on what they were doing to harm the bee population.
It’s a wonderful discussion and if you’re curious about bees, I think you’ll enjoy what John has to say.
[00:00:00] Chris: All right, time to unset. How you doing today? How you feeling? That’s enough small talk. Let’s get after it.
Hey everyone, episode 36. Welcome to the show. You know, one of the things I love most about doing this podcast is that I get to feature some of my incredibly passionate and talented friends. Living like a gypsy for the last 10 years had its drawbacks, but I did get to meet some fascinating people who were on amazing journeys themselves.
One of them is John Timmons, and he’s here today. I met John when he and his wife Jane sailed into the marina we were staying in on the Chesapeake Bay. We hit it off immediately, and he’s just one of those guys who can do just about anything from designing and wiring his own solar array for his boat to rebuilding the engine.
What I came to find out later was that he was an expert in beekeeping. He went from a hobbyist to a fully integrated member of St. Louis’s beekeeping community. He was instrumental in growing the awareness on the local levels, and he had some serious run-ins with the large industrial agricultural machine that really didn’t like his stance on what they were doing to harm the bee population.
So it’s a pretty wonderful discussion, and if you’re curious at all about bees, I think you’ll enjoy what John has to say. Thanks for joining me on the Mind on set, John. I appreciate it. Um, we’re gonna talk about some Be stuff today. I’m super excited about this, especially since I do started to do some research on this topic.
When did you get interested in bees for the first time and then what kind of inspired you to, to do it? Did how far in, how far into it did you get? Did you go full-time, like professional in it? Oh no. This
[00:01:35] John Timmons: professional usually, uh, constitutes having. A hundred to 200 highs, that’s a full-time job. So we were hobbyist beekeepers and what got, uh, us interested in it.
Me in particular, I was walking around. We had a, a fairly large property in St. Charles, Missouri, outside of St. Louis. My wife is a master beekeeper, excuse me, master gardener. She corrected me. Um, and I was out walking around our property and I noticed I didn’t see any bees, even though a lot of flowering plants and fruits and vegetables and no bees.
And I went in the house and I asked Jane, my wife, do you ever see any bees? And she said, no. And, uh, so. We either Forer, unfortunately, called the local beekeeping club, which, uh, was based outta St. Louis and asked them about bees and they said, well, why don’t you come to our next beekeeping meeting and, and we can discuss that with you.
We did. And we got involved. And the next thing we knew, uh, U P s was delivering beekeeping equipment to our front door. And we were beekeepers and we started out with a couple of hives, um, and then moved up to eventually we had 15 hives in our backyard. Um, many of those hives were for the production of honey, and some of those hives were for the production of, of raising queens, honeybee queens, uh, which I sold.
So, uh, but we were hobbyists like most beekeepers nowadays, uh, professional beekeepers, you know, have anywhere from a hundred to thousands of hives that they utilize, which is part of the problem, which I know we’re gonna get, gonna get into.
[00:03:21] Chris: And so, um, When you started, uh, did you end up just going down the rabbit hole?
Because I know, uh, it’s, there’s so much to learn with, uh, the be societies and their, their structures and all of that stuff, and there’s some really cool information coming out now. But back, back in the day. Um, did you go down a rabbit hole and just go full bore into it and, and just become, uh, like, uh, learning how to, to raise and sell queen bees and stuff like that?
How involved was that process?
[00:03:56] John Timmons: I was hooked immediately. Uh, my wife and I were both hooked immediately. Honey bees are fascinating creatures. And, um, just the, when, when we first got our bees, uh, in the springtime, I forget the year now, but it was about 15 years ago. Uh, and just from the time that we, we got our bees and installed them in the hives.
We were hooked by, by their, by their habitat, by their behavior. It was just thrilling to us. So going down the rabbit hole is a good way to put it. We were absolutely enthralled with beekeeping. Consumed with beekeeping, and um, soon after. Became, uh, uh, very much involved with the local beekeeping club in St.
Louis. And then eventually we can talk about this later, we started our own beekeeping club, uh, outside of St. Louis, uh, where, you know, we inspired other people to become beekeepers also. So, just as an aside, when we started beekeeping 15 years ago in St. Louis, there were maybe 60 active beekeepers. Most of them were.
Aged, um, farmers lived in the rural communities of St. Louis. Uh, and that was about the time that colony collapse disorder started to find its place in, uh, in the newspapers. And a lot of urban people, doctors, lawyers, students, got interested in honeybees and started coming to the beekeeping clubs and became hobbyist beekeepers with a hi or two in their backyard when we, uh, Left St.
Louis five years ago that 60 number of 60 beekeepers had grown to over 2000. Beekeepers in the St. Louis area. So it, it, it, it’s a, not only did we get heavily involved, but we were able to inspire some other people along with the help of a lot of other people, of course, to become beekeepers also. So, uh, as I said earlier, a lot of the beekeepers, most of the beekeepers nowadays are hobbyist beekeepers with a high or two in their backyard
[00:06:14] Chris: now.
But since the, you know, going from 60 to 2000 seems like. A lot of, uh, an immense amount of growth, and it seems like it would be able to, um, you know, make up the difference, or buoy, for lack of a better word, the the losses that colony collapse disorder is producing. But when I looked at some industry sta industry statistics, you know, it says that 70% of the commercial honeybee colonies are trucked to California every February.
Just for the almond pollination and stuff. So is the fact that more people are becoming hobbyist beekeepers, are they able to, um, keep up with the amount of losses that we’re we’re seeing with the bees and the bee population because it’s in the billions to losses to pesticides and disease? Do you think it’s.
What’s your thought on that? Well, I, I, I will say
[00:07:10] John Timmons: that that, uh, um, honey honeybees, we’ve actually have a. Actually a booming population in honeybees. Now. Now I know that against goes against the, the common thought that we’re losing our honeybee population. In fact, we’re losing our bee populations and there’s a difference there.
Uh, so honeybees, the population of honeybees is actually grown by 83% since 1961. Now, is that because of hobbyist beekeepers? Not necessarily. It’s because. Commercial beekeeping has become so big, uh, the necessity of, for a pollination of the almond crop in California every year, which necessitates trucking millions of bees, thousands of hives, uh, over our, um, interstate highway system to get to California.
Uh, that’s, uh, um, you know, makes for unhealthy bees. You, as you can imagine, so, The honeybee population is actually not shrunk. It has actually increased. Now, we did have a dip during, uh, the height of colony collapses order. Um, but what we’re really losing are the bees in, in general, and there are 20,000 different species of bees around the world, about 4,000 in the United States, and that population we’re losing.
And those, that’s probably more critical than a dip in the population of the honeybees, uh, as the loss of our wild bees, of which we have about 4,000 species here in the United States.
[00:08:57] Chris: So the research that there’s a guy named Mark Buckman. Do you know him at all? I don’t, I don’t, no. He’s got a book called What a B Knows, and it’s really kind of cool cause I, I just basically glossed through it and, um, you know, he’s, his thesis is that the technologies now have improved so much that we’re able to study the bees small brains.
And, um, he, he. His theory is that the bees respond to neurotransmitters like dopamine and serotonin. He says that they’re, um, sentient beings that are able to experience P T S D, which speaks to the fact that when you truck these bees across a country to, um, do all of this massive pollination, that they’re suffering these massive psychological stresses that could be, um, Contributing to the colony collapsed disorder as well as the pesticide disease.
What do you think about theory like
[00:09:55] John Timmons: that? Uh, that’s certainly possible. You can only imagine how stressful it is being trucked across the United States every year to go, uh, for a couple of weeks to the ho Omic crops of California. And then to be trucked up to North Dakota or South Dakota for the, for the berry population or for the berry crop.
Uh, these are not healthy bees. These are beekeepers and nothing against them. We need to pollinate our almonds and our berries, but these are beekeepers that are not focused on producing honey. Like, you know, a few beekeepers are the minority of beekeepers are interested in honey. Most beekeepers make commercial beekeepers make their money off of pollination services.
Some beekeepers, commercial beekeepers make their money off of honey production, uh, to, you know, stock our shelves and our grocery stores around the country. And then the rest of them are hobbyist beekeepers. Now, regarding the health of the honeybees, there’s a lot of different reasons. You know, we’ve never really figured out what caused or causes colony collapse disorder.
It’s a variety of things, you know, including pesticides. Uh, including loss of habitat, uh, including something called neonicotinoids, which is a, a type of fertilizer that’s used in mono crops like corn. Uh, so there’s a variety of reasons why bees are unhealthy, but probably the main reason they’re unhealthy is stress related to loss of habitat and the pesticides that they find themselves.
Uh, in whenever they’re out foraging because they have a more and more difficult time foraging to find food because of the la la lack of habitat and the lack of foraging plants.
[00:11:52] Chris: And so when it comes down to putting, um, a hive together, what, like, what constitutes, um, a hive? What, what techniques do you use?
Like when you, when can you describe like, the process of setting up a hive and like maintaining a pr, a productive beehive?
[00:12:09] John Timmons: Sure. So there are a number of companies around the United States that specialize in beekeeping equipment. So normally you would place an order for a hive, which normally you would, would, uh, involve a couple of wooden boxes, which are the, what we call the rudeness for the bees.
When you drive down the highway and you see. Um, you know, boxes, beehives out there, those are boxes that have been constructed by the beekeeper. Uh, and then inside of that hive are frames, uh, that the bees use to build up comb, uh, and to lay and for the queen of the hive to lay eggs and, and, and, um, and, and, and produce her brood.
Um, so putting together a hive takes about constructing a hive, takes about, you know, 15 minutes. Uh, and then it’s a matter of installing the frames as I was in, uh, talking about earlier. Um, And then going out and buying some bees, and there’s a couple ways you can do that. You can actually buy bees and have them de delivered by the United States Postal Service.
Amazing. Usually they don’t deliver them. They usually call you up and say there’s a box full of bees at the post office, which you come pick them up. Or you can buy bees from another beekeeper. Or what a lot of beekeepers do is they will wait until the springtime, which is normally when you start a new hive, and they’ll wait for the bees to swarm.
So, um, as an example, a lot of times, uh, you’ll see a, a big clo, a cluster of bees hanging from a limb in the springtime. That’s, those are bees that are swar, that are swarming from another hive. You can capture those bees, including the queen and install those in your hive. So it’s a pretty simple process of, of, uh, of constructing your hives and.
Moving bees in and getting them started with their, uh, with their, with their business. Yeah. The
[00:14:13] Chris: construction of the hive sounds easy, but that capturing bees that are swarming and then capturing the queen sounds like that’s a tricky, risky proposition right there, man. Like, uh, what.
[00:14:25] John Timmons: I, I, uh, I wish I had a video to show you.
It’s actually not, and I will tell you that just as an aside, that that bees that are in a clustering mode, they’re actually, they’ve separated themselves from an overpopulated hive. Um, and, and they’re actually searching for another home. And that home that they’re looking for is either a hole in your siding or a, a hole in a, in a tree someplace.
They’re looking for another home. They’re homeless. They’re in their most docile state at that point. And you can actually go up to a cluster of bees like that cause they have nothing to protect and stick your finger inside of that cluster of bees and they won’t do a thing. So normally what a beekeeper will do is take an empty hive, and we’ve done this before many times.
Set it on the ground underneath this limb that’s filled with bees. Shake the limb. So that all the bees, 20,000 bees dropped to the ground, which includes the queen. And within 10 minutes they will walk into that hive on their own. You pick up the hive and take it back to your car. Amazing. Amazing. It is amazing.
Yeah. They, they are amazing insects. And
[00:15:33] Chris: send then, so what is the process of keeping those things safe from, um, like disease and. And, and, and things like that. Are there, are there things that you actively do or is it up to the bee basically to just get that, get their sustainability from the area around them?
You don’t, you don’t add anything to the hives or anything to you? It’s not like any, there’s not any kind of like, like when you have horses, you de-worm horses and stuff like that, but the bees are basically probably just left on their own, correct.
[00:16:03] John Timmons: Well, we like to think that, but bees do get, bees do have, uh, predators.
Uh, and one of the most prevalent predator of the bees now is a, is a, is a mite called a varroa. Mite and beekeepers have trouble with the, across the country. Beekeepers have problems with varroa mites and they need to be treated. We, there’s been all kinds of attempts to find. Safe, um, and, and effective means of fighting varo mites, which can take a hive down.
Um, but, but normally, uh, you can add there’s a few organic chemicals that you can add to the hive. Uh, that, that can deal with that by and large, a, a strong hive, a highly populated hive with a strong queen is, is, is going to be healthy and doesn’t need any veterinary assistance, uh, to, to deal with things like varo mites.
But the stronger the hive, the less chance you’re gonna have of any problems. Um, finding its way into the hive.
[00:17:09] Chris: And so on that note, there’s a guy named Paul Stat. Do you know Paul Stat? He does a lot of research on mushrooms and stuff like that, on the sil psilocybin and all the, the psychedelic mushrooms.
He’s, there’s a thing called fabulous fungi and, and Netflix, uh, piece on, on stat. He’s been all over Joe Rogan and stuff. His, um, I found an interesting piece on his thing that said that mushroom mycelium extract is actually being used and tested for an immune booster in bees. I mean, the mushrooms. I have read that.
Yeah. Yes. I mean, uh, the mushrooms that the, the stuff they’re doing with mushrooms right now is just amazing. Um, I don’t, I don’t know how they distribute it. I don’t know if it’s, you know, they just, if it’s something that, that would be picked up as pollination. But I found that fascinating too, because it’s just, it’s all in nature.
Right? Whatever they pretty much could, could use to take care of themselves if we just got outta the way.
[00:18:06] John Timmons: Uh, exactly right. Can’t argue with that a bit, that this, um, and, and you know, there’s other compounds that are being used in beekeeping nowadays, like oxalic acid is, is another compound that is, is, is used to deal with varroa mites and other, uh, problems that, that hives may have.
So th there’s a number of things, but. Again, I, I emphasize that, uh, a strong hive, uh, usually left to its own stays healthy. It’s when you, when hives start getting, um, the lower population that you start having problems with, uh, other, uh, insects, other uh, pathogens making their way into the hive and causing problems.
And, and kind of the reason that we tell, I mean, all beekeepers lose hives. It’s just. It’s part of the game. And that’s the reason we tell new beekeepers to always start, start out with two hives instead of one hive. Because it, they’d be, they have a tendency to say, I’m only gonna start with one hive. And we emphasize that they should start with two hives, and that way if they lose a hive, which is likely in their first year, they’re still a beekeeper cuz they still have a hive leftover.
Um, so it, it’s, it’s not a matter of, you know, getting through the first. Couple of months of beekeeping. It’s a matter of getting through the first year and the first winter of beekeeping where the hives really are apparel because of the cold weather and lack of food. Uh, and in most cases what causes beekeepers to lose hives is a lack of food.
In the wintertime and the hives actually starve.
[00:19:50] Chris: Really? I was gonna ask you what happens in the wintertime? They don’t, they don’t go into any sort of hibernation, do they? Or do
[00:19:56] John Timmons: they? Well, in, in the fall now, there’s three classes of bees in the hive, there’s one queen that lays eggs, about 1500 eggs a day.
Uh, there’s about 60,000. Female worker bees, that that’s what you see when you’re out in your garden. You see bees flying around and there, and then there’s about oh two or 300 drones. Those are the male bees whose responsibility is to, is to, uh, mate with the queens, with virgin, Queens to produce, uh, the, the new bees.
Um, in the fall, uh, the hive begins to shut down. Um, queen stops laying eggs. Uh, the female worker bees throw the drones out of the hive and they end up dying in the cold nights of October and November because they don’t need the drones in the wintertime. So the population of the hive diminishes because the queen stops laying eggs from.
60,000 bees per hive to about 10,000 bees per hive. And those bees cluster in this, in the wintertime with the, with the, with the queen in the center of this cluster. And then a cluster of 10,000 bees surrounding her vibrating, producing enough heat to keep the temperature of that hive at the center of that hive at about 96 degrees no matter what the temperature outside.
They keep that cluster warm and, and a state remains like that in the, in the, and every once in a while one of those worker bees will make its way to up to some food to bring it down into the cluster to keep them when that food runs out. The, the, uh, the cluster’s gonna die, the high will die, and it remains in that state until springtime when the queen starts laying eggs again and, and the, and the high flourishes once again to more than 60,000 bees in the springtime.
[00:21:54] Chris: That’s amazing. That’s just amazing.
[00:21:57] John Timmons: And, and as for that reason, I’ll add Chris, that that a a lot of, because a certain amount of when a, when a beekeeper takes honey off the hive to sell at the farmer’s market, he, he or she has to leave a certain amount of honey on that hive so that the bees can make it through the winter.
And normally that’s about 60 pounds of honey. And if they can’t leave 60 pounds of honey, then they have to leave some other type of food. And normally it’s. It’s crystallized sugar or something that they’ll leave at the hive, uh, so that the bees have something other than honey to eat to make it through the wintertime.
And that’s the beekeeper’s job is to make sure, and that’s what I was referring to earlier, make sure their hives don’t starve to death over the wintertime.
[00:22:41] Chris: And so let’s get into this honey stuff because, you know, there are, um, all kinds of myths about organic and all kinds of stuff about honey that, that, um, That look like they’re taking care of the bees or that they’re bee conscious, I should say.
But, um, how do you know, I mean, how, is there a way for the local consumer to pick a brand of honey or pick a honey that they, that comes from their local other, their local gr um, beekeepers other than a farmer’s market, like the, the local stuff probably doesn’t make it to big box stores, does it? Not in my
[00:23:16] John Timmons: opinion.
Now I go to the grocery store and, uh, I, if we’re, if we need to buy honey and they can’t make it to a farmer’s market, I will buy honey off the shelves that says raw local honey. Whether that’s the case, I don’t know. So we prefer to buy our honey at the farmer’s markets where we can actually go up and talk to the farmer, just excuse me, to, to the beekeeper.
And, and we know that that is real. Unadulterated, unfiltered honey. Uh, the. The, the, the honey that you normally buy at the grocery store has been processed, it’s been heated so that it flows easily through the pipes and their processing plants. Uh, and in the process, it, it actually burns away all the good, healthy nutrients that you get from.
Local, raw, unadulterated, unfiltered, honey. So my recommendation is if you really want to make sure that you’re getting good honey, go to a farmer’s market or go knock on the door of a of a local beekeeper and buy your honey there.
[00:24:25] Chris: How long did you work with bees? How long did you end up like spending this much like intense time with bees before you decided to, to
[00:24:32] John Timmons: get out?
Uh, 10 years. So, you know, from the time that we started beekeeping, uh, we had 15 hives. We were heavily involved in, uh, And starting, uh, our own beekeeping club. Three Rivers Beekeepers, which is one of the largest beekeeping clubs in the state of Missouri now. And then I became president of Missouri State Beekeepers.
So for that total time, including my administrative services as president of the state organization, we were beekeepers for 10 years. And look forward to the day when we’ll be beekeepers again.
[00:25:05] Chris: So you’re gonna do it again? Oh, absolutely. You’re looking forward to Absolutely. What, um, what did raising a bunch of bees and working with bees, did it teach you anything about yourself?
I, I’ll preface this with. I, I grew up working with horses as crazy as that was in inner city, Philadelphia. Uh, there was a state park there that was in charge of the Philadelphia mounted state police horses. And I remember as a kid having to learn, just learn so much about myself with patients when dealing with horses cuz they’re so big and so powerful.
And when you’re a kid, you know, you young kid growing up, especially a young teenager, you just want to kind of. You act like you know everything, so you’re forcing situations. When I started to work with horses a lot, they kind of taught me that I needed to just sit back and observe for a little while and use some patience.
Did did, did 10 years of beekeeping teach you anything about John?
[00:26:00] John Timmons: Yes, absolutely. Uh, just, uh, they’re, they are a humbling creature because they’re so smart. Uh, you know, there’s a, there’s a hierarchy within the hive. Um, of, of different jobs that the, that the bees have of a 60,000 bees. Not all bees go out and collect pollen.
They all have a job to do. And to, to just to sit back and observe the workings of the hive was a humbling experience. And, uh, so, so they, they really did change me in a way. Which is probably one of the reasons I want to get back into beekeeping again soon, is because I, I miss that. I, I miss my relationship with the bees and their understanding of the world around me that I don’t have, they have a better understanding than I have.
Um, they have, and I’ll tell you just a funny story. They, they, they sense who you are. Now this is gonna get a little strange here, so bear with me, but they sense who you are. No, I love it. I love it. They sense who you are and they, they sense whether you’re afraid of them or not. And I’ve told other beekeepers before, if you’re afraid of the bees, they will know it.
When you’re 50 feet away, they sense it. And I’ve seen it time after time of new beekeepers that are a little timid and a little bit afraid of the bees, and they get their cell themselves all geared up with all kinds of protection, and the bees don’t like that. On the other hand, I’ve watched. Beekeepers, old beekeepers that have been beekeeper for 50 years, not put on any protection whatsoever.
And they have such a confidence around the bees that the bees don’t sting them. They work the hives without any protection on it all. And that, that’s fascinating to me, um, that they, that they, I never got to that level of beekeeping, but I knew some old beekeepers that could, uh, but. The, the bees are, they’re a smart creature, and they will humble you if you spend enough time around them.
[00:28:30] Chris: Well, that’s what this, um, this book that I was, uh, leafing through was by the Mark Buckman guy. He says they, they experienced P T S D because they did an experiment where they put a robotic spider on a bunch of flowers. And then, um, the bees would not return to those flowers for a significant amount of time, or they would, um, hover over the flowers until they were confident that, that that spider was gone.
And then he said that they, they can recognize human, recognize, human faces, and process long-term memories.
[00:29:02] John Timmons: They can pretty much recognize everything except the color red. They don’t see red, uh, for some reason. And which is the reason they, you, they rarely you find them pollinate on red plants. Uh, there are other bees that specialize in different types of plants, but yeah, bees don’t see red for some
[00:29:23] Chris: reason.
That’s a fascinating fact. I had no idea about that. Yeah. What is, um, what is a, a fascinating fact that you don’t think many people know about bees that, that you would put out there, or an experience that you had that what has stuck with you about the relationship with, that you’ve fostered from bees or an experience that you had?
[00:29:45] John Timmons: Well, Yeah. Anything special? No, that’s okay. I’m put you on the spot you’ve caused me to, uh, to think a little bit and, and for me, I think it was, you know, I remember when we first started beekeeping, we first received those, that first batch of boxes that contained hives that had to be. Put together. Um, those were fascinating days and I think what I enjoyed so much about beekeeping, uh, the hobby of beekeeping was watching the smile on other people’s faces that I had taught in our first year beekeeping class, how to be beekeepers and to to, to watch them put on their, their veil and their gloves, and walk out to a hive for the first time and experience.
Uh, the, the magic of bees flying around their, their, their protection. And, uh, just be enveloped in that, that, that to me was the most fun. I enjoyed teaching new beekeepers how to be beekeepers and that. That gave me a lot of joy. So I, I just remember those days so much when I was a brand new beekeeper and the joy of watching other people becoming new beekeepers and getting that same joy.
That was a lot of fun. Uh, o one other thing if, if I may, that I, I wanted to mention is, cuz I always get the question of what, what can somebody do? Um, And I don’t know if this is a part of your question, questioning Chris, but it, what can somebody do if they wanna contribute to a healthier bee? And
[00:31:26] Chris: that was okay.
Gonna be up. I was gonna have that It’s two part. Go ahead. Uh, my first part was gonna be what? I don’t mean to interrupt you, but what can, so you, maybe you can phrase these in the same, what can someone do that’s new that wants to get into beekeeping? How do they, what’s your advice on where they start?
And then your, what can we do to help the bees?
[00:31:44] John Timmons: So almost every community. Uh, has a local beekeeping club, call ’em up. They will embrace you cuz they’re always looking for new, uh, new members of the club and new beekeepers. They will embrace you and they will encourage you to take. In most cases, you will be assigned a mentor to mentor you through the, the process.
And you’ll also take what we, we always had like a four day or something first time, first beekeeping, a first year beekeeping class to teach people how to build the hives and start the hives and things like that. So that’s contact your local beekeeping club and there’s normally one or two in every community.
And, and start from there. What can they do beyond that? Uh, if you want to help the bees, uh, first of all be conscious of, you know, why the bees are dying and we’ve addressed those issues here, but. I used to say, you know, become a beekeeper. And I’m not saying that anymore. I’m not saying that that’s gonna be the solution to the honey bee problem or to the bee problem.
I need to emphasize that the problem is not necessarily honey bees, it’s all bees. In particular, the wild bees, uh, that we’re losing at, at a, at a higher pace, uh, than than we ever. Suffered with honeybees. We need to protect our wild bees. So what can we do? Well, it’s not necessarily to go out and become a beekeeper and stick a hive in your backyard.
It’s to, to do what you can to provide, uh, food for all the bees in your backyard. In other words, if you have some wild plants that are back in the back, back corner of your, of your property, don’t cut ’em down. Um, in the springtime when you have, uh, different weeds growing in your front yard, uh, dandelions in particular, if you got dandelions in the front yard, in the backyard, You know, spray ’em off and kill ’em in the front yard so your yard looks pretty, but leave ’em alone in the backyard because the bees need, that’s food for the bees.
So be aware of why the bees are dying. They’re dying because they’re losing food, they’re losing habitat, uh, and don’t spend so much time spraying pesticides all over your property, uh, that, that eventually ends up killing the bees. So, uh, we need to be a good steward of the bees by providing them with good habitat and lots of food to eat.
[00:34:27] Chris: Yeah. That, that seems to be the common notion for a lot of the problems that we have going on, especially environmentally. It’s, it’s our stewardship of, of our, our planet and our environment, uh, what we’re doing around us. But I feel like the bees. Um, you know what I, I’ve read, they, they pollinate two-thirds of our food supply.
Is it two-thirds? Is it that high? It’s, it’s actually
[00:34:49] John Timmons: a third. A third of everything you eat off your plate. No, we’re not talking about a big thick steak. But a but a third of, you know, all fruits and vegetables, uh, is, is p is pollinated by bees. Now there’s a lot of different. Pollinators, you know, butterflies and other things that provide pollination services.
But if we lose our bees, and a lot of the, a lot of the plants, fruits and vegetables that we have today require a specialized pollinator. In many cases, not satisfied by the honeybee. That’s the reason there’s, there’s wild bees that are better at pollinating certain fruits and vegetables than honeybees, and then we need to protect them.
[00:35:33] Chris: gonna say, what is the distinction between a wild bee and the honeybee then? I mean, I’m, I’m picturing the little striped bee that everyone looks at as, as the honeybee consummate honey me. But, um, what, what is, uh, what is the, what are the other wild bees that, that would be taking up with their slack?
[00:35:51] John Timmons: Well, a lot of the wild bees are solitary. They, they live in the ground. Um, you know, bumblebees a is a excellent example of a bee other than a honey bee that provides pollination services. And there’s thousands of other types of solitary, in most cases, bees that provide specialized pollination for different plants, uh, that we eat.
Uh, and, and there’s many plants that we. That we depend upon for our consumption that the honey bee can’t pollinate, doesn’t have the, the characteristics that are required to pollinate that plant. So we need these specialized, uh, wild bees, solitary bees, also called native bees to provide those services.
So when we’re talking about saving the bees, The honey bees probably in pretty good shape right now because it’s, it gets veterinary services from all the beekeepers that take care of it. It’s the other bees that need our support also and that are paying a horrible cost for lack of. Lack of, uh, of habitat and from too much pesticides.
As I was saying, one of the reasons that we have a lot of these problems, uh, today with, with our honeybees and all of our pesticides is, is our industrial agricultural system, which, You know, stink requires, you know, chemicals and huge fields of mono crops. You know, you see these huge fields of corn and, and wheat and beans and those are not food for bees.
Um, so, uh, what would that require to eliminate that problem? Well, we’d have to change our entire eating habit. And, and, uh, I, I don’t think that that’s ever gonna happen. So we need to support our small sustainable farms. That are, are more, uh, more likely to provide a healthy environment for bees. Um, and we need to support our, you know, our farmer’s markets, uh, that normally are providing a healthy environment for bees also.
But if we want to entirely eliminate, uh, the problems with bees and all of our pol pollinators, we need to eliminate, uh, our model for industrial agriculture. And I don’t think that’s gonna happen in my lifetime. You know, or my grandson’s lifetime. So
[00:38:21] Chris: no, I don’t see it happening either. But there, here’s a, here’s a, um, a note of positivity on that.
There’s a company called Be Hero out of California. They’re a startup. It is the first co, um, commercial pollination service to directly address Be Welfare. Really? I. They are. They? Yes, they are. Um, because I, I was trying to find out if there was anyone, and you know, with these days as the consciousness flips and it’s just one company, so they’re not gonna make a dent in the Monsantos and the other sobs out there.
But if you say we can have. Healthy pesticides and still have bees, and it’ll all be cost effective. Well then it’s a win-win for everybody.
[00:39:00] John Timmons: Well, there’s, there’s a solution to all of these problems. There’s always a solution to the problems we have societally and, and otherwise. The, the problem is that, that even though that we know the right thing to do, there’s way too much money to be made still doing the wrong thing.
So we continue to, to do the wrong thing, un until we’re hit with a crisis. You know, one of the things that I’ve talked to a lot of people about to fix our agricultural problem, our food problem is to stop. Uh, to stop thinking about it. We, we need a redesign of our cities as an example, and, uh, we need to stop designing cities based upon a core of transportation and start thinking of our cities in terms of a core of food production.
We’re getting into an area now, uh, which I don’t, I don’t know if you’ve studied this much of, you know, vertical. Farming of providing vertical farming. Yeah. Facilities in the center of cities to provide food for its residents so they don’t have to be shipped thousands of miles from Argentina or wherever for tomatoes and vegetables and, and salads and things like that.
So there’s a solution to these problems that would be beneficial to the bees also. But there’s just way too much money to be made continuing to do the wrong thing.
[00:40:20] Chris: I had this talk with, uh, Jimmy Halliburton, who was, um, an avid cyclist and, uh, he runs the Boise Bicycle Project. He, we talked about urban development because when they take out, uh, when they go to do, um, urbanization and redevelopment, uh, You know, they have the bike lanes versus parking for mm-hmm.
Businesses, right? So the, the city, the cities are up in an uproar because you can’t take out, uh, parking bec and put in a bike lane and you can’t widen the roads. So it’s this dilemma. But they find in the, in the science, in the, in the data that when you take out, uh, parking spaces and put in bike lanes, you actually increase money for local businesses because people are traveling at slower rates of speed.
They’re stopping in local businesses. They don’t have to pay for parking. They don’t come, they’re not on their way home from work. From work and go, oh, I can’t stop now. Right. I, I’ll just come back. Right. And they don’t come back. And it’s the same with gardening. Um, my nephew’s running a cool company called Big City Little Garden, where he’s, he has, his whole thing is urban growing.
Um, you know, grow houses, all kinds of stuff for inner city growing and, and that’s, you know, we have these community gardens that are flourishing and stuff, so I, I totally agree with you a hundred percent, that until we start to think differently about where we live. And how we live, and how we transport, transport ourselves and all of this stuff, it all plays together.
But I, I don’t think we solve any problems without, um, better minds doing better thinking instead of just falling back on same old shit and paying lobbyists to build wider roads.
[00:41:54] John Timmons: Yep, exactly. You know, bigger houses, we need smaller houses. We need. You know, better housing for all of our population and we need to start thinking more, uh, doing a better job, thinking about where our food comes from.
We start need to start producing food where it is consumed. Uh, which is, which is closer to the cities. Um, yeah. And that’s the reason that, you know, I’m so fascinated with the concept of vertical farming because it, it, it solves that problem. The,
[00:42:27] Chris: the awareness is changing though. I think what’s cool is.
I’m hearing more people talk about it and I’m, I, I’m, I’m hoping to be a, you know, I’m a, I’m a tiny little voice in this thing, but with people like Jimmy Halle Burton talking about re urban development and, and new ways of thinking and people like you talking about vertical farming and, and people putting out, um, cool material about, you know, urban growing.
Um, you know mm-hmm. We make small dents. Right. And it might take 10 years, but at least we’re making the dent. Right. Right. We do what we can. Right.
[00:43:00] John Timmons: Well put.
[00:43:02] Chris: Um, if we inspired somebody to pick up some be literature or go and meet with the local Bee Club, that would be a really cool thing. And, uh, I appreciate you taking the time to do this.
It was good to see
[00:43:14] John Timmons: Good to see you. Happy to be with you Chris.
[00:43:18] Chris: Hey, thanks for listening to the show. If you like what you’re hearing, make sure to follow us on Apple Podcasts or wherever you listen to your favorite podcast. And please share it with your friends because the show doesn’t go anywhere without you.
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