Bumble or bust

Members of the Merrimack Valley Beekeeping Association – a group of around 100 beekeeping enthusiasts from Merrimack, Bedford, Hollis and many other towns – recently assisted with a hefty donation to the beekeepers and the surviving bees of Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands, regions devastated by recent hurricanes.

The bee club’s holiday party at Nashua Community College was paused for a moment to take an impromptu vote to donate $500 to a GoFundMe online campaign that is assisting in the restoration of the islands’ honey bees, apiaries and beekeeping equipment decimated by hurricanes Irma and Maria.

The vote, called for by David Ross, club president and a resident of Atkinson, added the $500 to the campaign sponsored by Pollinator Partnership, known casually as “P2.” It is a global, nonprofit promoting pollinators – bees, wasps, bats, butterflies and others – and their ecosystems.

“The honeybee is under great stress from many sources, so to feel the wrath of two major hurricanes was severe,” Ross said. “We are thankful that we can help Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands in their recovery from this devastation.”

The GoFundMe campaign is helping to re-establish apiculture on the islands. It also is re-hiving surviving bees, especially some that took refuge in intact homes and public buildings. The club’s donation was matched by Blue Diamond Growers, a major almond producer, as were donations elsewhere up to $5,000. Thus, the total MVBA club procurement was $1,000.

The GoFundMe project already has provided beekeepers with wooden replacement hives and bee food supplements, along with apiary equipment lost to sustained winds of 150 mph or more.

“The Merrimack Valley Beekeepers want to see the honeybee survive this difficult period, and this is another way that we can help out,” Ross added. “I greatly appreciate the generosity of my fellow beekeepers at MVBA.”

The club’s donation added a hefty chunk to the online contributions. The GoFundMe total at press time was $16,865. The goal is $50,000 for the fundraiser, created on Friday, Oct. 13, by Pollinator Partnership, a certified charity.

“The need is real and significant,” Ross added. “The local farmer is often lost in the discussions about electrical grids, petty political squabbling and other ‘major issues’ covered by the media.”

The MVBA is one of nine statewide organizations that comprise the New Hampshire Beekeepers Association. Every group in the NHBA is dedicated to beekeeping education and camaraderie.

“Here, we can reach out to our fellow beekeepers,” said Ross. “We ask that everyone consider giving to this fund to support local beekeeping in the U.S.A., which includes Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.”

The vote to help others, during a feast of prime rib and seafood prepared and served by NCC culinary arts students and Chef Joe, an instructor, made the event additionally satisfying.

It was an update in Bee Culture magazine via its “Catch the Buzz” section that alerted the club to the campaign by P2, whose motto is, “Protect their lives. Preserve ours.”

The P2 correspondent noted in the report that in Puerto Rico there are some 150 beekeepers who provide seven percent of the honey consumed on the island. The men and women maintain an estimated 4,000 domestic hives.

Meanwhile, in the Virgin Islands, barely a dozen beekeepers manage around 800 hives. The cumulative loss is critical, for a multitude of online sources offer documentation that honey bees are important pollinators of the fruits, vegetables and flowers that ensure a country’s agriculture, its food supply and, thus, its citizens’ health.

Val Dolcini, president and CEO of The Pollinator Partnership, was quick to acknowledge the club’s help in an email to Diane Mattock, MVBA treasurer. He said in his thank-you note that the club’s contribution and that of many others has been a great benefit to those who lost so much.

“Bringing back the bees in these islands will help to restore the ‘ag’ economy and specialty crop production throughout the Caribbean islands,” said Dolcini. “The Merrimack Valley Beekeepers Association has made a difference!”