Who Cares About Honeybees, Anyway?

Originally published as a Guest Rant on Garden Rant, November 4, 2009. Recovered from the Internet Archive. I replaced the photo snapshot with a link to the high-res photo on Flickr. I’ve replaced archive links with current, active links where possible. Those that have since link-rotted are noted.

Subgenus *Agapostemon*, male, on NOID *Helianthus*, perennial sunflower, along my driveway, August 2009

Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD) has been making the news rounds for a few years now. It’s old, if still current, news. Dire outcomes from the loss of honeybees have been proffered. For example, PBS recently introduced an online “ask the expert” feature with this:

Since the winter of 2006, millions of bees have vanished, leaving behind empty hives and a damaged ecosystem. [1]

Really? The ECOSYSTEM?! Did they not notice that honeybees aren’t part of the ecosystem?

Honeybees are livestock. They are animals which we manage for our uses. We provide them with housing and maintenance. We even move them from field to field, just as we let cows into different pastures for grazing.

Perhaps, if CCD can neither be prevented nor cured, disaster would come to pass. However, the underlying cause would not be the loss of the honeybees but our dependence on them as a consequence of unsustainable agricultural practices.

The old ways of farming include hedgerows, uncultivated areas between fields. The biodiversity of these patches provide substantial habitat for native pollinators, as well as other beneficial insects. When even these rough “unproductive” patches of land are cleared, we set the stage for the patterns that have come to dominate agriculture: more herbicides, more pesticides, more machinery. All of these also damage the soil food webs that support both soil fertility and agricultural ecosystems. Although manufactured inputs provide temporary relief, they reduce the ecological functions of the land, requiring more and greater inputs to achieve the same effect. This is the definition of addiction, and it’s a clear sign that this way of doing business is unsustainable.

Why do we need to ship and truck pollinators around? There are plenty of native pollinators to do the job, where we haven’t decimated their habitats. There are 4,000 species of bees alone in North America. 226 species are known in New York City. Many of them visit my gardens in Flatbush, Brooklyn; some have even taken up residence [2]. Many native bees are ground-dwellers which need only some open ground in which to dig their nests. When every patch of ground is cultivated, plowed under or paved over, native pollinators disappear. Suddenly, we “need” honeybees for pollination.

I care about the honeybees. I like my honey and beeswax candles. I support efforts to legalize beekeeping in New York City. But not at the expense of the biodiversity that is all around us, even in the city, if only we care enough to look for it, value it, and nurture it.

Dig Deeper

The Great Pollinator Project [original link defunct]
North American Pollinator Protection Campaign
Saving [Honey] Bees: What We Know Now [About CCD], NY Times, 2009-09-02


[1] Ask “Silence of the Bees” Expert Dr. Diana Cox-Foster, PBS Blog [original link defunct]
[2] “Cellophane Bees Return”, 2009-05-02 [sic, correct date below]

End of original guest rant.

Related Content

Cellophane Bees Return, 2009-05-09 [cited in the Notes above]
Bee Watchers Needed in NYC (and a rant), 2009-06-09 [This was the original blog post which led to the Guest Rant]

All my Bees posts


Mary Kreussling, 1931-2020

If you want to read these in sequence:
2020-09-23The Night’s Watch
2020-09-25Waking Up From Death 
2020-09-28The Last Goodbyes

My Mother's Deathbed

My mother passed away peacefully at home this morning around 5:30 am, Eastern Time. She’d been in home hospice for the past week. She’d been living at home with my sister since 2009, where she moved after our father passed away. She was 89 years old.

She was born with cerebral palsy. Despite her disability, she worked as a legal secretary, typing, and taking shorthand dictation, for much of her life. Taking after her mother, she enjoyed sewing throughout most of her life. In retirement, she took up weaving, and created many beautiful works which her family continues to enjoy.

She and our father were active volunteers in many community organizations everywhere they lived, including various community theater groups in Florida and New York, and the Mineral and Lapidary Museum of Henderson County in North Carolina, where they retired.

She was charming, and made friends easily. Stories abound of how she befriended strangers, whether they be people waiting on line with her, wrong numbers at our home, or truckers on the Long Island Expressway. She will be dearly missed by all who knew her.

No immediate service or memorial is planned.  In keeping with her wishes, her remains will be cremated, to be scattered with those of her husband at a future date. The family will plan an online celebration of life sometime in the future.

In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions may be sent to your state or local chapter of United Cerebral Palsy (UCP), https://ucp.org/find-us/

Related Content

2020-09-28: The Last Goodbyes
2020-09-25Waking Up From Death 
2020-09-23The Night’s Watch


Waking Up From Death

Goodbye #2

We’re nearing the end. Mom hasn’t eaten anything, not even a popsicle, in two days. The “comfort” drugs are powerful, blunt instruments that can only do so much to relieve her pain and discomfort. She is sleeping more and more. Her breath is shallow, but – thankfully – untroubled right now.

This morning, we got to have a few lucid minutes with her, before she fell back asleep. Cass – her granddaughter, my niece – and I were with her in the room. She said to us: “It feels like I keep waking up from death.” A pause, then “It feels weird”. “I bet it does!” I replied. “Does that make sense?” she asked. “Yes,” I answered. Then she began to say “But you …” and dismissed what she was going to say. I understood it as “You don’t believe in anything” as I’m atheist.

I do believe in the sacredness of this time, this experience. This morning’s conversation, however brief, was a blessing. There are no magic spirits behind any of this. It’s what we bring of ourselves to it.

Wishing that this would end soon arises from both kindness and selfishness. They coexist in us. There is so much else going on around me and my family right now, I don’t know how we endure it. Not to mention the state of the world, the peril we face in this country. But endure we must.

I am tired. I need to sleep. I hate the idea of leaving my mother alone in this room. I don’t want her to wake up and see there’s no one here. But that’s an unrealistic fear. She is sleeping peacefully right now, and most likely will for hours. I will be up hours before we get her up in the morning to change her.

I just want one of us to be with her when she passes. When she no longer wakes from her last death.

Related Content


Land of the Free: A Civics Lesson

[Transcribed from a 2017-09-16 Twitter thread and back-dated.]
ACLU Handbook - The Rights of Students - Front Cover - 1973

I originally wrote this as a linked group of posts on Twitter in response to an article about a teacher put on leave after “manhandling” (violently snatching from his chair) a student who refused to stand for the Pledge of Allegiance.

A billion yrs ago, I was in high school. I was gay, atheist, and figuring out my personal conscience and integrity against the injustice I saw in the world.

I spent a lot of time in the school library. There I found a copy of an ACLU handbook on students’ rights. Among the chapters, there was a section about reciting, or even standing for, the so-called “Pledge of Allegiance.” That was the practice in my high scool’s “home room”: the first “class” of the day, where attendance was taken, and Pledge recited. I had been standing only, not reciting, for weeks.

After reviewing the ACLU handbook, I wanted to exercise my conscience, and my right. One morning, I remained seated. The teacher, calling me by my last name, told me to stand. I refused. He asked why. I explained. I was lying if I recited it. There was no “liberty and justice for all.” I was atheist, and did not believe in a nation “under god.”

He moved on that 1st day. The 2nd day, he brought in the school’s disciplinarian to glare at me from the doorway, to intimidate. I sat. There was the visit to the principal’s office. I explained my reasons again. I remained seated.

This gave other students license to attempt intimidation, push my chair while I remained seated, shove me in hallways outside class. One student called me a “godless, commie fag.” He didn’t know I was gay. It was just the worst insult he could think of.

Related Content


Farmington teacher accused of mistreating student put on leave“, Charles E. Ramirez and Mark Hicks, The Detroit News, 2017-09-15 Continue reading

Lemon-Cardamon Sugar Cookies

This is an updated version of a recipe I published 3 years ago. This version reflects the adjustments I’ve made since then. I feel like I’ve perfected this one. If you try this recipe, let me know what you did and how it turned out in the comments!

Lemon-Cardamon Sugar Cookies, cooled and ready for consumption

The trick of using a frozen lemon and zesting the whole thing is something I picked up from my husband. He came across it, as he says, “on the computer.” As you grind down the lemon toward the center, be sure to pick out the seeds with a fork.
Half of a frozen lemon, zested for Lemon-Cardamon Sugar Cookies

Yield: 60 (5 dozen) cookies


  • 1 ¼ cups (2 ½ sticks) butter, softened to room temperature
  • ½ frozen lemon, zested
  • 2-1/2 cups (10 oz) all-purpose flour, sifted. I like using white whole wheat flower for a recipe like this that has more delicate flavorings.
  • 3 teaspoons baking powder
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 2 cups white sugar
  • 1 teaspoon lemon extract
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 2 teaspoons ground cardamom
  • ½ teaspoon ground cloves
  • ½ teaspoons ground ginger
  • 1 teaspoon salt (optional)


  1. Let the butter soften to room temperature.
  2. Zest the frozen lemon (pick out seeds, as needed) into a small bowl and set aside to thaw.
  3. Preheat the oven to 350F.
  4. Sift the flour and set aside.
  5. Cream the butter until smooth.
  6. Cream the butter and sugar together at high speed until light and fluffy.
    Creaming the butter and sugar, Lemon-Cardamon Sugar Cookies
  7. Add the zested lemon, extracts, and spices. Add salt to taste, if desired.
  8. Add the baking powder and baking soda and blend well.
    Batter, before adding dough, Lemon-Cardamon Sugar Cookies
  9. Add the sifted flour and mix until just blended together and no flecks remain.
    FInished Dough, Lemon-Cardamon Sugar Cookies
  10. Chill the dough in the refrigerator for at least an hour.
  11. Prepare baking sheets with parchment paper.
  12. Scoop tablespoons of the chilled dough, roll lightly in sugar, and place on the parchment. Leave space between them; they will roughly double in diameter.
    A baker's dozen of scooped dough, ready for the oven, Lemon-Cardamon Sugar Cookies
  13. Bake for 10 minutes until just brown on the edges. Your sense of smell is the best guide; remove them when you can just smell the sugar caramelizing. The edges should be just starting to darken. This will give you a crisp edge and chewy center.
    Lemon-Cardamon Sugar Cookies, fresh out of the oven
  14. Remove the baking sheet to a cooling rack, and let the cookies cool and set up on the sheet.

Related Content

Other recipes on this blog


The original recipe by Lauren Zietsman, published on her blog “A Full Measure of Happiness,” is no longer available on the Web.

BBG 2012 Calendar: Your Take

Updated 2011-11-20
My photo of Patrick Dougherty’s “Natural History” blanketed in January’s snow opens Brooklyn Botanic Garden’s 2012 calendar.
Natural History

Earlier this year, the Brooklyn Botanic Garden solicited submissions for a visitor-sourced calendar:

Among the Garden’s most passionate visitors are photographers, who capture the beauty each season brings to the Garden’s 52 acres. Their images, taken from unique vantage points, offer perspectives that are at once stunning and unexpected. The 2012 calendar celebrates BBG through their eyes, with a selection of the best visitor-contributed photos from an online competition hosted last year.

Today, the winners met for a reception and guided tour of the Garden.
2012 Calendar Photographer Reception @BklynBotanic

After coffee and munchies, following a brief welcome and introduction from BBG’s Claire Hansen, we set out on our own guided tour of the “Your Take” trail, a temporary exhibit on the grounds of the Garden, highlighting each of the photos in the calendar, and its photographer, at the location the photo was taken. Here I am posing with my sign.
Chris Kreussling, Natural History, BBG
Photo: John Magisano

The signs will be up through January. Here’s the complete list of all photos in the calendar.


Related Content

Flickr photo set


BBG’s Flickr set of copies of the photos used in the calendar
BBG 2012 Calendar, 66 Square Feet (Marie Viljoen)

Job Opening: Urban Agriculture Coordinator

East New York Farms, one of Brooklyn’s handful of urban farms, is seeking an Urban Agriculture Coordinator. The position will start part-time February 1, 2008 (for training) and become full-time with full benefits March 1, 2008.

Deadline for applications is December 14. See their blog for details.

* Recruit and train new and experienced gardeners from East New York and surrounding communities in urban production for market (primarily vegetable production, possibility of chicken raising and bee-keeping)
* Lead and coordinate trainings for gardeners, as well as provide individual technical assistance
* Organize local gardeners and develop their capacity to support each other, sell at the farmers market, and oversee a micro-loan fund
* Provide group development assistance to 20-30 members of new 1/2 acre urban farm, and assist them in further developing the farm
* Supervise and support Urban Farm Manager in cultivating and maintaining a half-acre urban farm
* Co-supervise and train teens (ages 13-16) to grow vegetables, serve other neighborhood gardeners, and help run the farmers’ market
* Assist with designing and leading lessons to build skills and help youth understand the social context of their work
* Track and assist with reporting activities to funders
* Support farmers’ market operations
* Support outreach/promotion efforts of project

* At least one full season of growing experience, primarily in small fruit and vegetable production
* Experience facilitating trainings for both youth and adults
* Experience working with diverse communities and individuals
* Responsible and able to work independently
* Drivers’ license a must
* Ability to work weekends (work week is Tuesday – Saturday from March through November) and occasional evenings
* Bachelor’s degree or equivalent experience
* Spanish language skills a plus

This is a full-time position with full benefits

Position will start part-time February 1, 2008 (for training) and become full-time March 1, 2008.

Please send resume and cover letter by December 14, 2007 to:

Sarita Daftary
East New York Farms! Project Director

Catching Up

I’ve been out of town for a week. I more than made up for it yesterday, with a trip to and from Bay Ridge using two different subways and buses. It was my first visit to Bay Ridge. I went for the Bay Ridge Blogade. I also visited the Narrows Botanical Gardens. I had to leave the Blogade early to return for the inaugural event of Victorian Place Cultural Center.

I took about 600 photos over the course of the day. These are getting seriously whittled down. Even so, it’s going to take me a couple of days to get to each set. So watch this space!

Tree Tubes Trap Birds

On their blog, Bootstrap Analysis, Nuthatch describes a problem which would never occur to me. The common landscaping practice of enclosing the trunks of newly planted trees with plastic tubes to protect them from browse damage can trap and kill birds looking for nesting sites:

It’s a good time to warn all bird lovers about tree tubes. These are used to protect saplings from deer. Usually consisting of a plastic tube about 4′ high held up by plastic ties and wooden stakes, these tubes are attractive nuisances for bluebirds: the male bluebird wants to explore all possible nesting cavities, so he will go into the tube and fall to the bottom and not be able to get out.

The post goes on the describe two possible solutions: exclude birds from the top of the tube with a physical barrier, or lift or open the bottom of the tube to provide an escape hatch:

The tree tube manufacturers sell (or include) woven plastic tops, or “socks” to go over the tops of the tubes. These will effectively prevent male bluebirds from going into the tubes. If not, you can use some means to create a small exit slot or hole at the bottom of the tube, such as pulling the stake out of the ground 1.5 inches.

I imagine that panty-hose or other stretchy fabric across the top of the tube would also serve well as a barrier.

Nuthatch cites an original source for this, but doesn’t provide a link.


I wasn’t sure exactly why I started this blog. I’ve kind of continued on faith that the reasons for it would make themselves known to me. Three encounters in the past month have encouraged me that I’m doing the right thing.

At our neighborhood association meeting at the beginning of February, I spoke with one of my neighbors who’s also working on our landmarking effort. He mentioned his garden, so I told him about this blog. Turns out he’s already a reader. This was the first time I’ve met a reader in real life.

Last Wednesday my partner and I shared the special Valentine’s Day dinner at a local restaurant. The other couples sitting around us turned out to all be neighbors. And again, during introductions, I learned that one of the neighbors already knew about this blog.

Last Friday I stopped into the storefront office of a business owner I know from the neighborhood. When I walked in, she said “We were just talking about you!” She had just learned about the possible creation of a community garden in our neighborhood, an area with little public open space. She knew of my interest in gradening, even though she didn’t know about this blog until that meeting.

I think of serendipity as kind of a cosmic wink. I am grateful that this blog brings me in contact with folks from all over the world. It is a gift that it also brings me into contact with my neighbors. Since we bought our home two years ago, I have increasingly found a sense of place here that I’ve never felt anywhere else. It feels like more than home. It feels like I belong to a community, and that’s a sign of some deep healing for me.