You saw the August Time magazine about the failing honey bees. You have seen less bees around you. Our food supply is in jeopardy.

My credentials: I started raising native mason bees 20 years ago as a hobby, found out what was going on with the crisis and quit my job to start a "action oriented" company,

I coordinated 600 master gardeners in Northwest Washington who are raise mason bees in their yards for us. This is a huge logistics program. We now raise 250,000 bees and are expanding.

I founded the Orchard Bee Association (researchers, mason bee producers, orchard managers) 4 years ago and have finally stepped down as president this year. This is an international non-profit professional team that collaborates to accelerate the use of bees in orchards. We constantly are coming up with new techniques.

We now have gardeners across the US raising bees for us. We buy them back and sell them to regional customers in the same area. Later, we'll rehome these bees to qualified regional orchards.

Our intent is to not replace the honey bee, but supplement them. Relying on only one insect for all of our food is risky. We should use native bees as well.


Comments: 834 • Responses: 74  • Date: 

oragoner385 karma

What is the biggest threat to the honey bee population and how can the average person positively influence the bee population?

crownbees676 karma

While researchers and goverment spend millions on trying to save one bee, we're trying to focus efforts on expanding the reliance past the one bee.

Here's the rule of ONE that we teach: 1. plant one native plant in your yard. 2. get rid of one chemical 3. plant one food (tomato, apple, etc.) 4. Let one pest survive. predators (lady bugs) have to have pests to eat. no pests, no predators. 5. Learn to raise gentle bees.

joneSee259 karma

Good Guy Bee Man lists his cause last...

crownbees275 karma

without the other things working in the yard first, there's no room for bees. Bees have to come last! (but without bees, the food isn't pollinated.)

AzbyKat59 karma

So this summer I want to start a garden since we will be in our first home and have our own yard. How do I raise (get) gentle bees? I'm in Minnesota and wouldn't mind helping the cause.

erichurkman153 karma

Check with your county ag society (or local beekeeper group) for what native plants bees like in your area. Plant them. Don't plant non-native stuff -- it generally requires too much care & water. Wildflowers can be cool, too, and are a great family activity [1].

[1] Get a native wildflower seed blend (they are cheap!). Replace a large portion of your lawn with native flowers. Some are perennials. Don't let your children read the container for what seeds were in the blend -- as the flowers sprout, grow, and flower, you can catalog them with your family. Check out reference books from the library to identify plants as a family project over the summer. In late summer and fall, collect seed pods, and plant again in the spring. Share any extra seeds with your neighbors or your children's classes. Some species won't make it next year -- which ones? Out of a blend of 30 seeds, maybe half aren't suited for your environment. Why? Of the plants that do germinate and flower, which do insects appear to be drawn to? What insects can your family identify? Again, books from the library can help here. It's fun, cheap, and replaces ecologically useless grass with a learning experience.

marsepic22 karma

Love it. Doing it with my students this spring.

crownbees9 karma

Look to our website for a free powerpoint presentation. It's more gardener centric than student, but the notes/slides/ FAQ's are all there for your use.

Jeroknite14 karma

Could you be more specific?

Also, these two videos:

crownbees106 karma

If each gardener does one thing, they might do another. Native plants have more pollen than hybrids. Require less maintenance, less water. If someone gets rid of one chemical, they might get rid of another. And maybe another. Just start with one. If you learn that you can grow a piece of food, you might care what you spray on it. And how it is/isn't pollinated. An ecobalanced yard has pests and predators on all levels. The fastidious home owner wants no holes in leaves, no aphids on plants. Predators HAVE to have prey. If you wipe out the predators, you have to continually spray toxic chemicals to keep all in line. Not smart. Raising bees has the person all of a sudden become connected to the outdoors, much more than dogs/cats/horses. Mason bees are extremely gentle and a simple path to begin with.

the_mullet_fondler251 karma

As a fruit farmer, thank you for taking a holistic approach to bee awareness. Too many people just beat on pesticides, when they are really only responsible for acute damage and evidence clearly shows a multiplicity of factors in large scale, long term bee collapse.

Treating our bees like cattle, moving them from one massive monoculture to another hundreds of miles away days later. Many deeper issues I am glad you're going over here.

crownbees185 karma

You are our golden hero. First, you're a farmer. that already has you at a high level of hero. However, you also understand what we're doing to ourselves and care. That carries you to the top. Well done!

It is the honey bees that are collapsing, but they won't ever fail due to the money that we're throwing at it. Which is good. We don't want them to fail, we have too many food crops relying upon is only.

Awareness is the issue that we're actively working towards. You can raise bees that are gentle. Look to your backyard and make a difference.

If you can raise honey bees, good for you. Keep them in one place and care for them. If you can help the bumbles or solitaries in the area... good for you as well!

the_mullet_fondler82 karma

I'll be honest - we run a conventional farm. We just do all we can to mitigate damage and promote sustainable agriculture.

Everything is small, 1-2 acre plots, rotated as much as possible for perrenial crops such as ours. Minimal pest control (twice a year). This is easy for a <50 acre operation - you can scout the whole thing in a couple hours a week. Never spray with blooms or fruit on the vine.

We have a few hives, and are here for 4 crops over the season. We overwinter at our beekeeper's warehouse a few miles away (we tried outdoors and they didn't fare well, just too cold here in Ontario). We plant lots of native flowers on headlands to keep them happy in the off season. Bumblebees love blueberries... without them, honestly, we wouldn't have blueberries. Wish people would realize that.

It's easy for us, but what can we do? Monoculture isn't going away. It's expensive to grow like we do - I can't ask those who have to choose between rent and food for their families as it is to support the several times higher cost of growing food on a small scale like we do. I hate it more than anyone, but our economy is hooked on cheap food. It's easy for the rich yuppie to say, 'oh, I bought my $10 loaf of heirloom grain bread grown sustainably, everyone should do it too'. But what about those who can't afford to buy any at all, as it is?

We can just change our small corner, and hope to hand it to someone in years to come the same way we found it.

crownbees72 karma

I suggest you're kind of right, but i look to England where things have changed. I think there's a small trend in the building that will have more people support organic approaches.

If you follow permaculture, and in particular Paul Wheaton, organizer of, you'll see that he strongly believes that if done wisely, a 10 acre farm can out produce in revenue a monoculture farm.

I don't know enough about what Paul preaches, other than that statement. However, i think he's on to something.

The trend that is occurring also involves GMO labeling. Too many corporate giants are forcing this one down in CA and WA. But it keeps rearing its head. There's a reason. People want to know.

Soon, you're going to see changes I hope. It might be your children's win, but i think it will occur.

If you have a few moments in the cold this month, check Paul's site out. I think it has a lot of good information that might raise your revenue/margin.

Menonpaws94 karma

For the lazy, August Time magazine article about the failing honey bees.

edit: free pdf

crownbees76 karma

good article. the last paragraph talks about native bees disappearing due to all attention/funds being placed solely on the honey bee. I appreciated the article because it causes people to think about what's going on.

Food is an important issue.

shellshock3d70 karma

What can we do as regular people to help bees?

crownbees141 karma

  1. learn that there are 4,000 species of bees in the US. Not just the One honey bee.
  2. Learn that not all bees sting... some are gentle solitary bees. The mason bee is one. We have a NewBee course on our website under Bee School (
  3. Actively raise gentle mason bees. It's not hard. We're teaching 1000's across the world right now.
  4. Once you have too many bees in your yard (easy to do) we'll ask for your extras to rehome elsewhere.

2OQuestions51 karma

What can people in dorms/barracks/apartments do? Not everyone has a yard and I imagine raising bees would irritate neighbors.

crownbees69 karma

good point. part of this is pure word of mouth. You know gardeners. These bees are very different. for one, they're native. Two, you can't get stung by them unless you squish one in your hands. Solitary bees just pollinate.

There are no rules against raising mason bees. just the more aggressive honey bees.

2OQuestions26 karma

Are there any bee friendly plants I could put on the balcony in summertime?

crownbees58 karma

think natural and native plants rather than hybrids and crud from the easy stores. Modern hybrids and such don't have good pollen in them. Native plants still do. A cluster of plants (2x2') is much more an attraction than single smaller plants.

joneSee50 karma

Mason bee. What's that?

crownbees62 karma

A solitary bee that is native to the US. there are 130+ species of these bees that all nest in tubes/reeds. Gentle. Each female is a queen.

See our website

gerwer24 karma

Is a bumble bee considered gentle and solitary? I've never seen a swarm of bumble bees, and I've never been stung by one either.

Plixt31 karma

Not quite. It's gentle that's for sure, but it's still a social insect. Quick tip: if a bumblebee waves their leg at you, that's the signal to back off or she'll sting!

crownbees27 karma

I agree. I didn't know this Plixt. Good to know. We're going to help introduce bumble bees to the eastern states later this year. We hope to connect more gardeners with the knowledge of gentle bumbles as well.

crownbees65 karma

that's me!

SnickeringBear42 karma

I agree with your overall effort to promote mason bees, but have issues with some of the information you have posted. In particular, your posts about honeybees are apocalyptic which is far from true. While you appear to have some knowledge of mason bees, your knowledge of honeybees is rudimentary at best.

  1. Colony Collapse Disorder can be triggered by multiple events. The more serious cases of CCD appear to be caused by a pathogen. Sterilizing the bee hives is effective at eliminating it from equipment. There are cases associated with pesticides, particularly neonicoteinoids, but they represent roughly 20% of the known cases to date. The pathogen is the elephant in the room.

  2. Honeybees are not in danger of going away, and it is not a matter of money spent. When you put honeybees back into the environment they belong in, they thrive. I've been a beekeeper for 44 years and have kept my bees totally chemical free for the last 8 years. They have adapted to tracheal mites, varroa mites, and small hive beetles. There is a lot to be said for getting the right genetics and providing a healthy environment.

  3. Blanket statements about hybrid plants not producing pollen are misleading and/or downright incorrect. Hybrid plants are mostly effective at producing pollen. The problem is monoculture. Think what you would do if you had to eat bread and water every single day for every single meal. This is what monoculture does to bees.

So put me down as glad you are promoting awareness of mason bees and other pollinators, but unimpressed with your knowledge or presentation about honeybees and flowering plants.

crownbees45 karma

I appreciate your knowledge. One is only as strong as what they've learned. My background is Real Estate before I shifted to doing something to change what's going on. I do not raise honey bees, am am not proposing that i have any expertise in them other than what I read and discuss with those in the commercial industry of honey bee keeping. This is not intended to be an AMA on how to fix the honey bee, but rather to talk about how we we can change the future.

I disagree with you on the fact that the honey bee is not challenged. I do not suggest that it is going away. I suggest it is mismanaged with how it was intended to be used.

I also read much that contradicts the hybrids and double blossoms. Many good organizations with accredited researchers might also disagree. However, that's not my point.

My point is to ensure that we look to balance our ecosystem with alternate solutions.

To place all our hope for pollination on one bee is not wise. It is what we currently do today. I applaud your 44 years of success. Please continue to teach others what you know.

For my company, we're looking to provide alternate solutions. Please don't be offended if they are on a separate path than what you are on.

thunderousforehead30 karma

Do you and people in your industry talk about what they think is causing the shortages? What is the consensus?

crownbees94 karma

consensus is man is misusing the honey bee. it shouldn't be used the way we use it. too much transportation, artificial food. too many bees in one place spreading diseases to other healthy hives.

thunderousforehead30 karma

Thank you. This is something I've never heard before. I was expecting something about pesticides.

crownbees111 karma

pesticides are a problem, but not the only one. It's funny, but the honey bee has actually caused the pesticide problem.

Because you can bring the honey bee to an orchard, and this wonderful insect can pollinate for miles, it allows us to have monoculture.

Now we have only one species of plant in acres and acres. It's not natural and pests move in quickly. disease, fungus, insects. etc.

Because we now have too many of these and not enough predators, we have to spray.

when we spray, we kill off all bad pests AND good predators.

we're now married to the chemicals as the only solution.

Kind of ugly.

noargumenthere16 karma


crownbees22 karma

there are multiple problems with what we're doing to ourselves. Chemicals is one. Lack of awareness to what we're doing is another.

We're trying to help people learn what's around them. If they begin to see a direct cause between chemicals and the lack of bees in their backyard, they may begin to do less spraying.

They may ask their spraying company to use more organic compounds.

The chemical companies might have to start investing in more organic solutions.

It's already starting... this is a tipping point that occurred last year.

sativan2 karma

What about the recent research that states that auto-exhaust fumes change the chemical make up of flower scents and bees can no longer find their food?

If nothing is changed about this, how can we ever save the bees. It's like saving the starving in Africa and while blinding all the people being fed so they can't find their way back to the food line for the next meal.

crownbees4 karma

Sativan, it's a complex issue. We have to just start at one step and then move the next. Raise bees today, think about ramifications with exhaust ten years from now. More people might care then.

reddit-and-forget-it20 karma


crownbees39 karma

over twenty years, twice. Both times i by accident squeezed a female between fingers. I had to look where i got stung... the venom is less than a mosquito bite.

reddit-and-forget-it46 karma


crownbees55 karma haven't been working with gentle mason bees, have you?

I have been stung by a hornet last summer. I was slightly pissed as i thought that i was a "bee whisperer." Not.

later, in my garden I saw a few hornets patrolling my vegetables looking to snag an aphid or caterpillar. How cool was that? I realized that i was the one with the problem, not the hornet nest.

Plixt17 karma

It sure brings you back to earth when one stings you. Collected over 300 bumbles for a project, got lazy on the last one and the thing stung me through the net ><

crownbees26 karma

it does humble one... you were the one causing the problem and didn't understand their "space." We get so rushed at times. ...and then quickly put in our place.

lorniereddit17 karma

I made mason bee boxes (used the internet as a guide), and passed them out to my friends who garden.

I have not seen any mason bees use my box here at home.

Any advice for me?

PoopNoodle41 karma

Bee patient?

crownbees16 karma


crownbees29 karma

Mud. It's the number one reason that a mason bee won't be there. Think through the surroundings. If there is mud already around you, then more than likely there would be mason bees. If no mud, they the spring species that you're thinking about will be elsewhere.

Find good mud, plunk it on the side of a hole (shovel deep) that has good ground water, and the bees that you can get from us will probably use it.

There are other cavity nesting bees around you, it might just take years of patience. We're trying to shorten the curve through helping people think about solutions.

Glad you're trying. NO blocks of wood or bamboo. They are death hotels.

reddit-and-forget-it15 karma


crownbees27 karma

we have to realize that bees are vegetarian. Hornets and wasps are mostly predatory and meat/insect eaters.

Social bees, like the honey, bumble, and similar all want to protect the queen and her eggs.

Solitary, like masons and multiple other types that nest in holes and in the ground are gentle.

So... a social bee (you did say bee, not hornet/wasp) that is most dangerous would, in my opinion only, be the Africanized killer bees that can't make it up to NJ because they can't tolerate the colder winters.

so... i don't have an NJ answer.

SeekingAir10 karma

Do small farmers want bees on their land? My buddy who makes his own wine, makes his own sausage, and wanted to set up 'hives?' to harvest his own honey was met with resistance.

crownbees21 karma

If "Small farmers" means a policulture farmer where they are more organic and have a ton of different food they're raising, then yes.

Farmers need pollination for many of the crops they grow. If they are just planting seeds, then bees aren't important.

Fruit... need bees. Beans, squash, melons... need bees. Carrots, brussel sprouts, etc. need seeds from plants that have gone to seed... and these need bees.

HelloThatGuy9 karma

How dangerous is the bee mite to the bee industry and why do you think it is becoming more of an issue than in the past?

crownbees15 karma

The varroa mite is from China that came across in the 50's? The rest of the honey bees of the world didn't know how to get rid of it. The mite, like the fleas of the the bubonic plague, are a huge carrier of diseases.

You're trying to kill an insect in an insectory. with a lot of nasty chemicals.

trapdoor_lolita8 karma

Logged in just to say I appreciate the work you all are doing! My mom is a Master Garden for Northern CA, and she's been raising mason bees and giving "bee talks" around the county. It's a lot of work raising awareness and understanding, but so important.

crownbees7 karma

Can you ask your mom to reach out to me through our website? (contact us)

We want to reward speakers. We also have presentations on mason bees that are downloadable and free. Teach... that's all we ask. Help people change. Your mom is a blessing!

rustybob8 karma

how do you count the number of bees you have?

more importantly, could you offer a synopsis of the current problem, it's perceived causes, and what we should do to fix it? I'm just a random person who knows very little about bees, it'd be nice if you could summarize it for me.

crownbees14 karma

We have about 450,000 mason bees. about 200,000 we place out with gardeners in the NW. We are looking to reach a billion in the near future. The only way this will occur is through home owners to think about where their food comes from. without bees, we'll have more expensive food. The gardeners we're trying to recruit are in all states and provinces. They'll join a program called BeeGAP. Bee Gardener Adding Pollinators.

Overview of the problem. Read below... man is causing the issue with forcing nature to do what we want. Permaculture folks probable have a better feeling for what we should be doing.

Read on our website about mason bees. We have a lot of practical and easy advice. Plus... I write Bee-Mail, a monthly newsletter of "when to do what". We want you successful.

camsbydre8 karma


crownbees11 karma

You may be allergic to honey bees who pack a whollop, but the venom in different species won't cause anaphaltic shock.

The venom in a mason bee is less than that of a mosquito. it is VERY hard to be stung by a solitary bee.

crownbees9 karma

and no, we're not doomed. My company is on the path of change. I look forward to the future.

noargumenthere8 karma


crownbees10 karma

My company is a for profit company. However, we strive to be as ethical as possible. This is an important solution that can't be clouded by money grabbing companies. They're out there, just not in this industry yet.

I want this to be centered on solutions for our food supply. Money is a natural by product of doing good things.

Yes, we have thousands raising mason bees as volunteers. No government support. This is purely a grassroots company and solution. It's getting wings though.

tubes should be natural. paper, reeds, wood trays. Small bees use small holes, larger, larger at about 8mm. holes are about 6" long. We have directions on how best to place them. We also have bees that can be rehomed to where they are already acclimated.

noargumenthere9 karma


crownbees10 karma

You, the gardener, could find native bees around you. We'll help you think it through. OR, you can buy bees that are already acclimated to your area.

The bees overwinter in cocoons. We either exchange tubes for cocoons, reeds, or wood trays for cocoons, or flat out send you a check for the cocoons.

Suspicion8 karma

I don't have a question but I wanted to thank you for helping our bee bros out.

crownbees12 karma

It's one small planet that we keep messing up. We're here to help people understand the basics. Natural, practical, and ethical.

The farmer isn't wrong with what they're doing today. They're following what they're being told to do by the experts. Who is training the experts? Follow the money... the chemical companies.

It's going to take a bit of rethinking, retraining, and proactive discussions. It has to start somewhere!

Gerenuks7 karma

Robobees. Do you think they will ever become an effective solution for the honey bee crisis?

crownbees34 karma

technology can solve anything? I'm a civil engineer and love Popular Science.

As i've become far more ingrained in the natural world, i realize that nature really has it down. When we look to replace nature with anything non-natural, we tend to not really understand the total implications with what we're doing.

Robobees, while they might be awesome, the sad part about this technology is that we did something really wrong and couldn't figure it out.

Chemicals, using insects how we shouldn't, monoculture, etc. all create a cycle where we focus on non-natural solutions. I believe this is an error of the human technology race. Technology involves innovation of industries, be they chemical, agricultural, or apiary.

I'm not an anti-technology freak, but one more of balance. Let's understand where we're at fault, look back 100 years to see where things use to be, and then look to emulate a solution to work with nature, not against.

HellaFella4206 karma

What can an average consumer do (what products shouldn't we use..) to lessen our impact in this situation?

crownbees19 karma

I'm more oriented on "what should we use" to enhance the situation.

See below on the rule of One. Plant one native plant, grow one piece of food, etc.

Allowing pests to survive is probably one of the more wiser things we should consider to do. With pests in a yard, we're more likely to not place out chemicals to solve the pest problem.

Place out holes that can be harvested for native mason bees. Learn what to do with these. (We'll help you with Bee-Mail.)

Biggest issue of what not to do is have sterile yards with huge lawns needing excess water and chemicals to keep them green.'d then have more native plants requiring less energy/water, more time to focus on other things, and plenty of pollen for native bees to use.

CoffeeHead1126 karma

Last week this article popped up in several different magazines stating scientist think they found the cause for bee colonies collapsing being tobacco ringspot virus jumping kingdoms. I've kept on eye on bee studies and this seems to have more concrete evidence than most (we've all seen the new theory every 6 months, pesticides, cell phone waves, GMOs). If it is this how would you go about addressing the issue (obviously the biggest threat would be jumping to all different species of bees)aAnd if it's not what are your personal thoughts on the cause?

crownbees10 karma

It's a very complex equation CoffeeHead. I don't trust any solutions right now. I think we keep on placing so much reliance on the one bee, it will continue to have issues. Nature is fighting what we're doing. Look to other threads below about this. We're abusing this one insect.

I strongly believe that chemicals remain a high percentage of problems. You'll find that most bee labs of the world have been bought by Bayer/Monsonto. Guess who says who can study what?

Monoculture is another major factor that isn't wise. Too many bees are flown together allowing diseased bees to get lost and infect healthy colonies.

Another HUGE issue is the age of the average commercial honey bee keeper. The average age is 60+. No one wants to get into this industry because they keep losing sooo much of their inventory. You have to be in it for the love, not the money.

It would be great to have tobacco ringspot virus be the culprit. My intuition says that it's just one hole in the boat. There are many more holes.

jacks1775 karma

I just wanted to say I appreciate the work you and your company do--I worry about this a lot actually--it is of concern in Germany too.

crownbees5 karma

I work with several teammates in Belgium, France, and England. England is ahead in the world with concern for bees... they've done the most damage and are now conscious of looking for solutions.

Most of Europe is far behind. I believe with results we're seeing, there will be a huge outcry for solitary bees. Just not yet. I suggest you'll start to see more public opinions in 3-4 years.

We are in the bleeding edge of technology, not the cutting edge.

fairymagic63915 karma

all the ladybugs are going too!

i remember in my grannies garden during the summer time we would play with them all the time and let them crawl over our hands. it's been five years since i last saw a live one. and even then, when i picked it up and gave it to my little sister to let it crawl around her hand she started freaking out. saying that it felt weird, because she never held a ladybug before. she was ten years old.

this is making me sad now :(

crownbees2 karma

work towards a positive solution. We have bees that we're trying to get people to raise and teach others.

Rather than dwell in the wrongness, move to make a difference. Raise native bees. When you see a bee emerge from a cocoon on your hand, watch it crawl around, adjust it's wings, and then fly off, every time I smile. It's something awesome to watch.

NocturnusGonzodus5 karma

Here's something I've been thinking about... What kind of honey/other results might I get if I were to plant a beer garden (hops and barley) and keep bees by it?

crownbees3 karma

i suggest healthier plants? If a plant has a flower, it's asking to be pollinated!

NocturnusGonzodus5 karma

Not sure I follow. I want to grow hops and barley for homebrewing, and possibly keep bees on the side for making mead. I know different flowers result in different flavor profiles.

crownbees7 karma

I can't help you... I just know a lot about solitary bees and the notion of what a balanced environment could/should look like. I bet the internet could help you!

sativan4 karma

About how much yard space do I need for a small bee hive?

I hear you have to keep the hive at least 50 feet from the house to prevent them making a nest in it?

crownbees13 karma

If you float through the comments, you'll see that we're asking people to think beyond honey bees.

1 mason bee equals about 60 honey bees. a handful of mason bees can pollinate an acre of cherries. ...about 800 mason bees can produce 6-8 tons of cherries. It takes about two hives (40-60,000 honey bees) to do the same thing.

So for a backyard, we'd recommend about 20-30 mason bees, no more. and the mason bee shelter is best on a wall of a house.

weissensteinburg4 karma

What's the best thing farmers with a bee-dependent crop can do?

crownbees7 karma

At this early juncture, hold tight. Continue with honey bees. We don't have enough mason bees to make a difference. Today, we're conducting trials with several types of crops; almonds, apples, strawberries, cherries, blueberries, but it's just trials.

In about 5 years, IF we can get enough backyard gardeners raising mason bees, we may be able to work with a few progressive farmers that are willing to adjust what they're doing.

Sprays will have to be different, cover crops under canopies will be needed, etc.

We are seeing record yields with an AND situation, both honey and mason bees. however, we don't have enough bees and we don't want farmers making errors and then writing off the insects.

Patience is the key word today. Thanks for asking!

Nicahole3 karma

Do you think the bee decline is directly related to GMO's being planted all over the U.S.?

crownbees17 karma

No. It is a complex problem with a huge amount of variables. GMO might be a problem, nicotinoids another, the varroa mite, etc.

Big issue is that we rely upon one insect too much and should consider alternatives

Nicahole6 karma

Correct me if I am wrong, but aren't there several types of insects that pollinate? It's not just one insect that we rely on, in our garden we have more Mason bees and Bumble Bees than Honey bees. We also have butterflies...the decline in Bumble bees and the disappearance of Monarch's should be taken into consideration...seems like there is something upsetting all of the insects, and IMHO it is not that we rely on one insect too much, but that the balance has been upset somehow and perhaps it is more important to find the root cause than just an alternative way to pollinate. Also, I love raw honey...can't go losing that!! :) Thanks for your answer, I am not trying to be difficult, I swear...we are planning on getting 2 hives set up on our property this year so I find it very interesting.

crownbees10 karma

My focus is food on the table Nicahole. Yes, the backyard needs to be a haven for all sorts of pollinators from humming bird, beetle, butterfly, and bat.

But for our food supplies, you can't manage a flock of humming birds to pollinate a crop. We need managed bees. Possibly a huge swarm of flies, but i don't think that will work.

HelloThatGuy5 karma

I was listening to one expert talk and she claimed, evidence sugguested, GMOs themselves are actually good for the bees in the sense that it is easier for them to pollinate the plant since they are a healthier crop. The negative effect of GMOs is indirect. GMOs are usually restiant to a non selective herbicide which in turn kills all native vegetation along the boarders of the field.

crownbees14 karma

it's a tough debate. GMO does create some cool food. BUT, the Monsonto roundup ready GMO i believe is not good for either humans or the environment. We're creating some super resistant bugs and weeds that already has Monsonto working on roundup ready 2. Even more lethal to the environment.

I don't like that company. I'm sure there are good people working in there...

crownbees3 karma

Thank you for participating with me. This was my first AMA, and I hope that I helped many of you see that "doing" is better than just "reading".

Crown Bees will make a difference through providing alternate bees. These bees will have to be raised in gardens throughout the country.

One handful of cocoons can pollinate an acre of cherries. One handful is produced by one-two suburban/urban yards. These bees are a solid solution.

Dave Hunter.

IVguy3 karma

Any tips for a beginning apiarist? I've seen from other comments you support Mason bees, but do you have any advice for raising a bee hive?

Thanks for getting the buzz out about bees!

crownbees10 karma

if you're interested in the honey bees, I would strongly suggest that you reach out to a local Honey Bee Club. They always have classes for newbees.

Cotmweasel3 karma

First off, thanks for everything you do and are doing. One of my biggest hobby's is going out to take photos of bees in the wild. Year after year I see the massive decreases in the local population.

Totally 100% agree on building back up the native bee population, many of the native bees in Texas have gotten to dangerously low levels. The thing I found amazing once I started studying/stalking bees is how docile they really are.

Are you looking at possibly raising other bees in the future or sticking with Mason bees?

crownbees7 karma

Thanks. I have to do this wisely so that we can be profitable, help others succeed, and create a movement that brings about true change.

We don't look to close chemical companies down, but help steer them to more organic solutions. Better to dance with the bear than kick them in the ankle.

We "rediscovered" the blueberry bee in Provo UT a few weeks ago. one of our BeeGAP partners found them. You can read about it on our site.

Osmia Ribifloris... but we've learned why it didn't work in previous trials. This bee can pollinate blueberries, BUT it needs to have it's nest building material nearby. For this bee, it's not mud, but succulent plants where it can get sticky pulp to pack into holes.

Yes, we absolutely want people to find things. We are focusing on hole nesting bees as they allow us to easily shift them from place to place. the ground nesting bees are too hard to move.

ironmaidenguy942 karma


crownbees2 karma

I am not a honey bee expert. I wish I could help you here. If you see below, i believe we have a very complex equation that could involve DWV.

My thought is that it would be a small percentage of the equation, but that's pure speculation.

anon18952 karma

So you are literally Dr Bees?

crownbees2 karma

only to mason bees!

Castanea_dentata1 karma

Looks like a cool business. I work for a non-profit that deals primarily in native local eco-type plants so I definitely dig the concept. Love the bee box designs too. Anyway, some questions. Sorry if they seem stupid -- not really an insect guy.

I've read about the risk that neonicitinoids pose towards honeybees. Do they pose a similar threat to native bees?

I've heard form at least one entomologist that the european honeybee is probably depressing wild bee populations. Would widespread use of native bees alleviate some of that pressure?

crownbees3 karma

Neonics are not good for any pollinator. We only know the impact to honey bees because that's all we care about today.

There are different chemical compounds that impact bumbles, blue orchard, honey bees, and others differently. The Xerces Society has a report they released a year ago that was nicely done. They are a solid group.

What's funny is that you're correct. Honey bees are also known as "pollen pigs". they strip pollen from plants and leave less available for native bees.

Today, few care. We're looking to change that thinking. However, one does NOT upset the honey bee industry. So... it's not a thing i like to talk about that much.

MelliEouk1 karma

I have a ridiculous amount of bees that hang out by my back patio during the summer months and have had a lot of problems with 3-4 flying inside everyday. About 10 of them will die every day or so on my patio making it unsafe to walk on barefoot because of the stingers. Is there anything I can do to get them to just go away?

crownbees2 karma

I can't help you... screen in your porch? I'm glad to see that you have so many bees! lucky you?

reckitralf1 karma

What can strictly the government (I'm assuming bees fall under the public trust doctrine) do to help save the bee population? Is this strictly subject to state, rather than federal, regulation?

crownbees1 karma

You ask a good question. Most funding for research is from the Farm Bill and other federal funding. I know a lot of University academia that we team with that must be funded on the state level.

We're starting to see more alternate pollinator research occurring. Finally. It's a drop in the bucket, but still, better than none.

I believe the government doesn't have the depth of vision to see long term. Too many short term problems. This one that we're focusing on is 5-10 years into the future. Too far away in my opinion.

however, I haven't been properly introduced to someone who cares yet. They may be out there?

BrainBurrito1 karma

What specific plants can I grow in my yard to attract pollinators and sustain their populations? (I live in cool coastal area in California)

Silly question: Do you know if there is a way to manually pollinate broad beans (aka fava beans)? When I plant beans in the fall, they throw out tons of flowers but of course don't get pollinated because there aren't so many bees out in the winter. I've tried going from flower to flower, wiggling a Q-tip in them but it doesn't seem to do anything.

crownbees3 karma

look to a local nursery and ask them about natives with good pollen loads. Plant in clusters, not singles. Bees focus on clusters.

I suggest the leafcutter that we carry might help you out.

floatsallboats1 karma

First, thanks for doing what you do, and for taking the time to respond to so many of these questions. I live in California- how can I get involved? Can mason bees live in this climate as well? How would I go about raising them?

crownbees2 karma

they are native to California. ...and are easy to raise. our site helps you.

kingbane1 karma

i live up in canada, in calgary alberta. is it possible to raise mason bee's up here? or is it too cold? also what other kinds of bee's are there that can be raised in an urban environment?

crownbees1 karma

the mason bee is native to your wonderful province kingbane. The leafcutter bees also do well there. We purchase leafcutters from Saskatchewan producers.

friedjumboshrimp1 karma

Do you have any good bee jokes?

crownbees4 karma

Bee happy?

FishStickButter1 karma

Is it rational to be scared shitless of bees.

crownbees5 karma


I still cringe when buzzed. The main problem we have with bees is that we recall bumping nearby a social bee hive. the sentries purposely divebomb you to divert you away. In final defense, you're stung.

Not so with solitary bees. they buzz past you, not at you. the reaction that we instinctively have is the same.

badjuice1 karma

TL:DR; How do you feel about the prospect of trying to apply GMO science to bees (I assume we are already doing this), via breeding primarily (I understand direct genetic insertion is very difficult above simple organisms)?

The breeding and cultivation of bees genetic traits seems to me to be a very promising and interesting path of research; but it also seems to have carried great risk which has been problematic (Africanized bees). There are four things I've considered:

One: I understand that Africanized bees came about due to negligence in securing bees that were crossed between European bees with African bees. Due to the the invasive nature of Africanized bees (replacing the queen of a colony), the bees quickly migrated out of direct control. Is it plausible to breed and control bee populations without major risk of them being released? In other words, can we contain a mature bee population?

Two: I also considered that if Africanized bees were prosperous and rebounded the bee population, the benefit of reintroducing pollinators to the ecology could possibly be worth the cost of dealing with then, so I don't want to push a negative assumption. Is it possible that Africanized bees could be a net win? Would the introduction of dangerous bees demand safety precautions by the average person?

Three: Producing a bee that is perhaps hardier in cold or resistant to various pesticides may be advantageous, but then there is risk of replacement of native bee populations, or damage to an ecosystem that isn't built to handle a more capable insect in that niche. What sort of considerations do we need to make? Once released to wild, what methods are available (if any) to 'herd' the bees?

Four: Breeding requires time spent in pregnancy. You cannot make the process twice as fast by throwing two breeding organisms at it; they'll both still have to go full gestation term. That said, how long would you think the turn around be between starting a breeding project and producing an advantageous strain that we could use? How long does a 'generation' take to grow? How easy is it to control what breeds with what in many-nest situations? What traits would be select for, and how would we quantify them?

Bonus five? As you might infer, I am ill educated on the subject, so I might misunderstand the subject. What basic summaries of the system considered should an interested laymen know?

crownbees5 karma

I'm a strong advocate of "nature has figured it out." We should stop changing nature as it creates an unknown reaction. Autism, higher degrees of cancer, etc. What is the cause? Too many things.

when we alter something that nature has already worked out in simplistic harmony, we drastically impact future generations unknowingly.

One of my best TED talks was listening to Allan Savory.

Rather than change things with technology, look behind us a hundred years to see what was already working. Analyze the difference, and look to emulate what the planet wants.

Honey bees were not meant to cruise around in semi trucks pollinating thousand acre crops.

badjuice1 karma

Understanding that you are towards the negative opinion on the matter; I am still curious:

Is it possible to care for, contain, and protect a mature adult bee hive completely (i.e. not one stray bee)

Is there any benefit from the Africanized bee strain?

Obviously, we want more bees in more places as much as possible for the most part, however, what methods do we have of 'herding' bee populations?

crownbees2 karma

In the contacts I work with, I think has figured out much of the problems with the honey bee hive. all natural solutions.

However, since it's natural, most don't believe that they're correct.

I don't know much about the Africanized bees other than I don't want to meet them in a field by myself... :)

Herding bee populations? That's what we're trying to do through BeeGAP. Heard hundreds of thousands of gardeners to raise the bees for shifting into nearby farmlands.

lolsrsly1 karma

Your bee buyback program as you describe it doesn't sound particularly beneficial to the bees themselves. Wouldn't it act as a population sink where you transfer the bees from their original habitat into a less optimal habitat?

Do you have any data about whether or not it is sustainable to continually harvest wild bees?

crownbees4 karma

The mason bees disperse quite a bit. With the backyard gardener, many of the bees are off to other holes.

In the wild, yes, it's a big concern. As former president of the Orchard Bee Association, we're very concerned about a gold rush to trap wild bees from nearby forests.

Rather, what we are trying to do is encourage trappers to drill holes in trees where they're placing their reeds. That way, about 25% of the population remains behind. Yes, you can outstrip a forest of resources unknowingly.

We walk a tough line of being ethical, and trying to tell entrepreneurs to not get as much money as they can from their efforts. One of our thoughts is to certify trappers, but that's a few years out still.

spacester1 karma

One thing I never hear in discussions about CCD is the stress on a colony from transportation and relocation. Obviously it's done in response to economic imperitives and you don't want hives where there is no nectar, but surely it's a stress factor?

crownbees2 karma

It absolutely is a factor. Though just one of the factors. Or maybe not. it's a complex equation. Read through some of my thoughts in lower threads.

This is where the Xerces Society ( has a lot of intelligence. Look to natural solutions with wild bees. I think they might still have too utopian of a solution, and we won't get there until 100 years from now.

My company is advocating a slow change by altering our use of only one bee. We need more bees though...

available_username2-1 karma

If you are such an expert at saving bees why is it still a crisis?

crownbees2 karma

you have to start somewhere. My company is doing something. The solution is not in place today. Read below.