Down to Earth

Beehives take up little space on the land, but, like other livestock, bees need space to roam, and they need a varied diet. Beekeeper Melanie Kirby is a “landless farmer,” who sets up her beehives on farms and ranches, where the bees can thrive and the agrarians can take advantage of their pollination services.
In fact pollination services have become essential to American agriculture, as monocrop farms don’t provide sufficient habitat for pollinators to thrive, so beekeepers actually ship bees by the pallet seasonally to sites when trees and other crops are in bloom. In 2008 the income from pollination services exceeded the price of honey, which shifted the business model for beekeepers, especially at the large scale.
Among the many challenges for beekeepers are pesticide use, which threaten bees and in turn the foods that rely on them. Kirby is involved in helping to create pollinator protection policies to spread awareness and safeguard these essential constituents of the food system.
Melanie Kirby is an entomologist, decades-long beekeeper, a scientist, a member of Tortugas Pueblo, and extension educator for the land-grant program at the Institute of American Indian Arts in Santa Fe.

2’06 landless bee farmer whose hives are on other farmers’ land
3’11 pollination services for crops of all kinds
3’59 the space but bees need
5’22 if farmers need to import pollinators what does that mean about our ecosystems
6’30 rotational grazing supports biodiversity and create better pollinator habitat, which in turn feeds the landscape
7’28 biodiverse plants bloom at different times, which allows pollinators to thrive
9’22 the problem of monocrops with pollinators
11’47 trying to generate a good income while cultivating healthy ecosystems
13’45 relationships with the farmers where her bees live
15’25 policy changes needed in New Mexico
17’34 what people and communities can do
19’36 pesticides and bees
20’55 Nebraska bee sickness from pesticide laden ethanol plant
24’24 fear of bees–until you get to know them
25’42 what bees do in the winter
27’18 food and medicine from bees
28’38 beekeepers love what they do
29’13 what Melanie loves about her work