Friday, June 22, 2012

Bee happy: It's National Pollinator Week

Bees, termites and ants are all social, group-minded insects or "superorganisms" but "honey bees are the only ones I love," says Cindy Hodges. Photo by Kay Hinton.

By Mary Loftus, Emory Magazine

In honor of National Pollinator Week, we bring you Emory alum Cindy Ransom Lewis Hodges, a master beekeeper and vice president of the Metro Atlanta Beekeepers Association.

“Honeybees are vital to the sustainability of the food supply all the way down to the neighborhood garden,” Hodges says. “They are the only pollinator that ‘gives back’ with honey, wax, pollen, and propolis.”

In fact, Hodges’s honey won best in show from the Georgia State Beekeepers Association last fall. “And that’s with urban honey!” she says.

Her hives include a research colony on a fifth-floor patio of Emory’s Math and Science Center that is used for foraging studies in the Department of Environmental Studies. “We took the bees up in the elevator,” she says, laughing. Her bees need regular tending: on a recent rainy spring day, she was planning to deliver a swarm hive (also known as a bait hive) to one of her existing hives. “In the spring, honeybees swarm, which is their form of colony reproduction and is actually a healthy sign, but as urban beekeepers we try to prevent it,” she says. Sometimes the bees will relocate to bait hives, which smell like old wax, when they are placed nearby.

Part beekeeper, part bee evangelist, Hodges and husband Mike Hodges, another Emory alum, decided they needed an avocation once their children left the house (daughter Maggie will receive an MD/MPH from Emory in 2013). So Cindy tends her hives and Mike makes mead from the honey. “When we attend beekeeper conventions, I go for the bees and he goes for the microbreweries,” she jokes.

Honeybees in the U.S. are in trouble, although not endangered, and the need for agricultural pollinators has increased exponentially. Although Hodges admits to being stung about once a week, she is constantly recruiting others into the fold. “I am proud to be taking an active part in the repopulation of Atlanta’s urban corridor,” she says. “Urban bees are helping to pollinate trees, shrubs, fruits, vegetables, and, of course, flowers in the oasis areas of the city between the concrete deserts.”

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