Local rescue wants to communicate the importance of bee survival | Premium

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Richard Rivera lifted the lid to his apiary and a swarm of bees burst out. They weren’t aggressive, though, choosing to instead buzz lazily around Rivera’s hooded, masked head.

Rivera reached into the box with a gloved hand and pulled out one of the wooden slats the bee swarm was building their hive on. The bees hung on tight, content to stay on the honey comb they were constructing while Rivera handled it. The color of slat ranged from a dark yellow to a deep, deep orange.

“See that?” Rivera asked. “That’s honey.”

For four years, Rivera has operated Victoria’s Adopt-A-Hive, a bee removal service that specialized not in killing bees, but rescuing them.

“We’re not exterminators, and I don’t think some people get that,” Rivera said.

Rivera rescues bees by removing them from places that they are unwelcome and transporting them to apiaries — places like boxes where bees are kept to build their hives — on his property where they can pollinate, produce honey and beeswax and, eventually, become domesticated, he said.

It’s important to rescue bees and not kill them, Rivera said, because bees serve as pollinators.

According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, nearly 75% of crops producing fruit and seeds for human consumption rely, at least in part, on pollinators like bees. Unfortunately, changes in land use, agricultural processes and use of pesticides have made extinction rates for pollinators like bees 100 to 1,000 times higher than normal.

“We need these bees,” Rivera said. “I can’t say it too much, you know?”

Where the “adopt” comes into Adopt-A-Hive is that Rivera will allow people to adopt apiaries full of rescued bees, he said. An adopter of bees can keep the apiary on their own or Rivera’s property.

“There’s so much to learn that we’ll either go out and teach you or will take care of the bees ourselves,” Rivera said.

Rivera initially began beekeeping as a hobby when someone purchased an apiary for him, he said, but he quickly realized that wasn’t enough.

“By the next week, I was just doing removals,” he said. “At first it was just for fun, and I’ve seen how many people don’t know how important (bees) are.”

He soon recruited a friend, Randall Saenz, to help him out.

“I love it,” Saenz said of doing removals. “It’s exciting, man.”

Interestingly, the pair love going after Africanized bees, commonly called killer bees due to their incredibly aggressive nature.

Rivera pointed out one of his older apiaries which contained Africanized bees. He said that when he first got the bees, the swarm was so aggressive and powerful that when he approached they were able to physically push him back, and that even going near it in a truck would cause the swarm to react aggressively.

Now, though, the swarm is relatively docile, and the Africanized bees actually produce the most honey, which is why Rivera and Saenz want them.

Bee byproducts like honey and beeswax — which they build their hives out of — are useful products for humans. Saenz said he’s cut sugar entirely out of his diet in favor of local honey, and beeswax can be used to make candles, soaps, lip balms and lubricants.

In the future, Rivera said he wants to educate people about how important bees are. In school, kids are always taught that bees pollinate and make honey, he said, but the actual impact of pollination and why bees are so important can be lost.

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