Led by local apiculturists, Advocate photographer Danny Fulgencio looks at the lives of bees around Oak Cliff, their dwindling population and how it all impacts our lives.
Brandon and Susan Pollard herd honeybees. “Urban bee-wrangling,” they call it. Beyond being honey purveyors, the Pollards, via their Texas Honeybee Guild, save residential colonies from extermination, offer public education on the importance of bees and rally on their little charges’ behalf as environmental activists. As the Pollards often attest, bees are responsible for about 30 percent of our food. They pollinate more than 100 species of fruits and vegetables. Without them, we are in trouble. And that’s where we are headed, they say. In recent years, bee populations have been crushed by insecticides, disease, parasites and the enigmatic colony collapse disorder, a phenomenon that has caused the mysterious and widespread disappearance of worker bees. Last year proved especially brutal for the Pollards and their bees: The couple estimates they lost 60 percent of their hives, often after city-backed trucks and planes sprayed swaths of Dallas with neurotoxin to combat disease-carrying mosquitoes, which incidentally also threatens the humble bee. With mosquito season upon us, the Pollards attempt to rebuild their colonies while bracing for another possible round of chemical warfare.
HIVE CHECK check The Pollards inspect a frame of bees at the John Bunker Sands Wetland Center just outside Dallas. The wetlands filter water from Dallas, which is then pumped back to the city. Honeybee colonies at the wetlands were not hit with neurotoxins during last year’s mosquito spraying, however, the apiculturists say, bees do drink water — and lots of it, and when the water is toxic, they die. Photo by Danny Fulgencio
IT AIN’T EASY A weary Susan Pollard wipes sweat off her brow as her partner and husband logs the condition of hives at a local garden. When it comes to saving the invaluable insects, the couple strives tirelessly to educate the public and seek out creative approaches to conservation. The hot Texas summers present exceptional challenges such as enduring long outdoor hours in thick bee suits. Brandon Pollard says it is worth the effort. “It’s all part of the bee-zness.” Photo by Danny Fulgencio
SOOTHING SMOKE Brandon Pollard prepares a smoker, which he will use to calm the bees in a nearby pair of hives. Smoke sedates the insects, the beekeeper says, because they are hardwired to conserve energy for flight when they anticipate a hive fire. Bee smoking is an ancient practice — 15,000-year-old cave paintings show people sedating bees with smoke. Photo by Danny Fulgencio
LET BEEDOM RING At the March Against Monsanto protest outside Dallas City Hall, some held signs bemoaning the waning bee population. Protesters oppose Monsanto, bioengineers of agricultural chemicals. Monsanto opponents blame the corporation, among others, for the drastic reduction of bee populations. The company has publicly denied that its products are the problem and has announced its intentions to help find a solution. Photo by Danny Fulgencio
SWEET GREET At a recent protest, Brandon Pollard embraces a man in the crowd. The beekeeper and environmentalist is known around the neighborhood for his hugs. He gives big burly hugs, generously, often with his eyes closed. Photo by Danny Fulgencio
NATURAL TREAT Oak Cliff resident Lydia Miller tastes raw honey from a hive in her backyard. “Oh wow,” she says licking her fingertips. “That’s our foliage!” “That’s your song,” Pollard says. “That’s your neighborhood.” Lydia and her partner, Aline McKenzie, recently moved from one Oak Cliff home to another. They kept bees at their previous home, and when they moved, the bees came with. Photo by Danny Fulgencio
BITING ISSUES Culex mosquitos, also called southern house mosquitoes, are known carriers of the West Nile Virus, which last year sickened hundreds and killed dozens in the Dallas area. Attempts to eradicate them with pesticide, some say, are threatening the lives of bees. The Pollards preach alternatives. Photo by Danny Fulgencio.
CHANGE IMAGINED At an Earth Day celebration in Oak Cliff, Susan Pollard is reflected in a glass honeybee-display case, one of the teaching tools she uses when advocating on behalf of the bees. Attendees seem struck with a mix of awe and nervous curiosity. Pollard educates them on the crucial importance of bees and how their benefits outweigh their danger. Some observers believe her, and some don’t. Photo by Danny Fulgencio