The survival of mankind depends on the honeybee. Little regard is given to it, as a species, but if you ever hear that the bee has become an endangered species, you can be certain that humanity will follow. It is said that 80% of what we eat depends on the pollinating honeybee. How do we begin to help the honeybee thrive? Antonio Reyes Blake of Ensenada is a bee rescuer. What a story he has to tell.
Antonio's "day job" is a Civil Engineer with a thriving architect's office in the port town of northern Baja. His passion, however, is the life of bees. He is committed to teaching people about the importance of a healthy bee population. He became a bee rescuer at 14 years of age. Most would not even consider doing this kind of rescue, but Antonio was inspired to help them when the bees built a hive inside a wall of his family?s home. His father called the local fire station for help. The bomberos arrived with the intention to kill the colony with a heavy stream of water. The young Antonio blocked the firemen from killing them and his father came out to intervene. He looked at his son, "Can you save these bees?" Antonio emphatically replied, "Yes!" His father sent the firemen away. Antonio thought to himself, "Oh, no, now I am going to have to figure out how to save them!" He combed through the libraries (this was before internet came to Baja) finding the information needed and adding his special touch.
Antonio's rescue begins with approaching the hive fully clothed in the bee suit. Bees fiercely protect their Queen and the hive. This is the most dangerous part of the rescue. When bees are seen swarming, although the sound of hundreds of bees can seem threatening, they are actually calm and in search of a place to build a new home. When approaching the hive, Antonia sprays it with a light mist of water. This renders the bees helpless and flightless for a minute or two. The idea is to remove the Queen into the awaiting bee box. The hive is shaken quite vigorously and the disabled bees fall into the box. Within the box there are wooden partitions coated with wax, which helps them reestablish a place to begin creating the honeycomb. Once the Queen, who is much larger than the worker bees, is safely inside, a lid goes onto the box. What about the bees left stranded outside the box once the lid goes on? As it turns out, nature takes care of this by the intense pheromone that the Queen gives off. The bees are slaves to this fragrance. Instinctively they know where she is and crawl inside the box to be with her.
Antonio travels great distances to rescue and relocate the bees to a new hive. Local Indian tribes are benefiting from this insight. Antonio is showing them how to increase production and thus create a renewable resource by developing the bee boxes on their land. Antonio stresses that the "local bee" is very important. He does not believe in importing any "super bees" into Baja. Antonio smiles and says, "There are as many types of honey flavors as there are flowers, and you know when your honey is actually the real thing, as it will tend to crystallize." He points out that many food chains carry altered honey to keep it from crystallizing, "it is not 100% honey."
Bee wisdom is being brought to the school children in Ensenada. He tells the children they do not have to be afraid of bees. His sons are not. One only needs proper information, such as if bees are buzzing around your face, do not scream and run, instead stand calmly with your hands covering your face. "If you run, they will chase you," he grins. He is keeping his day job, but his passion is clearly the life of the bees and teaching his own children to find "something they love to do" as he was given this chance by his own father. He welcomes all with interest, "When you are in Baja, and you want to know the bee world, you are invited to learn."
Need help with a hive in Tijuana or as far south as La Misión? Call Brian in Tijuana: (661) 102-3700. If you are dialing from a U.S. phone, add the prefix: 011-52.
Martina's email: mteomaya(at)gmail.com