Alarm over the rapid and largely unexplained die-off of bee populations has prompted a North Bay organization to launch a pilot program aimed at reversing the disturbing trend.
“Bee patches” involve the simple act of growing clover, alfalfa and other buzz-friendly plants to nourish the critters and encourage pollination.
Organizers are working initially with Sonoma Valley grape growers who have open space suitable for planting one of the patches. They hope the program eventually becomes a national model for battling the beepocalypse, which in economic terms threatens the $15 billion crop industry that relies on pollination.
Glen Ellen Bee Patch
A small group of Glen Ellen Boy Scouts seeded the first patch Wednesday at Beltane Ranch in Kenwood. Sweating in the warm morning sun, the boys used rakes to till the soil before they spread the seeds.
“The bees are not doing very well, so we're gonna help 'em,” said 15-year-old Bodhi Morgan, a student at Summerfield Waldorf School in Santa Rosa. His dad, marine biologist Lance Morgan, pitched in, while his mother, Angela, observed.
Alexa Wood, whose family owns the Sonoma Highway ranch and vineyard estate, called the boys' efforts “good for them and beneficial to us.” In addition to donating the site for planting the bee patch, Wood purchased the seeds from LeBallisters Seed Co. in Santa Rosa.
The bee program is being administered by the non-profit North Coast Resource Conservation and Development Council, which received two grants totaling $4,500 from the Patagonia company and the Clif Bar Family Foundation.
Tish Ward, the council's southern Sonoma County representative, conceived of the bee patch idea and so far has gained commitments from several valley grape growers to donate land.
“To me, it doesn't matter if it's 10 feet by 10 feet, or 20 acres,” she said.