September 26, 2014

Les Miller Keeps Bees Busy

Les Miller of Miller’s Honey Farm in Independence will tell you that bees are smarter than humans, and that without bees there can be no life for human beings.  

   Miller’s honey, which he sells at the Independence Farmer’s Market, is organic, and his beekeeping methods are all-natural and holistic.  But like beekeepers around the world, he sees the bees dying off and disappearing at an alarming rate.

   More than 30% of the world’s bee population have disappeared in recent years, and Les says the people who depend on them to pollinate the crops of the food we eat are the very ones responsible for their disappearance.

   “People kill bees, with the poisons they use to kill weeds and other bugs, and sometimes they just kill them whenever they see them because they’re afraid of them.”

   Miller is not afraid of any bees or any other insect, and he’s especially fond of pollinators.    He’s been raising butterflies since he was 8 years old, and as a child he watched his father raise bees and make honey.  He decided to take up the profession of beekeeping 14 years ago, after decades of being a mechanic took a toll on his back and on his health.  “One day I got stung by a bee, and my back quit hurting,” he says.  He decided to learn everything he could about bees and beekeeping, and now he earns a living doing what he’s always loved, “playing with bugs.”

   All pesticides and herbicides threaten the bee population, he says, but points out that certain chemicals called Neonicitinoids are particularly deadly. Neonicitonoids have been banned in Europe and there’s a push by U.S. environmentalists for them to be banned in the United States as well.

   Miller’s bees gather pollen and nectar from flowering trees, wildflowers, and gardens.  “Dandelions are really important for the bees. If they survive the winter, dandelions are the most plentiful source of nutrition bees have before the trees come into flower, but too many people see dandelions as a bad thing and they poison them,” he says, adding that dandelions are important to soil health as well as bee health.  “Every kind of poison you put on the ground stays in the ground, and it gets in the groundwater, and it’s killing the bees.”

   Bees find a safe-haven in Miller’s hives, though, and his pure, all-natural honey is prized by honey connoisseurs around the region. If you can’t make it to the Independence Farmers Market, call Miller’s Honey Farm at 254-3702 and place an order.

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