Pollinators

Chris Schad, of the Bee Shed, speaks after a screening of the documentary "The Pollinators" Sunday at Gray Duck Theater and Coffeehouse in Rochester. 

Rochester apiary The Bee shed has 92 colonies of bees in California right now.

It’s not vacation — it’s a work trip.

The colonies are part of a national effort to help pollinate more than a million acres of almonds there.

Last year, of 32 colonies the apiary sent, 31 returned and each was healthy, Bee shed owners Chris Schad and John Shonyo said.

That effort is part of the focus of the movie, “The Pollinators,” an award-winning documentary being screened at Gray Duck Theater and Coffeehouse. The business underwrote the screenings, and on Sunday, Schad and Shonyo took questions from people and talked about their business and how people can help embattled pollinators.

Much of our food supply relies on pollinators for production. Bee populations nationwide have been plummeting due to multiple factors explored in the film. Shonyo and Schad offered advice on what people can do to help.

“You don’t need to keep a hive in order to help bees,” Shonyo said. “What we need are good sources of pollination — that’s going to do a lot more than keeping one or two hives in your backyard.”

For Karen Hastings, keeping hives has taught her and her husband, Mark Erath, about bee behavior, their needs, how common chemically treated plants are and the benefit bees have been to their neighbors’ gardens.

“It’s really insightful,” Hastings said. “I think we’re much more aware of pollinator habitat.”

Neighbors are also mindful about chemical use in their yards, she added.

Schad agreed keeping bees is educational. He said people don’t have to make that leap to help pollinators. Simply allowing clover and dandelions to bloom in the spring can be a big help, Shonyo said.

“That’s the first nectar they have in this part of the country,” Shonyo said.

The Bee Shed is a specific benefit corporation. Under Minnesota designation, that means the company is a for-profit business but also has a specific public benefit as a goal.

Educating the public about bees, pollinators, their roles in the ecosystem and their needs is part of the apiary’s mission, Schad said.

The two also reviewed a state program called Lawn to Legumes that pays people to replace lawn grass with pollinator gardens. Deadline to apply for that is Feb. 28.

Schad and Shonyo will host another talk back next week at a 7:15 p.m. screening of “The Pollinators.”

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