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Helping the Bees

Updated on June 19, 2020
PAINTDRIPS profile image

As a baby boomer, Denise and millions of others are becoming senior citizens. She explores what it means to be over 60 today.

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Necessary

Bees are necessary for the pollination of fruits and vegetables. Here in the Central Valley of California, we are keenly aware of the necessity of bees for the almond industry. Almond growers pay beekeepers to place their bee boxes in the orchards during the blooming season so they won’t have to travel long distances to work the orchards. Without bees to pollinate the almond industry would completely collapse. And they aren’t the only ones. Many vegetables need bees to pollinate. To support bees is to support the local farmers and vice versa.

The busy bee has no time for sorrow.

— William Blake
Almond blossoms
Almond blossoms | Source

Stinging Bees

Honey bees only sting when they or their colony is threatened or damaged. A honey bee is not like a wasp or hornet, which can sting a number of times. A honey bee can only sting once and they lose their lives to do so. The stinger is pulled away from their body when they sting a person and they die. My father was so protective of his bees that when I stepped on one accidentally and it stung me, he accused me of murder. Because of this, bees don’t sting unless they really feel threatened.

Words are like bees – some create honey and others leave a sting.

— Unknown
Bumblebees
Bumblebees

National Honey Bee Day

Today is National Honey Bee Day. It’s an obscure holiday, I know but my father was a beekeeper and it sort of struck a chord with me. He was very protective of the bees. In honor of the day and my father, here are several things you can do to help the bees.

If the bee disappeared off the face of the earth, man would only have four years left to live.

— Maurice Maeterlinck

Bee Hotels

There are more than 25,000 species of bees worldwide and only 8 of them produce honey. Along with others, there are Bumblebees, Leafcutter bees, Mason bees, Long-horned bees, and Honey bees. Many bees are loners and others need special places near blooming flowers to lodge. Consider creating your own bee hotel. A bee hotel has small drinking-straw sized wholes where bees can hold up at night out of the elements. These can be made by drilling holes into soft balsa wood blocks or by using hollow bamboo shafts stacked in a box attached to a tree or outside wall. Bees work flowers in urban as well as rural areas so a bee hotel in your yard will be just as welcome no matter where you live.

The lovely flowers embarrass me,

They make me regret I am not a bee.

— Emily Dickinson
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Private Beekeepers

If you have ethical qualms about the large companies mistreating and abusing bees then I suggest finding small local beekeepers to support who are more likely to treat their bees with kindness and care. People like my father were always very concerned with their bees. My father had about 30 bee boxes and checked on their health and well-being (pun intended) all the time. He was an advocate against pesticides which harm the bees and the queens.

Handle a book as a bee does a flower, extract its sweetness but do not damage it.

— John Muir
Click thumbnail to view full-size
A swarmMy dad was called to move the swarm.Dad gently moved the bees with a brush into the new box.He let the rest of the bees join their queen in the box.
A swarm
A swarm | Source
My dad was called to move the swarm.
My dad was called to move the swarm. | Source
Dad gently moved the bees with a brush into the new box.
Dad gently moved the bees with a brush into the new box. | Source
He let the rest of the bees join their queen in the box.
He let the rest of the bees join their queen in the box. | Source

What To Do When You See A Swarm

When people see a bee swarm they usually get alarmed and afraid of being stung, but the truth is that a swarm is a natural bee habit. When a colony gets too large the workers feed several larva "royal jelly" and queens are made. The first one to emerger kills the others and then the queen takes half of the colony and flies away looking for a new home. The workers follow the queen and are excited by her pheromones. They will not bother anyone as long as no one bothers them. If you see a swarm call a local beekeeper and they will bring a new bee box for the colony. They gently brush the bees into the box and as soon as the queen decides this will make a good home all the rest of the bees will follow her. This process takes an hour or two but never harms the bees.

It takes a bee 10,000,000 trips to collect enough nectar to make 1 pound of honey.

— Sue Monk Kidd
Farmer's market
Farmer's market | Source

Buy Local Produce

When you support local organic farmers, you are supporting the bees. I know that organic food costs more but it is worth it when you realize that the pesticides the big farmers use to kill insects and bees. I like to shop the farmer’s markets for local produce and even support local beekeepers by buying their honey when I can.

The hum of bees is the voice of the garden.

— Elizabeth Lawrence
Source

Personal Gardens

Plant flowers and indigenous plants that are native to your area. Bees are drawn to flowers and native plants all year long. When I lived in the foothills of the Central Valley of California, my father told me about the blue curl. For many months during the summer the only local plants blooming was weedy blue curl. It has a terrible smell and working it made the bees angry and slightly aggressive. It always helped when I planted other flowers in the garden that would bloom during those lean months in the hot summer.

The bee collects honey from flowers in such a way as to do the least damage or destruction to them, and he leaves them whole, undamaged and fresh, just as he found them.

— Saint Francis de Sales
My mother picking tomatoes
My mother picking tomatoes | Source

Don’t Use Chemicals in Your Garden

Bees will work urban and rural gardens, so be careful to keep pesticides out of your home garden. You can spray water on aphids rather than chemicals. My mother used to use a diluted mixture of dishwashing soap and water on her roses to get rid of the aphids. She also swore by making a tea of tobacco to spray around the base of vegetables to kill worms like tomato worms and cutworms. All of this is to say, stay away from pesticides to save the bees.

Bees need water like we do.
Bees need water like we do. | Source

Refreshment for the Hot Months

Bees get tired and hot like everyone else during the hot summer months. Many of the bees are kept at home in the hive to fan the queen and keep the hive cool. The workers collect the pollen all during the daylight hours. If you put a small pie tin in a spot out of the sun and where it will not be disturbed, it will refresh the bees. Keep it filled shallowly with water and add a few stones and leaves so that the bees will have a place to land for a drink without being drowned. Water is very important for the bees.

One can no more approach people without love than one can approach bees without care. Such is the quality of bees…

— Leo Tolstoy
My dad's bee boxes and hard-working bees.
My dad's bee boxes and hard-working bees. | Source

Final Thoughts

I hope you enjoyed my little trip to the bee world and that you will do your part in keeping these essential insects safe for future posterity. If you have any thoughts or suggestions, please leave them in the comments below.

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    • PAINTDRIPS profile imageAUTHOR

      Denise McGill 

      23 months ago from Fresno CA

      Linda Crampton,

      It is a sorry state when bees need our help, but here we are. I'm so glad you found it helpful. Thanks for commenting.

      Blessings,

      Denise

    • Ericdierker profile image

      Eric Dierker 

      23 months ago from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A.

      Today it will go out.

    • AliciaC profile image

      Linda Crampton 

      23 months ago from British Columbia, Canada

      Thank you for creating this important and interesting article, Denise. Bees need all the help that they can get. It's important that we do what we can for them.

    • PAINTDRIPS profile imageAUTHOR

      Denise McGill 

      23 months ago from Fresno CA

      Eric Dierker,

      Obviously with mosquito problems you have to change the water at least once a week, however, I found that the water isn't left standing there long once the bees find you left it for them. They will actually suck it all down in a day or two and you'll have to refill it anyway. Thanks for commenting.

      Blessings,

      Denise

    • Ericdierker profile image

      Eric Dierker 

      23 months ago from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A.

      Fantastic. My son is quite allergic. But that is no reason not to study them in our garden and not buy a darned thing that might hurt them. I was barefoot gardening in our flower garden and got stung nasty. Before he pulled the stinger out he looked for the poor bee.

      If we do not buy local produce we stink, in the psych sense. perhaps I have a chemical deal. Bees love me.

      They are seemingly hiding right now in our 100 degree heat.

      My youngest daughter has a fancy degree from Berkeley in "society and the environment" she just loves bees. Personally I like Bumble bees the most. They tickle. Probably just me.

      My roses do not do as well with out a large bee population.

      I hate pesticides. But my wife hates bugs. Her problem. Strange but we really like ants also.

      Perhaps my boy and I need to get a life. Oh well not today.

      I like your suggestion about water with rocks But I think it might be tough with purified water and mosquitoes. Hmm.

      Obviously I thank you for this article.

    • PAINTDRIPS profile imageAUTHOR

      Denise McGill 

      23 months ago from Fresno CA

      Linda Lum,

      So true. Just because it is easy doesn't make it right or best. We keep getting rid of or harming the natural predators to pests and then deal with the pests which create more harm. It's all about the natural balance and trying to get more for less work. Thanks for commenting.

      Blessings,

      Denise

    • Carb Diva profile image

      Linda Lum 

      23 months ago from Washington State, USA

      When I was a little girl our next-door neighbor was a beekeeper so I grew up regarding bees as helpers, not something to be feared. It troubles me when I see herbicides being used to control noxious plants. The easy way is not the best way and negatively impacts the bees and other beneficial insects. Thanks for a great article.

    • PAINTDRIPS profile imageAUTHOR

      Denise McGill 

      23 months ago from Fresno CA

      James C Moore,

      Very true, James. I'm glad you brought that up. I could have gone into some of the other threats to bees but it would have been too much information, so I kept it simple. Thanks for commenting.

      Blessings,

      Denise

    • PAINTDRIPS profile imageAUTHOR

      Denise McGill 

      23 months ago from Fresno CA

      Mary Norton,

      I'm glad you support your local beekeepers. I know as a vegan it is a no-no to purchase honey as they feel it is exploitive to the bees but coming from a beekeeper family, I know that's not entirely true. So my loyalties are mixed. I like eating vegan and I also like to support beekeepers. Thanks for commenting.

      Blessings,

      Denise

    • PAINTDRIPS profile imageAUTHOR

      Denise McGill 

      23 months ago from Fresno CA

      Lorna Lamon,

      It was an education for me seeing my father work with the bees. He loved them so much. Each queen had a name! Thanks for commenting.

      Blessings,

      Denise

    • PAINTDRIPS profile imageAUTHOR

      Denise McGill 

      23 months ago from Fresno CA

      MG Singh,

      I'm so happy that this was helpful to you. Thanks for commenting.

      Blessings,

      Denise

    • justthemessenger profile image

      James C Moore 

      23 months ago from Joliet, IL

      Hi,

      I appreciate your hub. We should treat threats to bees, like colony collapse disorder, like it's a national security issue, because it is. We need to "bee" busy about this.

    • aesta1 profile image

      Mary Norton 

      23 months ago from Ontario, Canada

      I am glad to know more about bees as we love honey in the family. There are local beekeepers close to our cottage so in the summer, we enjoy their produce.

    • Lorna Lamon profile image

      Lorna Lamon 

      23 months ago

      Wonderful article Denise full of very interesting facts. They are so important many reasons and without them we simply would not survive. I love the idea of a special day to celebrate these little critters and your article reminds me of our time in Italy and collecting honey from the many hives our friends kept. Loved your photos.

    • emge profile image

      MG Singh emge 

      23 months ago from Singapore

      This is an education for me. Nice article with lovely photos

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