Helping the Bees
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.
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
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.