Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Plants and Flowers for Bees

We are having a very busy time right now! Honey bee season is fast upon us.  The weather warmed up extra early this year which sent even more people into a beekeeping frenzy than usual and consequently swamped us.  We are grateful for our customers this year-- we tripled our business in the month of February.  We had no idea this would happen --no projections would have prepared us for that.  Perhaps a 10 percent increase in business, maybe even 20--but triple? Thank you to those of you who are now our new customers, those of you returning again, and for those of you who go out of your way to tell people about us and send more on to us.

In the middle of our busiest season, our youngest daughter Karee eloped to Montana with our IT guy Jesse, who is also one of our shop carpenters.  We've also had our shop shut down for weekends on end now so we can teach classes, vend at other classes, or be at conferences in the tri-state area. We hired four new people to help us out this year, so I won't be the only one you talk to on the phone anymore, but please make the other gals (and guys)  as happy and blessed as you have made me over the years.

This year I noticed a different pattern in the students in our classes.  Typically we get only people wanting to start beekeeping, or wondering if they can do it or have enough money.  But this year I noticed many folks who come just to learn more about this incredible creature and find out what they can do to help without becoming a beekeeper.

Here are some of the best ways you can help: 1) Try to limit or completely stop using pesticides on your lawn, gardens and flowers.  If you absolutely have to use something, try something more organic (although if it's still claiming it's a pesticide, it doesn't really matter if it's organic or not, right?) or try using a liquid late in the evening after the bees are back home that can dry before daylight.  Stop spraying those dandelions! Bees LOVE dandelions and it makes the best honey. Don't use a powder pesticide.  2) Let wild areas grow up in your yard, and stop mowing ditches and fence rows.  I know it doesn't always look that great, but bees have less and less area to forage now, and this is one thing you can do to help.  Try to persuade your farmer neighbors to leave the edges of their fields and ditches alone too.  I know it looks more tidy when they mow from the edge of their field down to the road, but think of all the wild flowers that get mowed down. 3) Advocate for the bees if you can.  You need a little bit of knowledge for this--but some ideas would be to have a showing of a movie like Vanishing of the Bees, or Nicotine Bees at your local library or school and invite the public; ask your local nature center if they would hold a bee workshop (many, many of them do) either for adults or in their children's summer camps; donate books on bees to your local library--both for adults and children and 4) plant flowers and plants that bring bees and other beneficial insects into your yard.

I don't often see bees on plants like daffodils, tulips, roses or lilies, but early plants they love include boxwood, dandelions, clover, borage and many budding and flowering trees.  Mid summer plants and flowers include mint, catnip, flowering herbs, cilantro, and of course vegetables flowering in your garden.  I also let some items in my garden flower that typically we eat before it flowers--like the lettuce for example, just so the bees will use some of it.  Late in the year, my bees love my cosmos, sunflowers, lavender, sage, coneflowers and seedum.

You can help even if you don't want to be a beekeeper!

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