Appreciating Our Honey bees
I love bees. Despite becoming allergic to them (getting stung a half dozen times in a couple years period, after being stung only once as a kid will do that), I love to watch our local honeybees do their thing.
I’ve written several articles on my website about them – see www.ifnaturecouldtalk.com. The first was dealing with a beehive in the eaves of our home in Southern California (a live bee remover was able to find a good home for ‘our’ bees – see photos). Then, starting last fall I’ve kept track of all the flowering plants the honey bees (Apis mellifera) use. We been planting mostly native flowering plants on our half acre property and they’re now bearing lots of flowers and nectar.
About the same time as the bee removal, some bees built a hive in a date palm tree on our property, and I got to watch them swarm one spring when they outgrew it. It’s true what bee experts say – that bees during swarms are docile as their goal is to protect the queen who was deep in the mass they formed, while scouts went out to locate a new home. I was both happy and sad when they were gone the next morning. Walking down the block later that week, I saw a bunch of bees coming in and out of a city irrigation cover. “Ohh,” I thought, “not a good place.” They got to enjoy it awhile, until the city workers had to come and take care of them (unfortunately, that was not a live bee removal….).
In my observations and my reading, here are some ‘aha’ moments during my bee learnings:
If you want to attract bees, grow a large variety of flowering plants that bloom at different times. Although we tend to tout natives, non-native and fruit trees are all valuable – in fact, two non-natives, lavender and rosemary, have the longest duration of flowering and peak at different times of the year.
- Consider Live Bee Removal –If you have a hive problem, please consider live bee removal services (just google live bee removal). Removing them alive costs the same and often less than killing them. The specialists, usually beekeepers, keep the hives or find them a good home – ours ended up getting an airplane ride up to a ranch. If it’s a swarm, leave them alone and they should move on within a day.
- Pesticides kill! Professional beekeepers have plenty of stories of losing hundreds of hives to pesticides, A local beekeeper I know recently lost 350 hives due to the orchard owner of one of his beeyards spraying his fruit trees twice a year – at 20,000 bees minimum in an average hive, that totals up to 7 million bees! Another reason to go organic. Beekeepers tell me the blossoms on GMO (genetically modified organism) crops are also killing bees.
- Exhibit calm around them and teach your kids the same. I haven’t been stung since nearly two years ago (picking up a fallen avocado which a bee was eating). I have an epinephrine pen close by in case I get stung. I continue to observe them, fish them out of our pool when their attempt to drink goes amiss, and watch them stream out of their hive. The original palm tree hive petered out (their demise rushed by invading ants…!) but I’m happy to report that likely some of their descendants are back in the palm tree. They’re slowly increasing their numbers and zoom past me oblivious to my present. (The exceptions are bee colonies taken over with killer or Africanized bees, which react more easily to noise).
- Read A Book of Bees to learn more – I got this classic by Sue Hubbell at my local library. It’s obvious Hubbell loves her bees, which is evident in her success as a professional beekeeper in the Ozarks. She also wrote “A Country Year”, next on my list to read.
Linda Richards has a website/blog – www.ifnaturecouldtalk.com – the goal is to speak for our natural world.