In the 1930’s, a slang version of Mind Your Own Business became Mind Your Own Beeswax. Well fellow gardeners, I think that we all should all be minding not only our own beeswax but the beeswax of the world. Our bees are in trouble, there are mass deaths in our bee colonies, which threaten not only the farming community, but also you and I. I love honey, spread on my morning toast, I love honey garlic sausage and honey in my tea; I like honey on my pancakes and honey on my salad. I just like honey period.
Honeybees make the honey from plant nectar and store it in a comb for use during the winter as a food source. Beekeepers then take some, but not all of that honey and market it in comb or liquid form. There are hundreds of types of honey that are available depending on the floral source. I particularly like alfalfa or clover honey, which I obtain from local beekeepers rather than the blended honey that you, buy in the store.
Aside from the loss of a food source for you and me, what is the big deal about the extinction of our bee colonies? Well, the big deal is that our farmers depend on bees to pollinate their crops and it is very expensive to do this any other way. Some of my favourite foods such as blueberries, cherries, apples and lettuce are affected. Scientists are even experimenting with “robobees” for artificial pollination. These are miniature robotic airfoils with artificial muscles that make the wings beat.
Who can we blame for the beecalypse? What is bugging the bees? There would appear to be various culprits including agricultural pesticides, parasitic mites, and bacterial disease. The verdict is still out, but the widespread use of chemicals in crop production is the likely cause.
If that is the case, what can we, as gardeners, do to help the bees. In our own small way we can grow bee friendly flowers and avoid the use of pesticides. Bees are attracted to bright coloured flowers. They cannot see red, but they can see ultraviolet wavelengths in colours, so colours in the blue and violet spectrum are attractive. They like not only bright colours but also flowers with an attractive smell and nectar. Here are some of my choices for flowers, vegetables and trees plus a few weeds that will attract honeybees. I will list their common names in alphabetical order.
Bluebells, buckwheat, canola, catnip, clover, cosmos, daisy, dusty miller, gaillardia, geranium, goldenrod, lavender, lemon, lilac, orange, oregano, pincushion, poppy, pumpkin, rosemary, sage, salvia, sea holly, squash, sunflower, tansy, verbena and zucchini.
Try to select a diversity of plants that will provide a continuous supply of nectar through spring and summer. If possible, plant your bee friendly plants in clumps and take some time out and enjoy their visits. Bee watching can be just as enjoyable as bird watching.