Help the Honeybees

Recently we have been hearing many stories about the disappearing honey bees and Colony Collapse Disorder. The Honey bee has many variables it needs to overcome, on a daily basis, to be productive and live out its natural life. Hives need thousands of workers to maintain itself and produce honey. When nectar sources are scarce, if the hive cannot protect itself or weather is unforgiving, the honeybee will have issues. With mankind’s help, the honeybee also has to deal with harsh chemicals that will decimate worker bees just trying to collect nectar.

Our meddling with genetically modified crops has created a new terror for the bees, pollen sources that kill for months after applied. Monoculture crops that bloom for two weeks a year and then are void of any nectar for the rest of the year. States spraying highway ditches to control weeds and save on mowing costs. Aerial sprays being released over farms and carried onto flowers being foraged by the bees. Backyard gardeners without a tolerance for dandelions spraying gallons of pesticide on flowers. Farmers eliminating fence rows which used to provide flowers during lean times for bees. Mice, wax moths, varroa mites, cold weather; it all adds up to stress on the bees.

Without the hives health, the honeybee will no longer be pollinating our crops and flowers. Other countries have dealt with these issues in their own way. Europe has banned many harsh chemicals and has seen an increase in their bee populations. We in the USA will still be struggling until we see the same bans on certain chemicals and chemical usages. For now, at Crandall Farms, we try to keep our bees away from as many chemicals as we can. We don’t use them on our farm, but without a certainty as to what chemicals are used in a 5 mile radius of our bee yards, we worry that our bees cannot protect themselves from others using them.

What can you do?

Avoid using pesticides and other checmicals in your lawn

Checmicals never just stay where you put them. Wind and rain will move checmicals all over your lawn. Bees may visit the flowers or weeds you apply chemicals to and either suffer and die from them or bring them back to the hive and the checmical ends up in the nectar the bee distributes in the honeycomb, inevitably poisoning other bees, and the honey, the nectar gets produced into. When flowers of one kind bloom in a certain area without other varieties of flower being prevelent, those flowers may be the only thing bees visit for the week. Like clover in ealry spring, apple blossoms or dandelions. Apple orchards are sprayed heavily to avoid pest infestations. Dandelions are typically sprayed in lawns and clover is usually mowed off. The perfect pristine lawn may be a sight to see, but are not a bee's friend.

Plant Bee and pollinator friendly flowers in your garden and yard

Bees need nectar sources. Without them they cannot produce honey and feed the hive. In early spring and late fall bees are still looking for sources and may have a hard time finding them. Dandelions and clover that most people rid their yard of may be the nectar sources the bees are in need of when other flowers have not bloomed and food is scarce. I always wait a little while when clover blooms and when dandelions bloom to mow the lawn so the bees can find the flowers growing in the grass. To attract bees to your yard be sure to have a variety of blooming flowers throughout all seasons. Plant flowers in clumps, protected from wind in sunny areas. Plant flowers of different shapes and sizes and colors. Bees tend to visit flowers that are purple, blue, white, yellow and more. Native plants may be more attractive than not native exotic plants.

Avoid Rhododendron and Azaleas for the beekeepers sake. These flowers have a high toxicity level and even though it would be difficult to gather enough nectar to poison a human with the honey produced, it's a flower i typically avoid in my gardens.

Little gardens in industrial concrete covered areas can be very helpful to bees that have had their habitats and food sources wiped out with rapid building. Parks, parking lot divider gardens, office building grassy areas and more are great places to plants bee freindly gardens.

Bees need water

Pollinating and flying from flower to flower can be a thirsty bussiness. Bees need a water source and without a constant one they may be attracted to pools, puddles, and ponds. We provide our bees with a filled bird bath to quench their thirst. They also tend to be attracted to the potted plants that have just been watered and our water plants groing outside in tubs. Be sure that the water is clear and refilled almost daily in the hot summer. The water source should be in the sun, since the bees tend to stay away from the shade. The container holding the water should be shallow with only an inch of water to avoid drowning bees that try to land in it to get water. We also have added rocks in our bird bath for landing areas for the bees to sit on and drink comfortably. Tall cups without anywhere to stand while drinking will drown bees, they cannot stand on the side of things like flies.

I don't want bees in my yard, they will sting me!

We here at Crandall Farms, may be used to bees, but some people may not be and some people are down right scared. Understandable, with allergies and those stingers, bees can be formidable. Honeybees tend to buzz people and objects that are new to them, which may trigger an immediate reaction of swinging your hands around and screaming. They do this just because they are curious. They are away from the hive typically not in defensive mode. I walk through clouds of them buzzing around our potted plants in front of the garage door without thinking about it. Until one day I had a friend come over and I led her to the door where she stopped and froze. I then realized that she was afraid and I hadn't thought about it before. We welcome bees to our yard, but if you are afraid of them or do not want them around at all, there are natural things you can do to keep them away. Kind of like doing the opposite of the list above minus the pesticides. Don't have standing water for them, which is also a good idea to avoid mosquitos. Like wheel barrels after rain, open garbage cans, pots and more. Avoid planting flowers that are attractive or plant them away from your social spaces. Shadey yards will usually not have as many bees flying around them. So plant shade trees that do not flower.