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READ: Sweet! Los Angeles is closer to legalizing beekeeping

Rob McFarland holds a beehive of honeybees. (Los Angeles Times)

By KERRY CAVANAUGH via LA Times

Los Angeles is getting closer to legalizing backyard beekeeping and the proposed ordinance couldn’t come at a better time.

Professional beekeepers reported this week that 42% of their honeybees died in the last year, and, for the first time, they lost more bees during the summer than the winter. That’s surprising and worrisome because bees typically suffer in the cold weather, but fare better during the warm pollination season. And it underscores fears that parasites, pesticides and farming practices might be weakening the bee population, which is essential for pollinating the nation’s food crops.

Backyard beekeeping can’t replace commercial beekeeping operations, but the urban honeybees may help replenish the diminishing supply, or provide disease-resistant genes that can be introduced in the commercial bee lines. The more healthy bees in the environment, the better for everyone.

Current city law prohibits beekeeping, except on land zoned for agricultural uses. The proposed ordinance, approved Thursday by the city Planning Commission, would allow beekeeping by right in single-family neighborhoods. The resident would need to register as a beekeeper with the Los Angeles County agriculture commissioner, have no more than one hive per 2,500 square feet of lot, keep the hives at least five feet from the neighbors’ yards and 20 feet from the street or sidewalk and keep a source of water for the bees so they don’t seek water from the neighbors’ swimming pool or bird bath. There’s no pre-approval needed, but the city will respond to complaints and if residents break the rules or can’t manage their bees, the city can revoke the right to keep hives.

The City Council still needs to OK the new backyard beekeeping policy before it can take effect, but city leaders have been supportive of urban agriculture. And why not? L.A. has the ideal climate and long growing seasons. The city has hillsides, vacant lots and yards that can support small farms and hobby farmers. A vegetable garden or orchard is a more productive use of our precious water supply than a green lawn. And more fruits and vegetables grown locally mean less produce has to be trucked and shipped over great distance, meaning fresher food and less fossil fuels burned in transport.

[Read original article on LA Times]

 

Read full story · Posted in HoneyLove Buzz, News

READ: A Sharp Spike in Honeybee Deaths Deepens a Worrisome Trend

NY TIMES

A prolonged and mysterious die-off of the nation’s honeybees, a trend worrisome both to beekeepers and to farmers who depend on the insects to pollinate their crops, apparently worsened last year.

In an annual survey released on Wednesday by the Bee Informed Partnership, a consortium of universities and research laboratories, about 5,000 beekeepers reported losing 42.1 percent of their colonies in the 12-month period that ended in April. That is well above the 34.2 percent loss reported for the same period in 2013 and 2014, and it is the second-highest loss recorded since year-round surveys began in 2010.

Most striking, however, was that honeybee deaths spiked last summer, exceeding winter deaths for the first time. Commercial beekeepers, some of whom rent their hives to farmers during pollination seasons, were hit especially hard, the survey’s authors stated.

“We expect the colonies to die during the winter, because that’s a stressful season,” said Dennis vanEngelsdorp, an assistant entomology professor at the University of Maryland who directs the survey for the bee partnership. “What’s totally shocking to me is that the losses in summer, which should be paradise for bees, exceeded the winter losses.”

Bees are not in danger of extinction, but their health is of major concern to agriculture, where honeybees’ pollination services are estimated to be worth $10 billion to $15 billion a year.

Nobody knows with certainty why honeybee deaths are rising. Beekeepers once expected to lose perhaps 10 percent of their bees in an average year. But deaths began to spike in the middle of the past decade, when a phenomenon in which bees deserted their hives and died en masse, later named colony collapse disorder, began sweeping hives worldwide.

Those mass die-offs have abated somewhat in recent years, experts say, but colonies remain in poor health, and overall death rates remain much higher than in the past.

Dr. vanEngelsdorp said increasingly poor nutrition could be a factor in the rising summer death rate. Rising crop prices have led farmers to plow and plant millions of acres of land that was once home to wildflowers; since 2007, an Agriculture Department program that pays farmers to put sensitive and erosion-prone lands in a conservation reserve has lost an area roughly equal to half of Indiana, and budget cuts promise to shrink the program further. Dr. vanEngelsdrop and other scientists cite two other factors at work in the rising death rate: a deadly parasite, the varroa mite,and pesticides.

In recent years, some experts have focused on neonicotinoids, a class of pesticides used almost universally on some major crops in the United States. The European Commission has banned the use of three variants of the pesticide on flowering plants, citing risks to bees, and questioned whether they should be used at all.

The Environmental Protection Agency said last month that it was unlikely to approve any new uses of the pesticides until more tests on the risks to bees and other pollinators have been completed.

Neonicotinoid manufacturers say that the pesticides are much safer than others they have supplanted, and that in any case, they are safe when used according to instructions.

In a news release, an entomologist at one of the major neonicotinoid manufacturers, Bayer CropScience LP, called the survey results good news because wintertime bee deaths appeared to have stabilized at a lower rate than in the past. The entomologist, Richard Rogers of the company’s Bee Care Center in Research Triangle Park, N.C., said that scientists had yet to establish a normal range for summer bee deaths.

The annual survey released on Wednesday did not directly address the causes of honeybee deaths. But it said varroa mites were a much bigger problem among so-called backyard beekeepers, who keep fewer than 50 hives, than among commercial beekeepers, who are probably on higher alert for deadly infestations.

The survey’s authors called the spike in summer honeybee deaths troubling, noting that in the past, more bees have died during the winter months than in good weather.

The Bee Informed Partnership has collected data on summer bee deaths since 2006, and it expanded its survey to cover winter deaths in 2010. The surveys are financed largely by the Agriculture Department.

[read original article via nytimes.com]

Read full story · Posted in News

PRESS RELEASE! Los Angeles swarms City Hall in support of urban beekeeping!

Click here to view full press release and photo

Beekeeping_May14_2015web
Photo by Karim Sahli 

LA Planning Commission unanimously approves backyard beekeeping ordinance today.

After years of public outreach and grassroots efforts[1] at the local community councils led by beekeepers across Los Angeles, the Department of City Planning, Policy Division[2] presented its recommendations for backyard beekeeping to the LA Planning Commission today and received unanimous support.

In addition to the swarm of local beekeeping supporters who all spoke in favor of legalizing backyard beekeeping, Councilmember Paul Koretz (CD-5), Clare Eberle, planning deputy for Councilmember José Huizar (CD-14), and former Culver City Mayor Meghan Sahli-Wells were also in attendance speaking in favor of the ordinance.

LA City Councilmember Paul Koretz surprised the Planning Commission by showing up to testify. “There is no one more nervous about bees than I am.  I stepped on a bee years ago, got stung, my leg swelled up and I had to walk with a cane for three weeks,” Koretz said. “There are currently 9 to 11 beehives per square mile in Los Angeles.  When this ordinance passes, there will remain 9 to 11 beehives per square mile, but we will have more beekeepers to know where they are and to manage those hives.  Which is a great idea in my book.”

“Bees are an essential part of our food system. According to the USDA, bees are responsible for the production of about a third of our diet. In addition, bees are a boon to local gardeners and urban farmers. As you may be aware, honeybees worldwide are in crisis, falling prey to the mysterious Colony Collapse Disorder at an alarming rate, making beekeeping a serious food security issue.” - Rob McFarland, Los Angeles Resident (Co-Founder of HoneyLove) 

NY Times just reported on May 13, 2015: “Since April 2014, beekeepers lost 42.1 percent of their colonies, the second highest loss rate in nine years, according to an annual survey conducted by a bee partnership that includes the U.S. Department of Agriculture.”[3]

“Hunger is a huge problem in our city. Currently, there are over 1.1 million citizens using the SNAP program for food assistance. Honeybees are such effective pollinators that they are able to increase agricultural yield by 30 to 60 percent. A 30 to 60 percent increase in productivity in an urban garden can mean the difference between a family needing food assistance and a family who can pull themselves out of poverty, and even participate in a local, green economy! Urban beekeeping is a powerful tool that we can use to help provide food security for our most vulnerable neighbors. Honeybees enable people of all economic levels to eat better and have the empowering and deeply satisfying experience of successfully growing their own food.” – Max Wong, Los Angeles Resident

Most cities have already legalized urban beekeeping including Santa Monica, Redondo Beach, Culver City, San Diego, San Francisco, New York, Seattle, Portland, Denver, Chicago, Toronto, Vancouver, Paris, London… the list goes on.

“It’s great to see Los Angeles catching up with all the other great cities of the world in making beekeeping legal. The City Planning department did a great job in crafting a common sense set of regulations. Once the City Council approves the changes to the code we can get on with the work of saving bees and creating a city friendly to pollinators.” – Erik Knutzen, Los Angeles Resident

“The most common concern about honey bees is bee stings. Honey bees are not aggressive by nature and are unlikely to sting. Only 0.4% of Americans report an allergy to insect stings in the U.S., and almost none of these are caused by honey bees. In addition, less than 1% of the US population is at risk of systemic reaction to stings by honey bees. Severe reactions from the sting of any one insect in a year are 1 in 5,555,556. The chance that someone will be hit by a car is 59.3% higher.”[4]

“There are so many environmental reasons to support urban beekeeping but there is also a really critical safety element. When beekeeping is legal, then feral hives can be properly managed which makes our city safer.” - Meghan Sahli-Wells, Current Councilmember and former Mayor of Culver City 

“I am one of the minuscule percentage of people who is actually systemically allergic to honey bees and I am full support of legalizing urban beekeeping in Los Angeles. Beekeepers are our first line of defense in helping to make the city safer by managing the feral populations of bees that already live naturally in our environment. I am very happy to see this ordinance move forward!” – Chelsea McFarland, Los Angeles Resident

“I am a registered urban beekeeper with two boys 4 and 8 years old who have NEVER been stung by any honey bees from our two managed hives in our backyard.  Unlike the 9 to 11 unmanaged feral hives already existing per square mile in Los Angeles[5], my hives are managed and carefully looked after. Having more educated beekeepers will in fact provide a safer environment for everyone.” – Paul Hekimian, Santa Monica Resident


[1] http://honeylove.org/press/

[2] Planning Department: Spearheaded by Katherine Peterson and supervisors Tom Rothmann and Erick Lopez, and Student Professional Worker, Jaime Espinoza.

[3] http://www.nytimes.com/aponline/2015/05/13/science/ap-us-sci-bee-deaths.html?ref=aponline&_r=1

[4] http://justfood.org/sites/default/files/Just%20Food%20Beekeeping%20Campaign%20Fact%20Sheet.pdf

[5] 9-11 colonies of bees per square mile was a stat given by LA County Agricultural Commissioner during the Mar Vista Beekeeping Feasibility Study in 2011 – https://docs.google.com/file/d/0B3mjhYhHhzMrNGRiYjkzNjItMGExNi00Y2I1LWIyMWUtY2VhYTIwNzJkMTQ5/edit


About HoneyLove

HoneyLove is a Los Angeles based 501(c)3 non-profit conservation organization with a mission to protect the honeybees by educating our communities and inspiring new urban beekeepers. Founded in 2011, HoneyLove believes that the city is the last refuge of the honeybee. Our home gardens are generally free of pesticides, and in cities like Los Angeles, there is year-round availability of pollen and nectar for the honeybees!  Learn more about HoneyLove’s events and services at http://honeylove.org

Read full story · Posted in News

Only a few days left to support beekeeping in Los Angeles!!

LEGALIZATION UPDATE!!

  • Last chance to submit PUBLIC COMMENTS April 17th, 2015!!
  • SAVE THE DATE: May 14th City Planning Commission (details coming soon)

Click here to view the proposed Backyard Beekeeping Powerpoint

For more information, please contact staff: Katie Peterson
KATHERINE.PETERSON@LACITY.ORG | 213-978-1445


STEP 1:

sign petition
http://www.change.org/petitions/legalize-urban-beekeeping-in-los-angeles-2

Legalize Urban Beekeeping

STEP 2: Email a letter of support to LA City Council!!

EMAIL:
katherine.peterson@lacity.org
councilmember.huizar@lacity.org
councilmember.cedillo@lacity.org
councilmember.englander@lacity.org
CC:
mike.bonin@lacity.org
councilmember.labonge@lacity.org
councilmember.ofarrell@lacity.org
martin.schlageter@lacity.org
mayor@lacity.org
info@honeylove.org

-SAMPLE EMAIL-

SUBJECT: Council File: 12-0785 Beekeeping / Single Family Residential (R1) Zones

I am writing to ask that you make the legalization of beekeeping and the establishment of a humane bee rescue policy one of your top priorities.

Bees are an essential part of our food system. According to the USDA, bees are responsible for the production of about a third of our diet. In addition, bees are a boon to local gardeners and urban farmers. As you may be aware, honeybees worldwide are in crisis, falling prey to the mysterious Colony Collapse Disorder at an alarming rate, making beekeeping a serious food security issue.

Urban beekeeping has been gaining widespread attention especially since the President and First Lady of the United States began keeping two hives on the White House lawn and San Francisco, New York, Seattle, Portland, Denver, Chicago and most recently Santa Monica and Redondo Beach have all taken decisive action and legalized urban beekeeping.

With all that in mind, I strongly urge you to:

1. Support efforts to: develop a new ordinance which will legalize beekeeping within R1 districts in Los Angeles; improve Bee Rescue policy; create a legal bee yard within the city of Los Angeles that will operate as a secure, temporary holding area for feral honeybee colonies that are awaiting relocation to agricultural zones outside city limits.

2. Change Los Angeles’ current response to feral honeybee swarms (which is extermination), and to allow only live bee removal on city and public property within Los Angeles.

REFERENCE: LA City Council File 12-0785
http://cityclerk.lacity.org/lacityclerkconnect/index.cfm?fa=ccfi.viewrecord&cfnumber=12-0785

Thank you for taking the time to consider this globally important issue.

Lorax

 

Read full story · Posted in News

READ: Brood diseases and lagging bees

by HoneyLover Susan Rudnicki

Spring is the time of year when bees go into high gear to get ready to do their instinctive reproductive act of procreation—swarming. A colony grows to fill its space, replacement queens are drawn and nurtured, and the final event is a leaving from the mother hive of about 50% of the workers and the old queen. These bees will attempt to found a new colony somewhere else and begin the cycle again. During this build up in Spring we urban beekeepers must watch carefully for the signs of swarm preparation and guide it so that a swarm is not the outcome—in the city such swarms are not appreciated by the general public living in close proximity to us.

I have now been keeping bees almost four years and am getting a better feel for the rhythm of the growth cycle in a colony. We have mild winters in Los Angeles, so the Spring brooding up period often begins in January. This means we will begin seeing drones and drone brood, new brood comb being drawn, and a general increase in the number of bees and activity of the queen.

However, early this year, two of my hives at the house were not showing these changes and I really began to notice by February. It seemed they were just staying in a holding pattern—no new comb was being drawn and, at first, this was the most noticeable issue. By the beginning of March, I was seeing sac brood, perforated cappings (small holes in the brood caps), lots of uncapped pupae in the purple eye stage, dried up “mummies” of brood in cells, and some cells of open brood with watery goop that may have been European Foul Brood.  There were also some adult bees with DWV, or deformed wing virus. The wings of the bee are twisted little stumps or thread-like and useless. The colonies had plenty of stored honey and many frames of bee bread. Together, these conditions and the different maladies of the larvae and pupae are sometimes lumped under the name “Bee Parasitic Mite Syndrome”  which describes diseases vectored by the activities of the varroa mite.

Here is a website entry detailing what I was seeing—

Information compiled by Beekeeper Lonnie E. Campbell of The Loudoun Beekeepers Association.

Bee Parasitic Mite Syndrome was first named by The Beltsville Bee Lab to explain why colonies infested with both varroa mites and tracheal mites were not thriving. BPMS was first reported by European beekeepers whose colonies were already stressed by varroa mites. Colonies that are apparently very healthy and productive suddenly experience a sudden decrease in adult population often resulting in the total loss of the colony. Plenty of food stores are often present, but very spotty and unhealthy brood are observed.

I began searching my readings and books to find out what I might do to help these two formerly thriving hives (one hive is 5 mediums, the other 2 deeps and 3 mediums). I wanted to support them before their population dropped too much that they would be weakened beyond recovery. I saw on inspection March 22 that very little open brood was present and no eggs. One queen was seen (in the biggest colony) but in the other I didn’t find the queen.

Michael Bush’s book offered the best information for this situation that I could find. A brood break, or a cessation of egg laying by the queen, is one of the best responses for breaking the cycle of the pests and diseases that may afflict a hive. By denying the pathogens a food source the disease cycle is automatically broken. One way of doing this is to find and kill the queen and then introduce a new queen. Another way is to dispatch the queen and let them raise another one. By the time the new queen is laying, the brood break will have cleansed the disease cycle.

But the method I thought I would settle on was the use of a push in cage. This is a small confinement cage made out of eighth inch hardware cloth that holds the queen on the face of a frame for a period of time to prevent her laying eggs in the normal pattern. It is just a shallow 3 sided box of wire, 5 X 10 inches, pushed into the face of the wax comb. You try to place it in a zone with some honey cells, some emerging brood, and some open cells—all of these to serve the needs of the confined queen.

On March 28, after preparing two cages and getting my mind clear about what I was going to do, I opened up the first hive to start my search for the queen. I had at hand a  good tool for safely catching a queen— a “hair clip” catcher.

However, I soon saw that something better than my plan had already occurred. The frames that had lacked any eggs or open brood were now completely filled with eggs! The queens had stopped laying eggs by their own accord and interrupted the brood cycle of the diseases and varroa that had been afflicting them. I was very excited that the queens and their workers seemed to have a inborn strategy to get over their problems. My notes to Michael Bush to report this were confirmed in his answer here:

         Yes, the bees often do a brood break to resolve the issues.  Sometimes it’s done by dispatching the old queen and sometimes she just shuts down. EFB usually clears up on it’s own when whatever stress was the cause is relieved.  Usually by a flow in a dearth.

And this one:

It doesn’t always work out well, but then interfering doesn’t always work out well either.

“Our attentions may be useful to them but are oftener noxious to them; thus far goes our interference.” –Francis Huber (in a letter to Elisa)

“…without the foresight, or rather the astonishing presence of mind of the bees, who always do at the proper time what needs to be done…” –Francis Huber (in a letter to Elisa)

So, there we have it. Another beek lesson learned!

Read full story · Posted in Newsletter Articles

READ: Urban beekeeping becomes therapy for at-risk communities

By North By Northwest, CBC News

Julia and Sarah Common started their urban beekeeping non-profit organization in 2012

Bees play an important role in the ecosystem, as they pollinate plants and produce honey, but it turns out they can also play a therapeutic role for humans.

Since 2012, Julia Common and her daughter Sarah have been engaging at-risk communities in urban beekeeping through their non-profit organization, Hives for Humanity.

Mother and daughter started by placing a colony of bees at a community garden on Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside.

“The community really quickly took ownership of that hive and responsibility for the protection and care of this living, breathing colony of working insects that are just this inspiration to everyone who sees them,” Sarah told North By Northwest‘s Sheryl MacKay.

The Commons say beekeeping is therapeutic because it brings people together and the responsibility gives them a sense of self worth and community pride.

“At the beginning, we thought it was the beekeeping, but then from beekeeping, other things come,” said Julia.

“The bees have wax, someone needs to [process] the wax. Other people come forward who want to help with equipment maintenance.”

Hives for Humanity now has almost a hundred hives placed in community gardens, the rooftops of single room occupancy hotels and people’s backyards.

“No matter where you are, people take great pride in taking care of the bees, keeping them safe,” said Julia.

“Everyone from kindergarten right up to somebody who is 92 realizes bees are threatened and they just feel wonderful that they’re playing their [part].”

To hear the full interview, listen to the audio labelled: Vancouver beekeeping program engages at-risk communities

Read full story · Posted in News

READ: Bees prefer the buzz of a town

Bees prefer the buzz of a town: Urban sites found to have more species than rural areas

By Fiona Macrae via dailymail.co.uk

  • Agriculture and mass crops blamed for decline of bee numbers 
  • Towns and cities have wider variety of plants and flowers in autumn
  • Pesticides, climate change and disease causing bee numbers to fall 

We think of them as thriving in wildflower meadows and rolling fields. But new research suggests Britain’s bees are happier near towns and cities.

A study of wildlife sites across four English counties has found that most are home to fewer species of bee today than they were in the past.

It found that the expansion of farmland has actually been more damaging to Britain’s bee population than the concreting over of the countryside for housing.

Reading University researcher Deepa Senapathi believes intensive agriculture is to blame.

While the gardens, parks and churchyards of towns and cities provide bees with a variety of plants to forage on and an extended flowering season, popular crops such as oilseed rape only bloom for a few weeks.

She said: ‘While concreting over the countryside may appear to be bad news for nature, we’ve found that progressive urbanisation may be much less damaging than intensive agriculture.

‘Urban areas may benefit bees more than farmland by providing a wide variety of flowering plants, providing a cosmopolitan menu for insects from spring through to autumn.

‘Over the past century rural landscapes in Britain have become increasingly dominated by large expanses of monoculture – the growing of a single type of plant, which has helped boost crop production.

‘But without a mixture of habitat and food sources, rural areas can sometimes be little better than green deserts for biodiversity.

Scientists around the country are trying to work out why populations of bees and other insects are plummeting.

Pesticides, climate change and disease may, like intensive farming, be playing a role.

[view full article here: dailymail.co.uk]

Read full story · Posted in News, Yay Bees

LISTEN: Natural Beekeeper Kirk Anderson via @rootsimple

Root Simple’s interview with Kirk Anderson, a natural, no-treatment beekeeper and mentor. Kirk tells funny stories and shares his wisdom on how to keep bees in a big city. During the podcast they discuss:

[click here to view podcast on Root Simple]

Read full story · Posted in HoneyLove Interviews

READ: Organic Beekeeping Conference in Oracle Arizona

Oracle_2015_2

By HoneyLover Susan Rudnicki

One of the most delightful and informative ways beeks can advance their understanding of bees and beekeeping is by attending conferences. The American Beekeeping Federation conference was held in Anaheim this year in January and I went to several presentations. This was a completely academic conference, combined with a large trade show—no live bees to work with. This group also reflects a strong conventional management and commercial pollinator representation. There are always things to be learned though, and I found the time well spent.

However, a number of smaller and more appropriate conferences for us treatment free folk also occur every year. The 8th Annual Organic Beekeeping conference at Oracle AZ, put on by Dee Lusby allows participants to visit the 9 bee yards kept by Dee in the remote Sonora desert near the Mexican border. These bees are never moved (no migratory pollination) are at least 4 deeps tall, are not re-queened or supported with any feeds, and are visited (on average) just 5 times a year. Dee’s honey is very dry and dark, reflecting the dry climate and mixed desert flora the bees have for forage. These flowers include many desert shrubs, cactus, wildflowers, and introduced weed species too numerous to mention. The Spring rains this year have been abundant and well spaced, so we saw lots of wildflower and cactus blooms. The desert smelled wonderful—fresh, sage-y scented with alternating bright blue skies and looming smokey thunderclouds.

Oracle_2015_1

Rob McFarland (Co-Founder of HoneyLove) and I drove to Oracle, which is in a very remote area. The conference is sited at the YMCA, with cabins and bunk beds for sleeping and 3 full cafeteria meals a day. Some of the best time is spent at meals in talking with other bee keepers from all over the US and even other parts of the world.

The conference lasts 3 days, with speakers on a range of subjects—apitherapy (using bee stings for health reasons), introduction of a new national on-line register for swarm calls to beekeepers, the beekeeping management calendar year from a extreme climate perspective, and new information on genetics and breeding of queens. Michael Bush and Sam Comfort, our great friends in treatment free beekeeping not only spoke individually, but on the last night gave us a melodious, heartfelt performance for almost a hour. Michael plays guitar and sings, Sam plays ukelele and banjo and a MEAN harmonica!! It was stupendous and had people’s roaring approval.

Our final day was devoted to driving on dirt roads to Dee’s remote beeyards—she has 700 hives. The day was a bit windy and cold, with threatening rain, but we went anyway, and the desert was glorious with color. The desert bees were very ferocious in defending their colonies, reflecting the weather and forage conditions they must deal with. We were fully suited and gloved to help restore some hives that were tipping wildly from the undermining of the bottom board by tunneling rodents. The hives had to be totally unstacked, the bottom board leveled and supported by fresh soil and the hives re-stacked—each at least 4 deeps.

I urge all that wish to really know beekeeping and infuse the relationship with new knowledge to attend these bee conferences.

Read full story · Posted in HoneyLove Workshops, Yay Bees

READ: Planting Herbs that Attract Honey Bees

By Ann Barczewski via keepingbackyardbees.com

When the bees start flying I can’t wait to get out there and dig in the hives and the dirt. There’s a huge variety of herbs that are not just great for cooking and medicinal purposes, they’re great for the bees. Planting herbs that attract honey bees is something that anyone can do.

You may not have a large plot of land for an herb garden but most people can tuck a few herbs in somewhere, even if they only have a postage stamp yard, balcony, hanging basket or doorstep. Container gardening can be just as rewarding and help your local bees.

If you are purchasing already grown herb plants instead of starting them from seed, please remember to purchase from an organic supplier. We get ours from our local CSA which is good for the bees and our local economy. Many big box stores sell plants that have been cultivated with the use of insecticides which are toxic for bees. So while you are trying to do something nice for the bees you may actually be doing harm.

Here is a short list of herbs which the bees love and so will you!

Borage – This powerhouse herb produces a lot of nectar, it’s easy to plant from seed, blooms well into the fall, will self-seed once you get it going and it’s readily available. Historically, it’s been planted to increase honey production. It’s great as a companion plant alongside tomatoes and cabbages because it helps to ward away harmful insects and worms. It’s also believed to improve the health of the plants that grow around it. The flowers and leaves are not only beautiful but they’re a welcome addition to any salad.

Chives – These wonderful plants flower early in almost all regions, conditions and climates so when the weather is warm enough for your bees to fly, the chives are already producing nectar for them. They are also perennials so they will produce for many years to come. If you haven’t had chive infused butter, you have been missing out!

Comfrey – an amazing herb which will enrich your soil from deep below the surface. It leaches high levels of potassium and nitrogen into your soil. Both of these elements are key nutrients and will ensure you have a healthy garden. Its leaves are high in allantoin, a substance that causes cells to multiply, making it a great addition to your herbal medicine cabinet to treat burns, wounds, bug bites and even bee stings! It’s great topically (like our St. John’s Wort & Hemp Salve) but is toxic to humans when consumed so don’t eat it! But best of all, the bees LOVE it!

Lemon Balm (Melissa) – Lemon Balm is known by many names, Melissa, the genus name means “honeybee” and it is definitely a favorite of the bees. It’s also a wonderful herb to have on hand. The leaves are antibacterial, anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, antiviral, sedative and aromatic. It’s used to treat many conditions. Internally it’s good for insomnia, migraine, hyperactivity, Flu, and anxiety. When used topically (like our RESCUE Salve) it can help with cold sores and shingles. In short, it’s pretty much good for all that ails you and it tastes beautiful!

Rosemary – a perennial which likes sun and well-drained soil, this plant will be a wonderful addition to every garden. It also lends itself to being grown in a pot as a bonsai (and how cute is that?) It’s a culinary herb which attracts bees from far and wide. You can also use rosemary infused in apple cider vinegar as a rinse for your hair to help with dandruff and itchy scalp. For herbal recipes you can check out our blog on Ann Bee’s Naturals, The Natural Buzz.

Dandelions — And of course, don’t forget to let your dandelions, plantain, and clover grow, they are some of the first sources of nectar for the bees. While you’re at it, remember that many plants which are considered weeds are beneficial to honeybees. So let the multiflora rose, wild asters and goldenrod bloom before you hack them down. The bees will thank you.

Read full story · Posted in Yay Bees