[via Justus Thane; Flickr]
[via Justus Thane; Flickr]
What should I plant? California bluebell
According to the Xerces Society, in addition to honeybees there are over 4000 species of native bees in the U.S. alone.
From leafcutter and mason bees, to miner, carpenter, and digger bees, virtually all bees and pollinators are attracted to the California Bluebells’ deep blue, bell shaped flowers and long golden stamens.
The petals reflect ultra-violet light and therefore look like a well lit runway for foraging bees. Sow this hardy annual in the early Spring in full sun and sandy or well-drained soil.
Photo credit: Kathy Dunham
What could we be doing for bees in London?
‘I am often asked about what planting individuals could establish for bees across the capital. Honey bees especially love mature trees as a nectar source. Limes and acacias are particularly important but sycamores, chestnuts, hawthorns and blackthorns are good too, however although the planting of these is an essential thing, they do not provide instant bee fodder.’
What should we be planting?
‘I recommend early pollen sources such as crocuses, snowdrops, daffodils and bluebells which are excellent early pollen yielders, pollen is rich in protein and fantastic for young bee growth. The autumn is also a key time, with ivy and buddleia providing late nectar flows, allowing the colony to build up for the barren months ahead. London is 65% green space but I believe there could be greater nectar sources and safe havens.’
What if I don’t have a garden?
‘If, like me, you have no garden or roof terrace, then I’d like to introduce to you “guerilla gardening”. Have you ever thought that your local roundabout looked a little shabby or a local patch of wasteland needs beautifying? If so, just grab some wild flower seeds and scatter. We have just started selling bee bombs here at Bee HQ. When soaked they resemble a soil hand grenade and are fantastic as they contain everything you will need to start your own little wild flower patch – just soak and chuck.
‘You could also persuade your local park or open space to reduce or stop their use of pesticide – the cumulative affect on bees is now well proven and catastrophic. There is a real move to make London free of these terrors, like Paris already is, and the sooner it happens the better. Persuading local authorities to make everything less manicured is also important, not only for bees but other wildlife such as butterflies. Long grasses are a haven and can also look wonderful. I passed Blackheath common the other morning and it had the most amazing white clover covering it… two days later it was fully trimmed! Finally, it’s been a terrible year for honey production in the UK so where possible try and buy local or British honey.’ Sonya Barber
For info about Steve, see thelondonhoneycompany.co.uk
ARTICLE: Wasps vs. Bees
by Jaime Pawelek and Rollin Coville
“Wasps and bees are often mistaken for each other, but knowing a few key features of both can help one tell them apart. Bees gather pollen and nectar from flowers to use as food for their offspring. Wasps are carnivorous and hunt for other insects or spiders, but some also visit flowers for nectar. Bees usually have very hairy bodies and pollen collecting hairs on their legs or under their abdomen to help them accomplish this task. Wasps tend to have few to no hairs at all because they don’t intentionally collect pollen.
…wasps usually have more elongate bodies, longer legs, and sometimes have what looks like a pinched waist, whereas bees usually look more compact. There are other physical differences between bees and wasps, but they are hard to make out without the use of a hand lens or microscope. So, if you see a busy creature flying from flower to flower and actively collecting brightly colored pollen, then you can be fairly sure it is a bee.
Bees actually evolved from predatory wasps (apoid wasps), so bees and wasps have a lot of similarities both in appearance and behavior. Bees and wasps both have two sets of wings, unlike flies, which only have one. Also, only the females of bees and wasps can sting because the stinger is actually a modified egg laying apparatus. Behaviorally they are similar in that they both have social and solitary species. Yellow jackets, like bumble bees, have seasonal colonies that form in the spring and die out in the late fall with the queens overwintering to start a new colony the following year. The majority of bees and wasps though are solitary, and the female does all the work of building and provisioning nests for her young.
One wasp that a lot of people confuse with bees is the yellow jacket. Unlike honey bees, yellow jackets and other wasps don’t leave their stinger behind when they sting something, therefore they are able to sting several times in a row. These social wasps form papery nests both above and below ground that can contain anywhere from 50 to 5,000 individuals. The larger the colony gets the more aggressive the wasps become. This usually happens in late summer/early fall when food is in short supply. Yellow jackets then become nuisances at picnics eating whatever they can find…”
PHOTO: This is how BEESWAX is made -
ARTICLE: Close Quarters With Honey Bees
By the way, we have about 8,000 honey bees in our living room.
As conversation-starters go, this is one of our better ones. And it’s true – we do have about 8,000 honey bees in our living room – give or take 1,000. Thankfully they are all very safely contained, with a clear path directly to the out-of-doors.
We started keeping bees in spring 2011. Our interest was partially driven by the plight of the honeybees, and partially by our own curiosity. However, we also wanted to help foster our little homesteady ecosystem. Thanks to my husband’s organic green thumb, we have a number of blueberry, currant, and raspberry bushes around the property, as well as apple trees, plum trees, peach trees, grape vines, hazelnut bushes, asparagus, cherry trees, and a big garden as well. Although the honeybees do not pollinate all of these different species, they do hit some of them – and it’s nice to know that we’re also helping out native wildflowers.
Our bees are and always have been raised treatment-free. They are a more persnickety variety, but this breed is apparently more resistant to varroa mites – one of the many things thought to be contributing to colony collapse – and generally hardier. As much as possible, our hope is to help keep an organic, more natural balance on our property.
Back to the bees in our living room. During the winter, my husband decided to build an observation hive to hang in our living room. This is a glass-walled hive that gives a clear view to 3 frames of bees. I was leery of the idea, but it has proven to be an amazing experience. It has frequently been our go-to evening entertainment. The kids have been deeply intrigued, and love to spend time looking for the queen, seeing what has changed, and telling our guests all about our observation hive.
During their time in our living room, we have watched:
the bees make a new queen
the new queen kill off the 2 dozen or so other potential queens
the colony population triple
Queenie (our pet name for the queen) lay eggs
the drone (male bee) population die out and new ones take their places
new bees eat their way out of their brood cells
bees making honey
bees feeding larvae
and so much more!
The observation hive has been an invaluable tool teaching us how to better care for our bees, and has given our young kids a unique education that they can share with friends and family.
We just reached 200 followers!!! ? Yay bees!
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