Planting for Your Honeybees: High Honey Production

As a backyard or urban beekeeper, you will need to ensure that your honeybees can find the pollen and nectar they need to build and support a healthy hive, and in the process, produce quality honey. Though your bees will go into other backyards and gardens to forage for pollen and nectar, your backyard should provide a plethora of flowers and plants that will provide the necessities for your bee colony.

Bees and Pollen

 

Plants with high nectar and/or pollen content are the best plants to fill your garden with. The following ten plants are particularly attractive to honeybees due to their high nectar and/or pollen content:

  1. Borage (Borago offcinalis)
  2. Lemon Balm/Melissa (Melissa officinalis)
  3. Phacelia (Phacela tanacetifolia)
  4. White Sweet Clover (Melilotus alba)
  5. Echium (Echium vulgare)
  6. Coriander (Coriandrum sativum)
  7. Yellow Sweet Clover (Melilotus officinalus)
  8. Goldenrod (Solidago)
  9. Cornflower/Bachelor’s Button (Centaurea cyanus)
  10. Black Locust (Robinia pseudoacacia)

You will need to check with your local nursery to see which of these plants are the best for your climate and area of the country. You should also consult with other local beekeepers to learn about other plants that are high in nectar and pollen that will contribute to higher rates of honey production.

You can also check out these website for more information:

“Plants for Honeybees,” The Melissa Garden: a Honeybee Sanctuary

“Guide to Bee-Friendly Gardens, Urban Bee Gardens

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Planting for Pollinators: Free Guides for Your Region

Pollinators are important to every garden, farm, and natural space across the country. According to Pollinator Partnership, a California nonprofit that works to protect the pollinating animals vital to our North American ecosystems and agriculture, “abundant and healthy populations of pollinators can improve fruit set and quality, and increase fruit size. In farming situations this increases production per acre. In the wild, biodiversity increases and wildlife food sources increase.”

Bees and Pollen

When most people think of pollination, they think of bees and butterflies, but there are many other animal species that are important pollinators, including beetles, moths, flies, hummingbirds, and some species of bats. As gardeners and farmers, we can encourage pollinator populations by providing not only the crop plants that we need pollinated, but other nectar and pollen rich plants that are vital to the health of these species.

Pollinator Partnership provides great free regional planting guides to help gardeners and farmers to learn about the plants that are most beneficial to pollinator species in their area. Included in each guide is 1) a chart of plant traits that attract specific types of pollinators, detailing such things as flower color, pollen type, scent, and flower shapes that are most likely to meet the needs of a specific pollinator; 2) a chart of various regional plants and the pollinators that they attract, and 3) the bloom periods for these various plants.

To find the free regional planting guide for pollinators in your area, visit www.pollinator.org/guides.htm.

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The Bees Are a Buzz’n

Honeybee swarms are a natural process of growth…if you find one remain calm and call a professional

As summer is approaching, the blossoming flowers and growing bounty of the land attracts the buzzing honeybee. As the season progresses these important creatures are busy building their hive. A natural part of this process is the swarming of the honeybee. As their hive grows they will begin to overpopulate their space and a portion of the hive will go in search of a new home. The bees will form a cluster and swarm in a tree, study foliage or even a man-made structure. They will then send out scouts to search for a safe place to build a new home. This is the natural way that the honeybee multiplies and builds their population. Often the bees will swarm in the proximity of those of us that live among them and can be an intimidating site. Knowing what to do is the most important thing when you cross paths with a honeybee swarm. According to Matt Reed, a Portland beekeeper and owner of Bee Thinking, bees are actually at their least aggressive while swarming because they don’t have a hive to protect.

So a swarm may seem like something that should elicit panic, but it is important to stay calm and call a local beekeeper (such as Matt Reed) to capture and move the swarm to a place where they can find a home. Of course it is a good idea to keep pets and children away from the swarm, but be patient and wait for the swarm to be safely removed. This is important to protect the swarm, a vital part of our ecology.

To find out who in your area will remove swarms, check with your state beekeeping association or you can search the internet of local beekeepers.

Resource Link:
http://www.oregonlive.com/living/index.ssf/2012/05/with_the_advent_of_spring_hone.html
https://farmgardenandbeyond.com/bee-keeping-resources

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Benefits of Local Honey

With farmer’s markets starting up again, local honey is much more readily available, along with the fresh produce and flowers often purchased.

Honey 1

For people attempting to have a healthier diet and lifestyle, using honey as a replacement for traditional sweeteners in cooking can be a healthier option. According to Ashley Gartland in the Oregonian article, “Local Honey is Liquid Gold,” local honey is a much better option than many commercially produced honeys that often have corn syrup and other additives in them. Click here to read the rest of this article.

Eating local honey is also said to have a positive affect on people with allergies. The theory is that local honey contains the pollens of local plants, which are often the cause of many allergies. Supposedly, by eating honey produced in your area, it can gradually build up a person’s immunity to the various local pollens.

To learn more about honey, check out the National Honey Board’s website at www.honey.com.

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The Truth about Bats

Bats have been the cause of fear and trepidation for centuries, as well as the subject of scary stories and horror films. Over the years, scientists have proven that bats are vital to a variety of ecosystems, though. This knowledge, hopefully, has allayed some people’s fears about bats, and some have even gone so far as provide roosting places for bats in their own backyards.

bat

Many scientists and organizations work to preserve bat species throughout the world, as well as educate the public about their value. Bats play a key role in many ecosystems by providing insect population control. According to S. Chambers and N. Allen in “Create Roosts for Bats in Your Yard” (The Wildlife Garden set, Oregon State University), “in North America, bats are the primary predators of night-flying insects. Some species of bat can capture several hundred insects an hour, including insect species that can devastate valuable plants and crops.”

In tropical or desert areas (even in the United States), some species of bats are important for pollination and spreading seed of a variety of plants, including such important crop plants as bananas, peaches, and mangoes.

With 1,100 species in the world, bats count for about 20% of all mammals. With their key role in insect control and pollination, it is plain to see that it is important to preserve bats’ natural habitats and protect bats in urban settings as well. Check back later this week to learn what you can do to protect and encourage bats in your garden or backyard.

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Top Reasons to Use a Warre Beehive

#1 Healthy beekeeping equals healthy bees resulting in a little more balance in the ecology

#2 Simple construction of stacked boxes…you can easily add to, clean and maintain these hives and the health of your bees

#3 The Warre hive creates less moisture due to the quilt structure – Also air circulation disperses moisture through the vents

#4 Less expensive than conventional hives

#5 A Warre beehive allows bees to build more efficiently

#6 Simple and easy to use

#7 The Warre bee hive is built to resemble as close as possible to a bees natural home.

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Varietals of Honey

Honey can come in a variety of flavors. The flowers and nectar available to a bee colony can affect the flavor of the resulting honey. Honey created in different parts of the country can have drastically different tastes, and certain areas of the world are known for specific varietals of honey.

Honey Combs

Nectar collected from several sources – or a number of different flowers – the resulting honey is referred to as “wildflower” or “mixed flower” honey. But when honey is made from nectar that is 80% of the same type of flower or plant, it can be labeled as a specific variety of honey.

Though each variety of honey is made of the same elements – sucrose and water – the different flavors are due to a variety of organic acids that give each type of honey its distinct taste.

Honey 1

Here is a sampling of honey varieties that you may not have heard of:

  • Acacia: Hungary, Italy, France. Light in color with a delicate flavor. Good for baking.
  • Avocado: California, Florida, Chile. Dark amber color with rich, floral flavor. Nice table honey, good for pancakes.
  • Cranberry: Wisconsin, Oregon, Quebec. Medium amber color with hints of an intense, tart berry taste. Excellent with yogurt.
  • Fireweed: Washington, Alaska, Oregon. Light gold color with mild, spicy flavor. Excellent for making honey butter or as a table honey.
  • Lehua: Hawaii. Off white color with a distinct, complex flavor Overtones of butterscotch and lilies. Excellent with green tea.
  • Rosemary: Spain, Italy, France. Light amber color with fresh herbal, slightly smoky flavor. Nice in glazes for chicken and drizzled over focaccia bread.
  • Sunflower: Georgia, Italy, Spain. Pale yellow to light amber color with nutty, apricot flavor. Drizzle over yogurt or serve with fresh fruit.
  • Tupelo: Florida, Georgia. White to light amber color with floral flavor and rich, buttery texture. Nice in glazes for pork.

To learn more about honey varietals, check out these books: Honeybee: Lessons from an Accidental Beekeeper by C. Marina Marchese (Black Dog & Leventhal, 2009) or Honey: A Connoisseur’s Guide with Recipes by Gene Opton (Ten Speed Press, 2000).

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Where Do They Go in the Winter

We all know that many of our feathered friends bulk up to survive the colder temps (or they migrate south if it is too cold).

You also may know that many of the other critters in the yard hibernate or slow down their pace in the winter months.

But what happens to bees? Well that depends on what type of bee you are talking about.

For bumblebees most of the colony will die and only the new bumblebee queens will survive. They will mate with the males and feed to build up fat reserves ready for their winter snooze. They like soil banks and sometimes even soft potting soil in a plant pot or a compost heap…so be careful when you begin to start prepping for the spring.

Honey bees don’t really hibernate, but are not really out and about. They become less active, when the temperature falls and huddle together in a temperature regulating cluster called a ‘winter cluster’. By this time, there will be no males (drones) in the hive or nest.

For solitary bees, like mason bees, they overwinter in hollow place such as plant stems or other small spaces in the garden. It is a good reminder not tidy up everything in the garden and leave some things for the critters to survive the winter.

The Decline of Bees

In the last decade or so, bee populations of all species have been in decline, a fact that will not only affect the natural environment, but also is taking a toll on the agricultural industry. Bees are important pollinators for many of the foods that we enjoy every day. In California alone, there are over 50 crops dependent on honeybees for pollination, including strawberries and almonds, which equals billions of dollars of produce every year. As honeybees decline, the yield of these crops goes down, and prices go up. Another side effect as the crop yield goes down is the loss of jobs.

Honey Bee

The main reasons for the decline of honeybees and other species of bees are disease and pesticide use. Diseases, spread by mites and parasites affect both domestic and wild bee populations. The spread of these diseases is being studies by researchers around the world, and strategies are being developed to decrease the spread of the parasites and the diseases affecting bee populations.

While the spread of disease among bees is left to scientists to deal with, the issue of pesticide use is something that all of us can help reduce and hopefully – someday – eliminate. Pesticides are commonly used as a cheaper way to rid plants of pests, but they often affect not just the pesky insects, but also the beneficial ones as well. Bees, in particular, take the pesticide-infused pollen and nectar from flowers back to their hive, affecting not just the individual insect, but an entire hive.

Though the problem seems much larger than any individual person, there are ways to help affect change as a single person, family, or farm. Choosing more natural pest-control options for your own garden or farm is a first step. These could include the introduction of beneficial insects, or the addition of nematodes to your garden’s soil, as well as many other natural pest-control options. You can also reduce, if not eliminate, the use of traditional pesticides by replacing them with organic pesticides that are friendly to bees and other pollinators. Check out this list from the Xerces Society.

Other more tangible options that both farmers and gardeners alike can take to help bee populations include:

  • Raising their own honeybee colonies, using healthier hives such as the Warré Bee Hive
  • Encouraging native bee populations such as bumble and mason bees by placing nest boxes on your property
  • Planting a diverse range of plants to attract honey bees as well as native bee populations

For more ideas for protecting bees, as well as other pollinators, check out the Xerces Society’s Pollinator Conservation Resource Center, where you can find lists of plants native to your area, as well as other ideas for helping to encourage pollinators in your area.

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Recipe: Honey Gingerbread Cookies

Ginger Bread

3 cups flour, sifted

1/2 cup sugar

2 tsp baking soda

1 tsp salt

2 tsp cinnamon

2 tsp powdered ginger

1/2 tsp powdered cloves

1/2 tsp powdered nutmeg

1/2 pound butter

1/2 cup honey

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Sift flour, sugar, baking soda, cinnamon, ginger, cloves and nutmeg together.

Cut butter into small pieces. Work butter into dry ingredients with pastry cutter or with fingers. When blended throughly, add honey and stir until completely blended.

Refrigerate dough for a minimum of 1 hour.

Roll dough out to 1/8 inch thickness on a floured board. Cut into shapes with cookie cutters of your choice. Bake for 12-15 minutes on a cookie sheet.

Let cool for one minute on cookie sheet, then cool completely on cookie racks.

Adapted from The Pooh Cook Book (Inspired by Winnie-the-Pooh) by Virginia H. Ellison, E.P. Dutton & Co. Inc, 1969. Click here to find this book on Amazon.com.

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