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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Honey Cake

Ingredients:
2 1/2 cups of flour
3 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground cinn.
1 cup sugar
1 cup honey
1/2 cup vegetable oil
4 eggs
2 teaspoons orange zest
1 cup orange juice

Directions:
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees
2. Grease and flour a 9 x 13 pan. Sift flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and cinn.
3. In a large bowl (separate), combine sugar, honey, oil, eggs, & orange zest
4. Beat in the flour mixture alternately with orange juice, mixing just until incorporated
5. Pour batter into prepared pan
6. Bake 40-50 minutes or until cooked through.

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Beat Dry and Weathered Hair with Rosemary Honey Hair Conditioner

The extremes of heat and cold we endure throughout the seasons can make even the greatest of hair look and feel like straw. This nourishing conditioner blends honey for shine; olive oil for moisture and essential oil of rosemary to stimulate hair growth.

  • 1/2 cup Honey

  • 1/4 cup warmed Olive oil (2T for normal to oily hair)

  • 4 drops of essential oil of Rosemary

  • 1 tsp. Xanthum gum (available in health food stores)

Place all the ingredients in a small bowl and mix thoroughly. Pour into a clean plastic bottle with a tight fitting stopper or lid.

Apply a small amount at a time to slightly dampened hair. Massage scalp and work mixture through hair until completely coated. Cover hair with a warm towel (towel can be heated in a microwave or dryer) or shower cap; leave on to nourish and condition for 30 minutes. Remove towel or shower cap; shampoo lightly and rinse with cool water. Dry as normal and enjoy shinier, softer and healthier hair the natural way.

This recipe is courtesy of www.honey.com National Honey Board

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Featured Recipe: Honey Butter

Honey Comb

Honey is a great ingredient to use in cooking as a sweetener and sometimes as a replacement for sugar. With all the great recipes out there that use honey, we’ve decided to feature a honey recipe each month on our blog.

For our first recipe, we’re keeping it simple…

Honey Butter

1/2 cup butter

1/4 to 1/2 cup honey (to taste)

Blend ingredients in a food processor until smooth. Refrigerate until firm.


Honey Butter tastes great on muffins, scones, pancakes, and banana nut bread. To make your Honey Butter extra special, check out these Food Network recipes:

Cinnamon Honey Butter

Orange Honey Butter (and Blue Corn Pancakes)

Blueberry Honey Butter (and Grilled CornMuffins)

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Feed the Birds

If you go into the feed or pet store, you will find a variety of options for your bird feeders…but which one do you choose? Well that highly depends on the type of birds you would like to attract, the area you live in and the time of year. Below is a list of feed items you can find fairly easily at any feed store and some grocery stores that have bulk are even carrying them. A big key to success is to try a small amount, wait and watch. Once you find what works for your area, you will be set. Like all of us, those feathered friends do like variety so don’t be afraid to mix it up a bit.

Do take note. Plan where you have your feeders please. Seed will fall and in the wet months (which is when the birds need it the most) they will likely sprout.

Mealworms

This is a nice option to provide for insect eaters in the winter months when the food supply is low, they will even feed them to their babies. You can opt for the freeze dried or live. Both can be found at most pet stores.

When Best to Provide:
Winter & Spring

Birds It will Most Likely Attract:
Mockingbirds, Robins, Bluebirds

Black Oil or Striped Sunflower

These are popular in most seed mixes. The black oil sunflower seeds are smaller and higher in fat. Birds tend to like these best. Striped seeds are larger, have a harder shell and do not attract as many birds.

When Best to Provide:
Any time

Birds It will Most Likely Attract:
House Finches, Nuthatches, Cardinals, Grosbeaks, Jays, Goldfinches

Black Sunflower Seeds

Black Sunflower Seeds

Fresh Fruit

Fresh apples, grapes or oranges are a great treat for birds.

When Best to Provide:
Summer & Fall, when fruit can be found fresh and in season

Birds It will Most Likely Attract:
Tangers, Orioles, Woodpeckers, Waxwings, Robins

Fruit for the Birds

Fruit for the Birds

Nectar

This can be easily made at home. You can find several sources for a recipe online or here is one from the Domino Sugar website. Skip the food coloring, it is unnecessary and is harmful to the birds. This is not just for humming birds, there are several nectar lovers.

When Best to Provide:
Any time of year

Birds It will Most Likely Attract:
Humming Birds, Orioles, Woodpeckers

Millet

This seed is small round seed and there are several different types; Red, golden and white. The red and golden are not as popular with most birds. The white is the main ingredient in most mixed bird seed blends.

When Best to Provide:
Any time of year

Birds It will Most Likely Attract:
Sparrows, Juncos, Cardinals, Bobwhites, Quail, Doves, Buntings

Millet

Millet

Safflower

It looks similar to the sunflower seed but has a white coating. It is an alternative seed if you want to discourage Starlings or House Sparrows.

When Best to Provide:
Any time of year

Birds It will Most Likely Attract:
Chickadees, Nuthatches, House Finches, Jays , Goldfinches, Grosbeaks, Cardinals

Suet

This can be homemade or store bought. Suet can be simply just animal fat or a mixture of seeds, animal fat, berries and nut butter. It is a great source os fat and is highly important during the winter months to help keep those feathered friend warm. 

When Best to Provide:
Fall & Winter

Birds It will Most Likely Attract:
Chestnut-Backed Chickadee, Red-Breasted Nuthatch, Thrushes, Orioles, Grosbeaks, American Robin

Nuts

Unsalted peanuts are best if you are going to offer them whole, as they are less expensive and easier to shell. If you opt for shelled variety, just make certain they are raw if possible and unsalted . They are a good source of protein and fat for the colder months. The warmer months they spoil faster.

When Best to Provide:
Fall & Winter

Birds It will Most Likely Attract:
Jays, Nuthatches, Mockingbirds, Woodpeckers, Chickadees, House Sparrows, Cardinals, House Finches

Nuts for Birds

Nuts for Birds

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“Kick That Cold in The Booty” Remedy

Simple and Safe Ingredients

1/4 cup water
1/4 cup unfiltered apple cider vinegar
1 tablespoon honey
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 wedge lemon

kick booty lemon honey remedy

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bring the water to a boil. Combine hot water and apple cider vinegar in a small glass or mug. Add honey and cayenne pepper. Stir well. Top off with a squeeze of lemon. Take a deep breath of the mixture, and start drinking.

Curious Questions…Do bees hibernate?

Honeybees

These critters have an interesting form of winter survival. They stop flying when the temperature drops below 50 degrees and crowd into the lower portion of the hive, forming  a cluster. The worker bees encircle the queen bee and flutter their wings, creating energy to keep the center around 80 degrees. The colder the weather, the tighter the cluster becomes. Observations have shown that hibernating honeybees consume up to 30 pounds of stored honey during the winter months, which helps the bees produce body heat. On warmer days, honeybees will venture out for short flights.

Mason Bee House

Mason Bee House

 

Mason Bees

The adult mason bee lives only for about 6 weeks, unlike honeybees. They are solitary creatures and each female makes her own nest. Inside the nest, eggs hatch and each larvae has its own cell and food supply in it’s own compartment. After the larvae feeds, it spins a cocoon and remains there the whole summer. In the fall, the larvae molts and transforms into adult form. They spend the winter as adults in the cocoon and then emerge in early spring to start another generation.

Bumble Bees

Although bumble bees are a closer relative to honey bees, they do not maintain colonies throughout the winter. The last of the summer colony will contain a number of queens. Each of these queens will mate, she will find a place to overwinter and will hibernate until spring alone. The queen depresses her rate of metabolism which allows her to hibernate while burning very little fuel. In the spring she will find a place to build a nest and begin to lay and tend to her eggs.

Resources:

1. http://www.bees-online.com/Winter.htm

2. http://www.si.edu/Encyclopedia_SI/nmnh/buginfo/winter.htm

3. http://www.pollinatorparadise.com/Binderboards/Hornfaced_Bees.htm

4. http://www.loghomecare.com/carpenter_bees.html

5. http://www.aussiebee.com.au/abol-002.html

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Preparing Your Yard for Fall? Consider Ways to Help the Wildlife Through Winter

Fall is a time when the garden and yard finishes off its harvest and begins to prepare for a season of sleep. As caretakers we begin to rake and clip back plants to clean things up and put the gardens and flower beds to bed for winter. This ritual of annual cleanup is actually counterproductive to the wild life that may live in our yards. We are removing a major source of food and shelter. This does not mean you have to abandon your usual autumn chores, but there are a few things you can keep in mind that will help your furry, feathered and slithery friends.

Skip the Bag and Mulch

Leaves and grass clippings make great mulch for your garden and flower beds. Apply about two to three inches of mulch around the yard. In addition to providing some shelter for wildlife, this also gives your perianal plants and vegetable beds some nutrients. You can also create a brush pile if you can spare a corner of your yard. Stray branches, twigs and leaves provide nesting materials for squirrels, ground birds, rabbits and hibernating insects and amphibians. You can compost these in the spring for your garden soil.

Put Down The Clippers

Hold off clipping back all the flowers and seed heads. These can provide birds and critters with some food through the fall and into winter. Flowers such as cone-flowers, sunflowers and marigolds are loved by the wildlife.

Provide Food and Water Sources

In bird baths or shallow basins, float a tennis ball to prevent freezing. If possible change out the water during the winter months. Heated bird baths are also available if you want to invest to keep your feathered guests happy. Providing suet and a high protein seed mix in your bird feeders will help them find the calories needed to survive till spring.

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Can honey calms coughs as good or better than cough medicine does?

Question
Is Honey An Effective Cough Remedy?

Answer
from James M. Steckelberg, M.D.

Drinking tea or warm lemon water mixed with honey is a time-honored way to soothe a sore throat. But honey may be an effective cough suppressant, too.

In one study, children age 2 and older with upper respiratory tract infections were given up to 2 teaspoons (10 milliliters) of honey at bedtime. The honey seemed to reduce nighttime coughing and improve sleep.

Honey 1

In fact, in the study, honey appeared to be as effective as a common cough suppressant ingredient, dextromethorphan, in typical over-the-counter doses. Since honey is low-cost and widely available, it might be worth a try.

However, due to the risk of infant botulism, a rare but serious form of food poisoning, never give honey to a child younger than age 1.

And remember: Coughing isn’t all bad. It helps clear mucus from your airway. If you or your child is otherwise healthy, there’s usually no reason to suppress a cough.

Information from: http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/honey/AN01799

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