Like most of you, I have a love/hate relationship with bees. I hate their stings, and thank goodness, no one in my family is allergic to them, but I love their role in nature, acting as the major pollinator. Without them, many different species of plants and animals wouldn’t survive and one way to support them […]
If you have ever had trouble growing certain vegetables like cucumbers in your garden, it may not be the soil that is the problem. It is more than likely that you don’t have a good way to attract bees. Throw away the notion that bees are nasty, stinging critters. They are actually quite passive by nature and only sting in defense, when stepped on or threatened.
Bees, pollinating and good harvests all go hand-in-hand. One out of three bites of food depends on a pollinator (Creatures that move pollen from one plant to another, helping the plants create fruit or seeds. Bees are great pollinators.) Livestock also need pollinators for their food, as well as cotton and other fiber-producing plants. In total, 150 crops in the U.S. alone need pollinators. Those crops include apples, blueberries, melons, almonds, pears and citrus.
Bees tend to stay in an area if there is a constant source of food. You can make your garden a veritable buffet for these little friends. In turn, they will pollinate your vegetable plants.
How can we encourage bees to come to our gardens? Here are a few simple ideas to make our gardening season more productive and help bees at the same time.
1. Grow Diverse Plants – Plant a variety of plants with either successive or long-blooming cycles. This will not only help bees, but it will look good, too. You will want flowers blooming from spring to fall, so use plants of different heights, shapes, sizes and species. Although you want vegetables to grow, you also will need flowers to encourage more bees to come. Wide flowers like daisies, coneflowers and sunflowers are good ideas.
2. Avoid Pesticides – It is best to avoid all pesticides, even organic ones. They are still toxic to bees. Use non-toxic weed and bug controls such as manual removal. Do not use pesticides on open flowers or on bright sunny days when bees are around. The chemicals will sink into the ground and stick to plants. When bees land on the flowers, the chemicals will stick to them, too. If you need to spray, do so after dusk when pollinators are least active and the flowers have gone.
3. Plant Color – Bees are most attracted to blue, yellow and purple blossoms. By planting flowers and vegetables that bloom in those colors, you can greatly increase the chances of bees visiting. You don’t have to plant flowers among your vegetables. You can plant a three foot by three foot area of flowers by, or around, your vegetable garden. This will get the attention of bees as well.
4. Provide Shelter –You don’t need a hive, but some sort of shelter will encourage bees to stay. With the right materials, they will build themselves a home. Bumble bees dig little tunnels in dirt and stack them with pollen. Other types of bees use cracks in wood or branches. If you want bees to come, avoid covers or mulch, as it prevents bees from making a home. Try leaving a portion of the garden bed with no mulch, as the bees will go there to make homes and go through the vegetable garden for food. You can also let the yard become a little wild. Leave a small area unmowed, have a little bush pile and a bare patch of dirt.
5. Provide A Water Source – That’s right, bees need a drink of water once in a while. Provide them with a bird bath with stones for them to land on, or a small waterfall with rocks, a shallow pool, or a hose as a water source. Freshly watered potted plants (especially those potted plants using peat soil) tend to be a favorite drinking and resting spot for bees. Place the water near the garden.
6. Use Plants That Attract Bees – There are many plants that have both beautiful flowers and are tasty, too. The following plants will grow throughout the garden season: basil, thyme, watermelon, oregano, chives, pumpkins, mints, sage, berries, cucumbers, squash and tomatoes, among others.
7. Let Plants Flower – To encourage bees, leave the flowers on the plants. You can deadhead them so the bees can still get the nectar. When growing vegetables such as broccoli, you can harvest but still leave the plant whole. When you are done with it, let it flower for the bees.
8. Don’t Fear Weeds – Clovers, dandelions, milkweed, goldenrod and other flowering weeds are incredibly important to bees. By letting these weeds grow in or near your yard, you will be creating a safe place for bees right near your garden.
By planting even one patch of native wildflowers or flowering vegetables and herbs, you can attract bees who will eagerly pollinate your plants and help create a beautiful and bountiful harvest. Ultimately, you are building a safe haven for bees so they can help us create the wonderful and healthy vegetables we love.
You may also enjoy reading an additional Off The Grid News article: Honey Bees Dying? You Can Help By Starting Your Own Hive
What are other ways you attract bees to your garden? Share your tips in the section below:
The post Attract Bees To Your Garden In These Eight Easy And Simple Ways appeared first on Off The Grid News.
Feared at best and considered a useless, disposable nuisance at worst, bees are among the most underappreciated creatures on the planet.
That’s a shame because our very existence relies on the tiny buzzing creatures.
We’ve known for years that bee populations all across North America and Europe are collapsing at an alarming rate.
This is a huge threat to our food supply. One-third of all the food we eat comes from plants that are pollinated by insects, and 80% of those crops are pollinated by bees. It also has big implications for our meat supply as well: plants (like alfalfa) that feed animals are pollinated by bees.
The largest international survey of insect pollinators found that just 2 percent of wild bee species now account for 80 percent of global crop pollination.
Put bluntly, if all the bees die, humanity will follow.
Worldwide, there are nearly 20,000 known species of bees in seven recognized biological families. Of those, 4,000 calls the United States home. Bees exist on every continent except Antarctica. Wherever you find insect-pollinated, flowering plants you will find bees.
Native bees come in all different shapes, sizes, and colors, but one thing they all have in common is their important role as pollinators.
Here are just some of the fruits and veggies bumble bees help pollinate: Squash, pumpkin, zucchini, alfalfa, cranberries, apples, green beans, scarlet beans, runner beans, cucumber, strawberries, tomatoes, sweet peppers, onions, potatoes, blueberries, cherries, kiwifruit, raspberries, blackberries, plums, and melons.
According to a Cornell University study published in 2012, crops pollinated by honeybees and other insects contributed $29 billion to United States farm income in 2010.
As you can see, bees are a crucial part of our ecosystem. Our food supplies – and essentially, our lives – rely on them.
Unfortunately, last year, a species of bumblebee that was once a common sight across much of the US was declared an endangered species.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service listed the rusty patched bumble bee (Bombus affinis) as endangered under the Endangered Species Act in January of 2017. Endangered species are animals and plants that are in danger of becoming extinct. Identifying, protecting and recovering endangered species is a primary objective of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s endangered species program, according to the agency’s website.
The rusty patched bumble bee was abundant across 28 states from Connecticut to South Dakota and up into Canada just 20 years ago, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service said, but is now “balancing precariously on the brink of extinction.”
The FWS explains why saving the rusty-patched bumble bee is so important:
The decline of the rusty patched bumble bee happened relatively recently and very dramatically. This insect was once common, widespread and abundant, but within only 20 years is now almost extinct. The causes of that decline are continuing to act across a broad geographic area, impacting other native pollinators. From the Rocky Mountains to the Atlantic Ocean and from the Midwest north into much of eastern Canada, pollinators and other invertebrates are harmed by the same activities pushing the rusty patched towards extinction. Preventing extinction of this bumble bee will help address those factors and identify how they work together to harm native bee and other pollinator populations, such as monarch butterflies.
There are many insects and invertebrates that are less well-known and studied than the rusty patched bumble bee. Other species may be declining for the same or similar reasons but we have not been tracking them, so their loss is unknown. Conserving the bumble bee is likely to help conserve other animals.
Our native pollinators, including native bees, are important to the productivity of our farms and our natural areas. Pollinators are essential for the continued reproduction of many plants and the animals that feed on those plants.
The rusty patched bumble bee has declined by 87 percent in the last 20 years. The species is likely to be present in only 0.1% of its historical range.
This beautifully made video from bioGraphicMagazine shares the story of the rusty-patched bumble bee and its journey to becoming listed as endangered.
There are many potential reasons for the rusty-patched bumble bee decline including habitat loss, intensive farming, disease, pesticide use, and climate change.
Scientists believe the declining health of bees is related to “complex interactions among multiple stressors”:
- Colony Collapse Disorder
- Pests (e.g., varroa mite), pathogens (e.g., the bacterial disease American foulbrood) and viruses.
- Poor nutrition (e.g., due to loss of foraging habitat and increased reliance on supplemental diets).
- Pesticide exposure.
- Bee management practices (e.g., long migratory routes to support pollination services).
- Lack of genetic diversity.
“This bee’s dramatic decline is not the result of any one event,” GrrlScientist explained in an article for Forbes:
“Instead, it is the result of many human-caused factors that feed back on each other and amplify their effects. Both urban and agricultural sprawl certainly play an important role. Agriculture’s shift from small family farms producing a variety of crops to huge corporate monopolies that produce just one or two crops have destroyed vast stretches of available habitat fragments filled with native wildflowers and terrain that feed and house bumble bees and other native pollinator species.”
Sarina Jepsen, Director of Endangered Species and Aquatic Conservation at the Xerces Society, added:
“Of additional concern is the widespread use of persistent, long-lasting, highly toxic insecticides within the range of the rusty patched bumble bee, which pose a threat to its continued existence.”
Bumblebees are uniquely susceptible to extinction because unlike honeybees, which have large (>10,000 individuals) perennial hives, bumble bees produce smaller annual colonies (50-1,500 individuals). Their smaller annual population sizes, life cycle, and genetic makeup put them at higher risk.
While the endangerment of the rusty-patched bumble bee is generating a lot of buzz, it isn’t the only species that are facing some degree of extinction risk, according to the Xerces Society:
Alarmingly, recent work by the Xerces Society in concert with IUCN Bumble Bee Specialist Group, indicates that some species have experienced rapid and dramatic declines more than others. In fact, more than one quarter (28%) of all North American bumble bees are facing some degree of extinction risk. While some species have received considerable conservation attention, other species such as the Suckley cuckoo bumble bee and the variable cuckoo bumble bee have been largely overlooked.
FWS Midwest Regional Director Tom Melius said that the bumblebee, and pollinators like it, play a vital role in the lives of human beings, NBC News reported last year:
“Pollinators are small but mighty parts of the natural mechanism that sustains us and our world. Without them, our forests, parks, meadows and shrublands, and the abundant, vibrant life they support, cannot survive, and our crops require laborious, costly pollination by hand.”
Bumblebees are uniquely important pollinators – they are the chief pollinator of many economically important crops, according to FWS:
They are not picky about where they get their nectar and pollen – almost any source of flower will do. Bumble bees are able to fly in cooler temperatures and lower light levels than many other bees, which makes them excellent crop pollinators. They also perform a behavior called “buzz pollination,” in which the bee grabs the pollen-producing structure of the flower in her jaws and vibrates her wing muscles. These vibrations dislodge pollen from the flower. Some plants, including tomatoes, peppers, and cranberries, benefit from buzz pollination. Even for crops that can be self-pollinated (for example, some tomatoes), the plant produces more and bigger fruits with bumble bee-aided pollination. In natural areas, bumble bees pollinate plants that provide food for other wildlife. By conserving this species, other species of pollinators simultaneously benefit.
The good news is that there are things that can be done to help conserve bee populations.
Here’s what you can do to help the rusty-patched bumble bee and other pollinators.
Provide flowering plants from April through October (early spring through fall).
Plant native wildflowers that bloom throughout the year in containers on your windowsill, porch or deck, or in your garden. Since these flowers attract bumblebees and other pollinators, they will enhance pollination of your fruit and vegetable crops too. If you’d like to know more about which plants the rusty patch bumble bee really likes, here’s a very detailed resource: Plants Favored By Rusty Patched Bumble Bee
Fruit trees typically bloom early in the spring, which is a critical time for foraging bumblebee queens. Try to ensure that your new plants have not been treated with neonicotinoids or other systemic pesticides. Avoid invasive non-native plants and remove them if they invade your yard.
Because most queens overwinter in small holes on or just below the ground’s surface, avoid raking, tilling or mowing your yard until April or May. If you do need to mow, do so with the mower blade set at the highest safe level.
Many native bumblebees build their nests in undisturbed soil, abandoned rodent burrows, or clumps of grass. Preserve un-mown, brushy areas and do not destroy bumblebee nests when you find them. Reduce soil tilling and mowing where bumblebees might nest.
Avoid all pesticide use. In particular, steer clear of systemic pesticides such as neonicotinoids, which are taken up by the vascular systems of plants. This means bees and other pollinators are exposed to the poison long after a product has been applied when they feed on the plant’s nectar and pollen.
When purchasing plants, ask your garden supplier to ensure that they have not been treated with neonicotinoids or other systemic pesticides.
Instead of using pesticides, use a “companion planting” system to discourage pests from making an all-you-can-eat buffet of your garden. For more on sustainable pest management, please see this guide from Xerces Society.
For more information on companion planting for natural pest control, here’s an in-depth guide: The Organic Gardener’s Handbook of Natural Pest and Disease Control: A Complete Guide to Maintaining a Healthy Garden and Yard the Earth-Friendly Way.
Report the bees you see in your yard or community to Bumble Bee Watch, a citizen-science project sponsored by the Xerces Society and five North American partners.
Build nests for native bees. They are easy to make – instructions can be found here.
For more information on how to manage, restore, or enhance your property for the rusty patched bumble bee, please refer to this guide from FWS.
Create a “bee highway.” Several years ago, people in Oslo, Norway, created a route through the city with enough feeding stations for bumblebees. Organizers asked the public and local business owners to plant bee-friendly plants on their property, rooftops, and businesses along a route from east to west through the city. If you’d like to learn more about how to create a bee highway in your community, please read First Bee Highway Set Up in Oslo.
Here’s how to protect bee habitats during the fall and winter months: Put Down Those Pruners: Pollinators Need Your ‘Garden Garbage!’
This information has been made available by Ready Nutrition
To Bee or Not to Bee, death for life!
Lynna “A Preppers Path ” Audio player below!
Ahhh ….. the amazing honey bee, the giver of an elixir, sweet and golden used by mankind for eons. Have you really ever wondered much about the honey bee? Sure we have heard stories in the recent years about the honey bee and it’s battle with death or extinction but do you know that these bees live with a death sentence?
The keeping of bees has many benefits outside of just the delicious honey that they give. When we are talking about the condition of the earth itself, we all should have bees. Why would you not want to have bees on your property? They are being massacred by the world that we have since created. …
The post How to Beekeeping for Beginners: Langstroth Vs. Top-Bar Hives appeared first on SHTF Prepping & Homesteading Central.
One of my favorite uses for honey is as a face cleanser. It leaves my skin feeling baby-soft, and my only complaint is that it almost always gets in my hair, no matter what. We always have at least 1 or 2 large containers of honey in the house, not only for beauty routines, but […]
Have you ever come across a bee swarm? It can be scary, exciting, and overwhelming. What do you do?
All of us at The Grow Network do various kinds of homesteading. Nikki, our Director of Customer Success, is … among other things … a beekeeper. A few weeks ago, she shared with us that the bees from one of her hives had swarmed.
Nikki said, “We have 2 hives in the yard, and one decided it was going to swarm to the top of our sycamore tree in the backyard today.”
With the height of her tree and the size of the ladder, it was going to be quite an ordeal reaching them.
She decided to sacrifice her 13 year old, and sent him up the tree. She jokingly said, “I am officially okay with being shorter than my kids now!”
Her son had to rig the ladder with a tie down strap in the truck.
He used his body weight to hold the ladder straight. There wasn’t a branch to rest it on. Her other son took the cutters and took down the branches. They worked together on two separate branches.
There were so many bees that their weight broke one branch just before her son had a chance to fully cut through. This sent thousands of bees raining down on top of her.
“This hive has the potential to give us more than 100 pounds of honey this year, so we definitely didn’t want to see the bees relocate. Now, they are safe and sound in a new hive. We are re-queening the other two hives we have, and hoping to have 3 healthy and hard-working hives,” Nikki said.
It sounds like everyone is trying to settle down from the experience.
Nikki said she wishes she had seen Jacqueline Freeman’s presentation at the Home Grown Food Summit before she had a swarm of bees on her hands, but all worked out well.
What? You haven’t seen Jacqueline’s Home Grown Food Summit Presentation, “Gentle Ways to Collect Bee Swarms.” She is so gentle with these little buzzing sweeties. You can still get in on this goodness, click here.
Why bees swarm
According to Jacqueline, it’s very natural for bees to swarm. Bees swarm because there is no more room for them. Their home is full of honey, pollen, and brood (baby bees).
The good thing is that healthy and successful colonies create more healthy Queens and new colonies, so it’s a good thing for a hive to swarm.
Before they swarm, the Queen is slimmed down. All of the bees have a feast and fill their bellies with honey. Two-thirds of the colony will suddenly fly into the air. One-third stays in the original hive and re-queen. Bees will only leave the hive if there are new queen cells in the hive.
The other reason that bees swarm is so the queen can increase her fertility, and sunlight does that for her.
When do bees swarm
Jacqueline says that a swarm is a big, bunch of chaos that typically takes flight in mid-spring, around mid-day. There needs to be a lot of pollen available. It also needs to be warm and windless. When they first leave the hive, they fly into the sky in a big, buzzing, whirling cloud of bees. Jacqueline’s amazed that they don’t bump into each other. The queen is hidden in the swarm, so she is well-protected.
Eventually, the bees land on some object, a branch, fence post, vine, or anything that looks like a good spot. The Queen directs the bees to gather and form a tight cluster on the object. Jacqueline says it’s about the size of a football that is clasped to the branch. This is their resting spot for a few hours to a few days. Then, the scout bees roam around trying to find a suitable place to live.
Typically, bees that swarm are very gentle, according to Jacqueline. She said, in the hundreds of bee swarms that she has captured, she’s only been stung four times, and they were all her fault. A bee swarm is not likely to sting you.
How to catch a bee swarm
There is only one way to catch a bee swarm, according to Jacqueline…gently!
Here’s how she does it:
- First, take a deep breath and calm yourself. Be respectful. Let the bee swarm know what you are going to do, and how you’ll do it.
- Hold a catching box underneath the swarm.
- Give the branch a good shake. The swarm will regather in the box. Put the lid on and leave an opening, so bees can get in.
- Let the swarm rest for 10 to 30 minutes so as many bees as possible get in the box.
How to transfer a bee swarm to a new home
When you’re ready to transfer the bees, have your hive ready. Remove a couple of the frames to give you room. Hold the box over the new hive. Give the box a good shake so the swarm goes into their new home. Jacqueline shows you exactly how to do it in her video. Get access to it here.
More from Jacqueline Freeman:
So, you have planted your garden and are looking forward to eating all that fresh produce. Did you know that you can make your garden even more productive by planting flowers? That’s right, flowers. Attracting pollinators to your garden can impact how well your plants produce.
Different Categories of Plants
Garden crops fall into four different categories for pollination, according to the University of Georgia Cooperative Extension. For the purposes of this article, we will discuss three.
The first group is self-pollinating, and they don’t need insects or wind for pollination. Beans, peas and tomatoes are in this category.
The second group needs pollination from an unrelated plant. Radishes and cabbages are the only vegetables in this category, but because we eat the root part of the radish you still can get a good crop without pollination.
The 17 Vegetables
The third and largest group is vegetables requiring cross-pollination. Cross-pollination is accomplished through windblown pollen in beets, carrots, celery, corn, onions, spinach and Swiss chard. But a large list of vegetables usually require pollination by insects. These 17 vegetables are: broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, collards, cucumbers, eggplant, kale, lettuce, muskmelon, mustard, okra, parsley, peppers, pumpkins, rutabaga, squash and watermelon.
Bees are one of the best pollinators, but butterflies and hummingbirds can also help with pollination.
How to Attract Pollinators
So how do you get more bees, butterflies and hummingbirds into your garden? Make it a pollinator-friendly place by implementing some or all the following ideas.
1. Find space in your garden for nectar and pollen-rich plants that will attract bees and butterflies. Mint is great for attracting bees. Mint spreads quite a bit, so you want to have a space where it can grow and fill in without crowding out other plants, or take some steps to contain it, like planting mint in a pot in the ground to help keep the roots from spreading.
Other herbs, such as chives, thyme, marjoram, sage, lavender and Echinacea, also attract bees and butterflies. Planting an herb garden, or planting herbs interspersed with your vegetables, will bring bees and butterflies to the garden. Pineapple sage is another great flower to attract birds, bees and hummingbirds. In warm climates, where pineapple sage grows year-round, it can get to be six feet high. A hedge of pineapple sage is constantly filled with hummingbirds and butterflies when the red, trumpet-shaped flowers are blooming. In colder climates, you can still grow pineapple sage, but it behaves like an annual instead of a perennial so it won’t get as big.
Bees, of course, also love flowers. Wildflower mixes contain a variety of bright-colored flowers that will attract bees. If you are wanting a more cultivated look in your yard or garden, try some of the following flowers: Cosmos, calendula, bee balm, sunflowers, rose mallow and cornflowers. It doesn’t take much space to plant flowers and herbs that will attract bees and butterflies to your yard or garden. You can plant something as small as a container with a few flowers, or a large field covered with flowers and herbs, or anything in between.
2. Add water. Butterflies and bees all need water. Consider adding a birdbath or installing a water garden or catch basin to provide water. Hummingbird feeders will attract hummingbirds, who also can help with pollination, and you will find that bees and butterflies also use the feeders when the hummingbirds let them.
3. Provide shelter.You can purchase or build man-made bee boxes or homes, or you can allow natural spaces where bees can create nests, such as an old tree, allowing part of your yard to grow wild to provide shelter for ground bees, or leave a decomposing log in a sunny place.
4. Watch the pesticides … and go organic. Pesticides not only kill harmful pests, but they also kill beneficial insects. By using organic methods, you can control pests and diseases by working with nature. Using organic methods also helps protect the pollinators.
Attract more pollinators to your garden this year, and see how much better your garden grows.
How do you attract pollinators to your garden? Share your thoughts in the section below:
The Farm, House and Garden Photo Update One Year Later. It’s hard to believe that it has been one year since we broke ground on building our Simple House at the farm! And in those 365 days that have passed
The post The Farm, House and Garden Photo Update – One Year After Breaking Ground! appeared first on Old World Garden Farms.
Sunflower petal hand balm is delightful. After the long winter months, your skin may be craving additional moisture. This wonderfully fragrant ointment can be used to heal and soothe the skin, taking full advantage of the herbal and medicinal properties of the ingredients. Usually, people create lip balms, which are used to provide a protective layer on […]
Our two honeybee hives at the farm provide us with so much more than just incredible honey. They also help to pollinate many of the fruit trees, vegetable crops and flowers in our garden and landscape. In addition, they are simply
The post The Struggle To Keep Our Bees. What Is Really Happening To Honeybee Hives? appeared first on Old World Garden Farms.
7 Simple Ways To Help Honey Bees Did you know that you cold help save the bees in your own back garden? I found 7 Simple Ways To Help Honey Bees. I have been thinking about our poor bees for a while and I went hunting the internet to see if I could do anything to …
38 Free DIY Bee Hive Plans & Ideas That Will Inspire You to Become a Beekeeper A lot of us pay a premium for high-quality raw honey. Not only is local honey tasty, it has plenty of health benefits. Now, just imagine if you had your own honey producing hive. Not only would you have …
The post 38 Free DIY Bee Hive Plans & Ideas That Will Inspire You to Become a Beekeeper appeared first on SHTF & Prepping Central.
Using Honey as a Topical Antibiotic: The Honey Bandage Honey is one of the more versatile foods you can store. You know it tastes good on toast and in your tea, but did you know honey also has healing properties? Honey is an ancient remedy for the treatment of infected wounds, which has recently been …
The post Using Honey as a Topical Antibiotic: The Honey Bandage appeared first on SHTF & Prepping Central.
The Survivalist’s Guide to Raising Honey Bees
Raising honey bees is a great way to produce your own food and make a little money. It’s also just a fun hobby! Learn more about beekeeping in the article below.
How to Raise Honey Bees
Raising honey bees can be a fun and rewarding pastime that provides you with all the fresh honey you can eat. Maintaining just one hive can even provide you with a side source of income, but many people are intimidated by the prospect of keeping a few thousand bees in their yard.
However, honey bees are surprisingly docile, and modern beekeeping methods make the process extremely non-invasive and bee friendly. To help you decide, let’s weigh the pros and cons.
Raising Honey Bees: The Pros
- Honey is probably the obvious answer. Who wouldn’t love their own fresh batch of honey to use in recipes. A single bee can produce 1/12 teaspoon of honey in her lifetime (about 6 weeks), and with a colony consisting of thousands of bees, that can add up quickly.
- Wax is another popular product of bees. Bees convert their food and make it into the wax comb. Wax is used in many ways, including candles and cosmetics. Many creams and lipsticks contain beeswax.
- Pollination is a key component of bee life. If you want healthy plants, bees can help. According to the United States Department of Agriculture, bee pollination is responsible for $15 billion in added crop value, particularly for specialty crops such as almonds and other nuts, berries, fruits, and vegetables. About one mouthful in three in the diet directly or indirectly benefits from honey bee pollination.
- Diligent workers. There’s a reason we say “busy as a bee.” Bees are constant workers. The nice thing is that it doesn’t take a lot of work on your part to raise bees. Once you get past the initial startup costs, you now have a free labor force that will produce honey and wax that you can later sell. Bees are independent, so there is not a lot of time commitment on your part. Plan for about a half hour each week and for honey collecting twice a year. As long as you are collecting when you should be, not over or under doing it, than you will have a happy relationship with your little honey-makers for years to come.
Raising Honey Bees: The Cons
- Stings can happen with honey bees. Check with your doctor first to determine if you are one of the unlucky people who are allergic to bee stings. Even if you are not allergic, stings can still be slightly painful. Luckily, though, most beekeepers develop immunity to the poison over time.
- Cost of supplies. The initial cost of beekeeping is relatively cheap. You will, however, need to invest in supplies such as a hive, proper clothing, a smoker, extracting equipment, and hive supplies. As of this writing, a single new hive may cost about $110, clothing and gear may cost about $160, and a package of new bees may run $75 to $100. Often you can find starter kits with bees, boxes, and gear for a better combined price.
- The first year can be a tough one. On top of learning the ins and outs of beekeeping, you may not get a large amount of honey. Learn to be patient with yourself and your bees.
Raising Honey Bees: The Process
Let’s talk about the process in more detail. I’ll go over these important steps on how you can be a successful beekeeper:
- How to get started
- Different methods of getting bees
- How to place the bees in their new home
- How to work your bees
Let’s get started!
How to Get Started
Buy a home for your bees.
While honey bees can create hives in all sorts of spaces, most naturally occurring hives don’t respond well to having honey harvested from them. Store-bought hives are designed to allow you to collect the honey with minimal effect on the honey bees.
Langstroth Hives are the most commonly used in the beekeeping industry because they provide movable frames that won’t interfere with the bees inside when removed.
Langstroth Hives will not stick together because they were designed to provide passage for the bees in the gaps between the movable pieces.
- A Langstroth bee hive. (Image via)
Top Bar Hives are designed to be more shallow and sit higher for people who have trouble bending over and may be a good choice for people with back issues.
- A Langstroth bee hive. (Image via)
Top Bar Hives are designed to be more shallow and sit higher for people who have trouble bending over and may be a good choice for people with back issues.
- A Warre hive. (Image via)
Find a place for the hive.
You can keep one colony in most typical-sized housing lots. While many people think that means their backyard may be big enough to house a hive of honey bees, there are some other things you will need to consider before placing your hive.
- Find out if there are any zoning requirements for keeping a bee colony in your local area.
- Make sure no one in your family has a bee allergy.
- Let your neighbors know about your hive to see what concerns they may have about their families or health.
Make or purchase a hive stand.
- (Image via)
You will want to keep your honey bee hive off of the ground to make it easier to access and prevent the wood from rotting. A good hive stand will stand about eighteen inches off the ground to protect the hives from wild animals as well.
- A typical hive stand is made of treated 2×4 pieces of lumber laid across stacked cement or concrete blocks.
- Consider putting down mulch, gravel, or stones under your hive stands to limit the mud you will have to deal with.
Purchase protective gear.
Honey bees are not the most aggressive species of bee, but their sting can still be quite painful. You will need to purchase honey bee keeping protective equipment to prevent them from stinging you as you check on them and harvest the honey.
- A simple hat and veil is often enough protection for most beekeeping activities.
- A light jacket offers additional protection and is often enough for regular beekeeping needs.
- A full suit with gloves is advised for times when the weather is rather windy or the bees seem aggressive.
Get a smoker.
A smoker is a cylinder with bellows attached that houses a slow burning fire. As the fire burns, you squeeze the bellows so smoke comes out the nozzle. This smoke is an excellent way to calm bees down as you work around their hive.
- Burning pine needles, old burlap, wood, or purchased smoker fuel are all effective methods of calming bees down.
- Smoke tricks bees into thinking they need to escape a fire and interferes with the pheromones they use to communicate within the hive.
Different Methods of Getting Bees
Catch a wild spring swarm.
A wild spring swarm is a cluster of bees that have left their hive. You can usually find them temporarily hanging from a tree or bush during the springtime. During that time of year, the swarms will be relatively docile while they prepare to establish a new hive. This is the least expensive, but most dangerous method.
- With beekeeping gear on, you can gather the bees and their queen into an empty hive.
- Place a box below the branch of a tree or bush the bees are currently swarming on. You may be able to shake the branch, causing the majority of the bees to fall in the box but this could anger the bees. Instead, simply cut the branch they are swarming on off the tree and place it in the box for transport.
- This method is not recommended without support from an experienced beekeeper.
Purchase an established hive locally.
You may be able to purchase an established hive from a local beekeeper. This can be the easiest way to get started as well as a great way to provide you with a contact that has beekeeping experience.
- These hives usually only cost between $50 and $100.
- Make sure the hive you purchase has been formally inspected by an apiarist or the state department of agriculture. Either test is free to have conducted and can prevent you from having to destroy colonies with communicable diseases.
Order bees by mail.
The easiest and most common way to make sure you can establish a hive of healthy honey bees is to order your bees through the mail. The U.S. Postal Service will actually deliver your bees right to your door. A beginner order would usually cost about $30 and entail the following.
- A 3-pound box with 10,000 worker honey bees
- One mated queen that is ready to start laying eggs
- Sugar water to feed the colony during shipment
How to Place Bees in Their New Home
It’s surprisingly easy and safe to transfer your bees from the package they came into their new hive that you purchased for them. This process is detailed in instructions that often come with the bees as well.
- Simply place the separately caged queen into the empty hive
- Pour the bees out of the box onto the queen
- The bees do not currently have a hive to defend and will be disoriented so there is very little risk of being stung during this process.
- These colonies will take the first year to build up the number of bees inside and will not yield honey until the second year you have the hive.
How to Work with Your Bees
Start with a friend who has experience.
It’s important that you learn the proper way to behave around a beehive from someone with experience. An experienced beekeeper can provide you with wisdom and guidance that may be difficult to find online.
- A seasoned beekeeper’s poise will show you how to remain calm if you get nervous around the hive.
- Having support can make the situation less frightening until you are accustomed to working with bees.
Check on your bees.
You will need to check on the status of your hives more often than you will be harvesting honey. When checking on your hive, simply wearing a hat with a veil is often considered enough protection, but you may also choose to wear a jacket.
- Visit the bees on a sunny day when flowers are in bloom so the majority of the bees will be out and working.
- Wash any clothing bees may have stung previously when visiting, the residual pheromones could incite another attack.
- Use a smoker to fill the hive with smoke and keep the bees docile when opening it to inspect.
Inspect their honey-making progress.
Once you have approached the hive, you’ll need to open it and remove some of the interior framing to check on your bees progress in developing the hive and making honey. Remember to liberally use your smoker throughout this process to pacify the remaining bees.
- Use your hive tool (a small crowbar) to pry up the corner of one of the interior frame walls, then slide it up slowly.
- In different frames you slide out you will find honey or even frames filled with the queen’s larvae.
- Frames that are capped in beeswax are full of honey and ready to be harvested.
Harvest your honey.
It’s finally time to reap the reward of beekeeping, a harvest of fresh honey! You may choose to wear your full beekeeping suit to protect yourself during this process, though if you’re careful, it may not be necessary.
- You can purchase a “bee escape” which is a bee trap that allows the bees to enter a container but not leave. As you smoke the hive, most bees will enter the bee escape, allowing you to harvest the honey safely with most bees temporarily displaced.
- Use a pocket knife or small blade to cut the honey combs out of the frames. The beeswax honey making up the hexagons is also edible.
- A centrifuge specially designed to separate the honey from the honeycombs can also be purchased at specialty stores if you would prefer only the pure honey.
Treat bee stings.
It’s inevitable that you will get stung at some point while working with bees. Most experienced beekeepers have been stung many times, but eventually learn to avoid most situations that may result in getting stung. If you are stung, treating a bee sting is fairly easy:
- Remove the stinger as quickly as you can and wash the area with soap and water.
- Apply a cold compress and keep an eye out for signs of an allergic reaction.
- If signs of a moderate allergic reaction arise, take an antihistamine and apply a cortisone cream to the site of the sting.
- If a more severe reaction seems evident, use an epinephrine pen if available and seek medical treatment immediately.
If you have had success raising honey bees, we would love to hear from you! Tell us your story in the comment section below.
Saving our forefathers ways starts with people like you and me actually relearning these skills and putting them to use to live better lives through good times and bad. Our answers on these lost skills comes straight from the source, from old forgotten classic books written by past generations, and from first hand witness accounts from the past few hundred years. Aside from a precious few who have gone out of their way to learn basic survival skills, most of us today would be utterly hopeless if we were plopped in the middle of a forest or jungle and suddenly forced to fend for ourselves using only the resources around us. To our ancient ancestors, we’d appear as helpless as babies. In short, our forefathers lived more simply than most people today are willing to live and that is why they survived with no grocery store, no cheap oil, no cars, no electricity, and no running water. Just like our forefathers used to do, The Lost Ways Book teaches you how you can survive in the worst-case scenario with the minimum resources available. It comes as a step-by-step guide accompanied by pictures and teaches you how to use basic ingredients to make super-food for your loved ones. Watch the video HERE .
Source : survivallife.com
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When you think of attracting a super-pollinating machine to your backyard garden, you probably don’t instantly think of the mason bee. Most people think of the honeybee instead. But there is good reason for making your property attractive to the mason bee.
For starters, they are much better pollinators than the honeybee. For example, an orchard can be pollinated by only 250 mason bees – compared to needing 50,000 honeybees. And, because mason bees have a limited range of only about 300 feet, they are ideal for backyard gardens.
Mason bees, in fact, are about 200 times more efficient in pollinating than honeybees.
So, What Is a Mason Bee?
The mason bee is a solitary bee that is slightly smaller than the honeybee, and it commonly has a blue-black sheen that can make it mistakable for a housefly. There are 140 species of this insect which are native to North America, as well as about 70 species native to Europe and Asia.
Also called orchard bees, mud bees or twig bees, these insects do not build their own nests but rather search out narrow tunnels left behind by wood boring insects in the bark of trees or hollow stems in which they can lay their eggs. They then seal the eggs inside the hole with mud. They also can live in homemade mason bee houses (which will be discussed in a moment).
Although they do not live in colonies like honeybees do, mason bees do like to make their nests in clusters. And while they do have the ability to sting like any other bee, the absence of a queen to protect makes them a gentle and non-aggressive insect.
The Secret of Their (Pollinating) Success
So perhaps you are wondering what makes the humble mason bee such a powerhouse when it comes to pollinating. The answer lies in its lack of precision.
When a honeybee visits blossoms, it does so in a very methodical way, going from one flower to the next. It is so precise in filling up its pollen sacks that very little if any pollen comes into contact with the sides of the flower. By some estimates, a single honeybee will only pollinate about 5 percent of the blooms it comes in contact with.
By contrast, mason bees tend to be much messier in collecting their pollen. They do not have pollen sacks but rather, they make use of special hairs on their abdomen called scopa. These insects crawl over ever part of the flower, dropping quite a bit of pollen in the process. Their flight patterns are also more erratic. Instead of moving from one blossom to the next in an organized fashion, they will zigzag back and forth from tree to tree, meaning a much better chance for cross pollination. An individual mason bee can visit as many as 2,400 blossoms in a single day and pollinate 90 percent of them!
How to Attract Mason Bees
Although there are companies that sell mason bee cocoons, attracting these insects to your property is fairly simple.
Check out the tips below to get started:
- Have a place for them to nest. Since mason bees do not build their own nests, they need to be provided with tunnels. This can be done by leaving dead trees standing or by creating your own mason bee house. The simplest way to make your bee house is to take a block of untreated wood and drill a series of one-fourth-inch holes, but you can also use several small rolls of cardboard or paper as well, which will allow you to harvest the cocoons at the end of the season. Place the house in an area that gets morning sun.
- Provide them with clay. Mason bees make mud walls in their nests, but typical garden soil has very little clay and too much organic matter for them to use. If you don’t have an area on your property with access to moist clay soil, you can provide “mud pies” for mason bees looking to move in. In fact, making mud pies with your children is a great lead-in to teach them about these gentle bees.
- Give them water. Having easily accessible water helps mason bees to lay more eggs. A shallow dish of water filled with a few rocks (for the bees to land) placed outside is all that that is needed. Eggs are laid in early spring, so if you do it then you won’t have to be concerned about mosquitoes.
- Give them food. Mason bees require pollen, so it’s important to make sure that you have enough pollen-producing plants on your property — plenty of flowers, blossoming fruits and vegetable plants.
- Give them protection. If you have decided to build a bee house and are successful in attracting mason bees, the holes in your bee house will become plugged up by mud. Young bees will hibernate through the winter but will be very vulnerable to predators such as woodpeckers, squirrels and ants. By late fall, you should gently move the bee house into an unheated garage or shed. If you have a style of house that can be cleaned, then gently harvest the cocoons and get rid of any mites. Harvested bees can be kept in a Ziploc bag in an unheated area until it is time for them to be released (in early spring when blossoms are about 25 percent out).
- Don’t poison them! If you are trying to attract mason bees, don’t use pesticides!
Keeping mason bees can provide incredible benefits for your yard and garden. Why not give it a try this season?
Do you have experience with mason bees? Share your advice in the section below:
10 Easy Ways To Help Honey Bees Did you know that you cold help save the bees in your own back garden? I found 10 easy ways to help the honey bees. Nearly all colonies in the wild have died out and without beekeepers to care for them, honey bees could disappear in a few years. …
But one area that is often overlooked is bees. As a growing number of homesteaders and off-gridders are discovering, honeybees are a great way not only to grow your own all-natural sweetener, but also to deliver another steady source of income.
Beekeeping is this week’s subject on Off The Grid Radio, as we talk to beekeeper and homesteader Derek Abello, who runs a prominent bee removal and relocation service in Arizona and who is an expert on getting started in beekeeping.
Abello tells us:
- Why homesteaders and off-gridders should consider beekeeping.
- How beekeeping can provide extra cash beyond simply the selling of honey.
- Why beekeeping is far easier than most people realize.
- Which equipment is needed – and not needed – to get started.
- How bees can be obtained for free, saving you lots of money.
Finally, Abello tells us how bees helped him and his family get off processed sugar. He also shares advice for those homesteaders who might be squeamish about working around bees.
If you are looking to live a healthier life and wanting to make some extra cash, then this week’s show is for you!
More than 40 percent of America’s bee colonies died off in the past year, the second highest percentage loss in the 10 years the survey has been conducted.
Beekeepers reported losing 28.1 percent of their colonies during the summer of 2015 and 44.1 percent of their colonies between April 2015 and March 2016. A total of 59 percent of the beekeepers reported that their winter colony loss rates were more than 16.9 percent – the number considered acceptable.
The data is significant because the previous year’s data showed an improvement.
The survey was conducted in a joint effort between Bee Informed Partnership, the Apiary Inspectors of America and the United States Department of Agriculture.
The group Friends of the Earth said the losses “are considered too high to be sustainable for U.S. agriculture and the beekeeping industry.”
“These honeybee losses reinforce what sciences continues to tell us; we must take immediate action to restrict pesticides contributing to bee declines,” said Tiffany Finck-Haynes of Friends of the Earth. “The longer we wait, the worse the situation becomes. If we do not suspend neonicotinoid pesticides immediately, we risk losing our beekeepers and harming important ecosystem functions upon which our food supply depends.”
Dead Tree, Live Bees
The tree had been cut down and only when it hit the ground did the chain saw guy realize a hive of bees was living in a hollow section about 25 feet up. They called me and I went up to see if we could save them.
With a front end loader, we got the trunk into the back of our pickup. When we got home, we used another front end loader to position the trunk in place against a 5 foot concrete pole which was set deep in the ground. We braced it with two ratcheting cables around the bottom half. Joseph made a “hat” that kept the weather out.
Because they’d lost their entire store of honey (that part smashed when the tree hit the ground), I fed them back pretty much most of the honey I had from my other hives. That’s why I’m a honey hoarder. When something like this happens, I have enough honey to carry them through to spring.
The hive did really well for a year, but last summer during the drought, the alder started to split and I didn’t think it would make it through another winter.
Found a lost bee? Read this: How to Rescue a Honeybee
Moving the Tree Hive
Anticipating moving it, I put a two box Warre hive on top, and by fall most of the hive had moved up into it for winter. I really didn’t want to move it at all, but the splits in the sides were getting wider and compromising the hive, so finally in September Joseph and our friend Tel chainsawed off the upper few feet. Then, with the Warre on top, we moved it under cover about 15 feet away. Traumatic as the move was to me, the bees took it really well.
I was still concerned about the integrity of the trunk, so I decided to put 3 Lang boxes around the base, just in case. The trunk sits snugly inside it and if any splits get bigger, the frame will hold the base together. Because the hive directly faces the wind, I nailed a cross-brace behind it so the wind couldn’t push it that way. Then we tied the whole thing securely to the base of the structure.
Now when the wind blows, I feel a LOT better knowing everyone is safe. If you haven’t done this to your hives, go ahead. It will prevent problems later.
How To Make A DIY Beehive In A Jar There are so many benefits to beekeeping: honey, beeswax, royal jelly and the knowledge that you are helping the bee population survive. It is a fun and rewarding hobby or occupation; more and more people are raising bees in suburban areas than ever. I mean, how …
All Alone, Far From Home
A single honeybee alone cannot survive without its hive. If a foraging bee gets lost or trapped during its travel and is stuck somewhere overnight, most likely she will be dead by morning. I believe they die of loneliness. Here’s a simple method I found to rescue a honeybee.
Sometimes after dark I’ll find a bee in the house but since she can’t fly at night without the sun to help her navigate home, I can’t release her outside or she’ll simply be lost. Also we have multiple hives here so I can’t even deliver her to the correct hive to mingle back in because I don’t know which is her home. Alas, what to do?
Attempting to Rescue a Honeybee
I tried putting out a dish with a dab of honey on it then putting a jar upside down over the dish. That kept her confined so I could find her in the morning but I noticed she often spent her time buzzing against the glass trying to get out. When I thought of what her natural environment normally is at night, I came up with something different.
I put a few long chunks of empty comb and a smidge of propolis inside a pint glass canning jar. I pressed the edges of the wax so it adhered to the sides, leaving room between the combs so it appeared similar to the inside of a hive. Using a toothpick, I filled just one cell with honey near the top and put a single tiny drop of water in another cell. Really only a pinhead sized drop, enough for one bee. Using my finger I placed the bee inside the jar and let her walk onto the comb, then I screwed the top on (air-holes poked in it) and put her in a darkened room. Even better if I find two or three bees – they all have a friendly sleepover in the comb jar.
Don’t Forget to Free the Bee
This is a key point! I write myself a note, reminding me in the morning that my little lost bees are in the parlor. I write the note because I have twice woken up and gone about my day, not remembering the bee jar until later. By then their time apart from the colony was too long and the bees had died. Now I tape the note on the bathroom mirror or the kitchen table.
After the sun’s up I peek at the sleepover bees in the jar and nearly always they are just fine. Once they start moving around, I walk up the path to the hives and open the jar. They head immediately home.
Forager bees are used to being on comb for the evening. Knowing they were stressed about not making it home before dark, I wanted to recreate as much as possible a hive-ish place to give them a sense of familiarity about where they are, with known scents of wax comb, fragrant propolis, sweet honey and water.
Why Rescue a Honeybee?
Does it matter that one little bee makes it through the night?
I believe it does. Being kind to one bee, when it likely won’t make much difference to the hive or even the bee community, is a good thing for us humans to do. Maybe the world won’t change because I saved a bee. But too often the callousness of my inattention denies me the opportunity to develop benevolence. No being is inconsequential; every life matters.
When we treat all beings as deserving of our consideration, even a little bee can assist us in our task of becoming more gentle, more thoughtful, more human.
Have you been thinking about employing some bees but are still sitting on the fence? Raising bees is a wonderful and practical hobby that has many benefits.
Here are my top five reasons why I can’t wait to raise bees — and a few tips on getting started.
Raw and local honey offers a plethora of health benefits. Honey is known as the oldest sweetener on the planet and here is another amazing fact: It never spoils. What better way to enjoy all it has to offer then to raise your own bees. Also known as liquid gold, honey contains a treasure trove of healing properties. Because of its anti-inflammatory and antibacterial nature, honey is a wonderful remedy for minor burns and wounds. Honey is also a tasty alternative to refined sugar, loaded with antioxidants, mineral and vitamins. If you suffer from seasonal allergies, raw and local honey provides great relief.
Bees are instrumental in the process of pollination. In fact, this is by far their most important job. Without it, flowers, fruit trees and crops would not grow, and our food supply would dwindle.
It is estimated that cross-pollination from bees is instrumental in the growth of 30 percent of the world’s food crops and 90 percent of wild plants.
This free byproduct of hives offers amazing therapeutic value. Bees have to fly a total of 150,000 miles to produce one pound of wax, and eat about six pounds of honey to secrete the wax. Keep in mind that for every 100 pounds of honey a beekeeper harvests, only one to two pounds of beeswax are produced.
Beeswax is antibacterial, antiviral and anti-inflammatory, making it a near-perfect addition to creams, salves and balms. The great things about beeswax is that it is incredibly easy to turn into your own products. I love to melt beeswax and mix it with sweet almond oil, vitamin E oil and my favorite essential oils to make a moisturizing cream that keeps my skin soft and supple.
4. It is educational and fun
There is nothing quite so engaging as watching nature at work. If you are in the market for a fun hobby, bees are the answer. It is a wonderful opportunity to teach young and old alike about amazing natural feats.
Bees are incredible working machines and they deserve an audience. You even can purchase observation hives, which makes the whole project even more interesting.
Story continues below video
5. It’s environmentally responsible
With the modern-day plight of the bees, it is environmentally responsible to help preserve the honeybee population any way we can. Even putting up one hive can help to establish the honeybee population in your area.
Tips for getting started
- Learn more: Read books and get to know beekeepers in your area. Even take a class.
- Start small: Don’t get burned out with a huge operation. Start small your first year.
- Purchase a kit: This is the easiest way to get all that you need to get started.
- Know the risks: Safety is always first. Be sure you understand all of the potential risks.
- Join a beekeeping club: Search out a beekeeping club in your area and become a member.
There you have it. It’s time to “bee” amazed with this wonderful gift from God!
What beekeeping tips would you add? Share your thoughts in the section below:
We’ve known for years that bee populations all across North America and Europe are collapsing at an alarming rate. Though science has yet to settle on a single cause for the bee deaths, the most likely culprit seems to be some of the pesticides we use on our crops; though it’s just as likely that there are multiple reasons for colony collapse disorder, and most of them are caused by human activity.
Obviously, this is a huge threat to our food supply. One third of all the food we eat comes from plants that are pollinated by insects, and 80% of those crops are pollinated by bees. This has big implications for our meat supply as well, since animal feed like alfalfa is pollinated by bees. If this mass bee die off continues unabated, we’re going to have a serious food crisis on our hands in the near future.
Unfortunately, it isn’t just the bees that are in danger of disappearing. They get the most attention since they’re responsible for the most pollination, but the truth is, there are multiple pollinating species that are dying off all over the world.
The UN recently released a report on the subject, explained that not only bees, but butterflies and pollinating birds are also threatened on every continent. Two in five species of insect pollinators are threatened, as are one in six bird pollinators.
The report attributed several reasons for the population declines of these species, including urban sprawl, diseases, neonicitinoid pesticides, and of course, no UN report is complete unless climate change is blamed for something.
“The report confirms the overwhelming majority of the scientific opinion regarding pollinator health — that this is a complex issue affected by many factors,” said Christian Maus, of Bayer pharmaceuticals in a statement to AP. “Protecting pollinators and providing a growing population with safe, abundant food will require collaboration.” Bayer produces neonicotinoid pesticides.
Research has linked the use of neonicitinoids on certain crops to declining honeybee populations. The report points to agricultural pesticide management as a key area of concern for pollinators.
“Pesticides, particularly insecticides, have been demonstrated to have a broad range of lethal and sub-lethal effects on pollinators in controlled experimental conditions,” said the report.
The report also highlights monoculture agriculture, with wide swaths of farmland supporting a single crop, as another source of woe for pollinators. In England, the government pays farmers to plant wildflowers in their hedgerows, British scientist Robert Watson told AP. In the United States, the newly formed Pollinator Health Task Force is also looking into ways to encourage farmers to diversify plants grown on agricultural lands.
When you really break it down, the most significant threat to these pollinators, is modern agricultural techniques. The only way to prevent this disaster, is to return to traditional farming in at least some capacity. The world may have to look towards organic farming for inspiration. And that’s a big problem, because for all its faults, modern agriculture is able to feed a ton of people.
There’s no denying the fact that organic farming is also capable of producing high yields, but unlike industrial farming, it takes a lot more time and effort before a piece of land is fertile enough to produce a significant abundance of organic food. So regardless of whether or not most of the farmers in this world stay on their current course, or if they move to save these pollinators by switching to more traditional agricultural techniques, the global food supply is probably going tighten in the near future.
Joshua Krause was born and raised in the Bay Area. He is a writer and researcher focused on principles of self-sufficiency and liberty at Ready Nutrition. You can follow Joshua’s work at our Facebook page or on his personal Twitter.
Joshua’s website is Strange Danger
This information has been made available by Ready Nutrition
Its no surprise to most people that bees are dying, and some of the reasons behind it is starting to be better understood. While I am NO expert, and am just starting with my bees, I do know that small hive beetles are a large part of the problem. I bought some hive beetle traps […]
First Winter in the Apiary
Finally got a chance to get into the bee hives before Winter hit. This is the first winter in the Apiary and I am glad I had two hives. The operative word is that I had two hives. This fall the weather was wet and did not offer the opportunity to do many hive inspections.
In general observations I was concerned about one hive as the amount of activity was not as active as I would have liked. This hammers home one of the tips my Bee Teacher made about having two hives. If you only had one it is hard to judge what is normal. Just based on flight activity one hive was not bringing in the amount of pollen the other one was.
We were fortunate to have Aster blooming up until the cold snaps and that allowed the bees to continue harvesting. Based on weight of the hives I believed there was no food issues. I really wanted to get a detailed hive inspection in before we had the first winter in the apiary. It confirmed that one hive was dead.
During the inspection it appeared the cold might have gotten them on one of those cold mornings we had. You can see some capped brood and workers that appear to be cleaning cells. The fact that the queen was there seems to indicate the hive perished. There was no evidence of any pests. I would be concerned about a lack of food as most of the brood frames look like the picture above. The super was full of capped honey.
I decided to close off this hive and put the honey super on the other hive. They were quite active and bothered by the inspection. This being the first winter in the apiary I have one less hive than I wanted, however they have plenty of food.
Looking for a cool gardening project to occupy your idle time this winter? Look no further.
Insect hotels are a great winter project, and they pay big dividends by increasing the likelihood that your garden will be graced by lots of pollinators and beneficial insects next season and for years to come. They also have lots of fringe benefits…
You get to provide a nice, safe, and cozy home for solitary bees and their insect buddies. We hear a lot about honey bees, but there are over 4,000 species of wild, native bees in North America alone. A well-designed hotel is a safe haven for some of your local bees, and it can help them to thrive in your area. In addition to bees, you can build rooms for ladybugs, millipedes, wasps, beetles, spiders… the more the merrier.
With a hotel in or near your garden, you can increase the biodiversity of your garden; and we all know by now that diversity is a key component of healthy soil and healthy ecosystems.
Perhaps the nicest feature of insect hotels is that they provide a great outlet for upcycling materials that would otherwise end up in the landfill. Got an old wooden pallet laying around? Some surplus bricks? A pile of rocks that you’ve gathered from the lawn and garden? Some old fence posts? This is a great way to tidy up your spare bits and pieces, and put them to good use.
Insect Hotel Tips and Pointers
• Put your hotel in a sunny spot. It’s good if you can face it to the south for full exposure – warmth is important for overwintering bugs, and it’s essential for developing larvae. Nobody likes a freezing room – so err on the side of caution and arrange your hotel in the sunniest spot available.
• Bugs need water, just like you do. Incorporate a water source into your hotel, or keep one nearby. A plant saucer, a small cache pot, or anything else that will hold a little water should work just fine.
• Be mindful not to expose your guests to toxic chemicals. Use untreated, natural materials as much as possible. Untreated wood will warp, twist, and break down faster. But if you want to provide a safe home, it’s better to avoid chemicals and just accept that you’ll need to replace some pieces or rebuild altogether every few years or so.
• Be creative! Bamboo and drilled wood are the standards, but there are probably a hundred different materials right outside your door that would work great. In addition to scrap building materials, look for natural elements like pine cones and needles, fallen limbs and twigs, tree bark, straw, etc. If you have trees with thick, waxy leaves that don’t break down well in the compost – like magnolias, live oaks, ligustrums, or hollies – those might make good stuffing for any empty spaces.
I compiled a few videos that show different design ideas. As you’ll see, you can feel free to let your imagination roam, and the sky’s the limit. I think it would be fun to regroup in the spring and see all the different designs everyone has dreamed up. Maybe we can come up with a prize for the best design…
Insect Hotel Videos
A Good Overview, with Instructions for 2 Simple Hotels
This video shows a whole slew of different design ideas, and that’s the part I really liked. The second half of the video walks you through step-by-step instructions to build a two small hanging hotels that look something like bird houses. Nice and neat…
Posh Style for Your Discerning Bugs
These hotels are the highest in modern insect style. For those of you who keep an immaculate landscape, these are something you can do without messing up your view. This style of hotel probably won’t draw any unwanted attention from your H.O.A. or nosy neighbors.
Back when I did lots of landscape design, one of the most common requests I got was for creative screens to block the view of utility boxes, air conditioners, pool pumps, and exposed pipes. I think that a clean looking insect hotel like this one could make a great screen. If you situated this right in front of your utility box, and planted the area with a small, tidy pollinator garden – you could turn that ugly box into a win-win for you and your neighborhood insects.
The Insect Economy Inn
If you’re less concerned with style, but more interested in practical economy – this is for you. Reused materials and quick assembly make this bug hotel all about functionality. I think this style of design would actually draw more insects than some of the fancier designs I’ve seen. I’m not too sure about the planting on top… I might have done that a little differently.
A Rustic Bug Cabin
I really like this one. Reclaimed materials and solid construction, for a natural rustic look. I love how these folks were so creative and used many different materials to make homes for lots of different insects. And other than screws and cinder blocks, they probably didn’t need to spend a dime.
Start looking around at the materials you have available – you might find that you already have everything you need to build a nice insect hotel. Hopefully, this will give you a way to do a productive garden project or two while you wait out the winter.
If we have a lot of interest, we might organize a [Grow] Network Insect Hotel Contest and arrange some prizes for the best designs. Let us know if you’re interested using the comments below!
If you have decided to start keeping bees for honey, you may be surprised to learn about the variety of opinions regarding the best methods for getting started. Bees, of course, have been building hives without any intervention on our part for millennia, but modern hive designs have made the decisions a little more complicated.
With modern hive design, bees make more honey, colonies live longer, and honey is easier to harvest. The equipment is calculated to shape bees’ natural instincts to suit the needs of the beekeeper.
Beekeeping helps the local bee populations thrive by promoting pollination and growth of bee-friendly plants, and colonies will be healthier and better sheltered in their hives than in the wild.
When you are starting out, the main hive designs you will encounter will be the Langstroth hive and the top bar hive. It is possible to find resources claiming that either of these is “best for beginners,” so it can be difficult to make a decision. Each hive design has pros and cons that you should weigh when considering your future apiary.
The Langstroth Hive
The modern standard for beekeeping, the Langstroth hive was developed in 1852 by Philadelphia native Reverend L.L. Langstroth. A bee enthusiast, he noticed that bees given less than three-eighths of an inch of space would not build comb in that space.
He used this information to design a hive with removable frames, called supers, to enable beekeepers to keep parts of the hive separate, and more easily harvest honey.
The Top Bar Hive
Most modern top bar hives consist of a wide box covered with wooden bars measuring about 1¼ inch each. The bottom of the bars may be notched or ridged to give a surface for the start of the honeycomb. Because there are no frames, the bees do not fill the space but instead build free-form. The spacing of the bars is designed so that they can be removed from the hive one bar at a time without disrupting the rest of the hive.
Advantages of Each Hive Design
The Langstroth hive is popular in North America. It is possible to buy apiary start-up kits that will include everything you need, including a hive. When you want to purchase additional equipment, such as queen excluders or supers, it is easy to do so because sizes and shapes are standardized. The Langstroth hive winterizes easily, as it can be insulated and was designed to prevent the invasion of pests. Lastly, collecting honey from the hive is fairly simple: segregate the bees from the super you wish to harvest using smoke or an escape board, remove the super, uncap the comb with a knife, and empty honey from the comb using a centrifugal extractor; combs can be kept intact for many years.
The top bar hive, by contrast, can be constructed at home with materials on hand, making it far less expensive. Although it is more work to begin, the top bar hive allows for a beekeeping style that is less invasive to the bees, which may promote colony health and honey production. For example, it is easy to inspect sections of the hive; when the bees are quiet, simply lift a bar to inspect the comb, and carefully replace. With informed management, honey produced in a top bar hive may be of higher quality; the bees will naturally segregate the queen from the honey production area of the hive, preventing lower quality honey from being produced there. Harvesting the honey does not require any additional equipment: Merely remove the bar, cut the comb, and crush it to extract the honey; you can also produce beeswax as a by-product.
Choosing Your First Beehive
When you want to start beekeeping, meet a local expert. It can be useful to learn from someone well-versed in your climate and local environment. Which bee-friendly plants will grow best for you, which diseases and pests do you need to watch for, and what can you expect through the seasons? Ask them about hives before buying to get a local opinion.
If you want to custom build your hive to your specifications and troubleshoot your own solutions, then top-bar is probably for you. If you want to start producing honey as soon as possible and have greater control over your colony, you’re probably looking at Langstroth hives. Consider your work style and long-term goals, and honey production will become a life-long craft.
Do you have hives? What advice would you add? Share it in the section below:
In bee school, the instructor spends a ton of time talking about how to install a package of bees. Plus, there are plenty of blog posts and YouTube videos showing you how it’s done. I watched several before the big day and they gave me the confidence I needed to successfully install the package.
But several days after the installation when I needed to go into the hive to make sure the queen had gotten out of the queen cage, all that confidence had vanished.
I opened up the hive, saw the bees crawling around inside and realized I really had no idea what I was doing! Like how do I get all the bees off the queen cage so I can see if she’s still inside? Terrified I would do something wrong and 30,000 bees would come after me, I quickly closed up the hive.
I went back to YouTube and watched several more videos. None of them were very helpful until I came across this video on basic bee handling from KeepingBackyardBees.com.
It’s excellent because it shows you exactly how to handle your bees. (Yes, you can reach in and pick up the queen cage and not get stung!) After I watched it, I went back into the hive and got the job done.
Basic Bee Handling 101
For more bee handling tips, download the June/July 2015 issue of From Scratch Magazine (It’s free!) and read my article, The Nervous Beekeeper’s Guide to Handling Honeybees (page 77).
Now, I’d love to hear from you!
Were you nervous the first time you went into your hive? What advice would you give a nervous “newbee” beekeeper?
This article may contain affiliate links. For more information, read the Disclaimers & Disclosures here. Thank you for your support!
Like worms, bees are very handy for a prepper to have some knowledge of. No matter where you live you can have bees if you are resourceful.
Even downtown big city apartment dwellers can have bees. You just need to find a building owner who will let you put some hives on the roof.
Before you tune me out completely notice the title “learn about bees”. I realize bees are not for everyone, but everyone can get to know a bee keeper. And that is your task for day 12.
There are bee keeping clubs everywhere. If you can’t find one just call your county extension agent and they should be able to put you in contact with a local bee keeper.
Go to some club meetings, take a seminar (most clubs put one on every year), and find a keeper who will take you with them once in a while (even if you stand 50 yards away while they work the hives). Work your way into it slowly if you are interested.
So why bees?
Bees are pollinators, they will improve your garden. They also produce this wonderful thing called honey. Honey is and will be a wonderful barter item if there is ever a SHTF situation. There is also the wonderful bees wax that will be good for all sorts of things from candles to herbal salves.
Take some time and learn about these little insects, you won’t bee sorry.
Still clinging to my God and my guns,