Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Catching up, bees, pollinators

I'm back! I'm embarrassed at how long it's been since I posted. I think I've had the infamous blogging blahs. Plus, I spent three glorious weeks in England on family matters. I was there during Easter, the hottest since 1949, and it was so sunny, I had to buy sunscreen!

Once I finally sort them out, I plan to post pix of plants I came across, wild and cultivated, in bloom. (My sister quipped that I had taken photos of everything in England with a leaf!)

But today I want to post a bee update and write about pollinators -- how important it is to protect and nurture them, perhaps by supporting the Pollinator Partnership.

Those who have read earlier posts will remember that I have four beehives, maintained by a professional beekeeper, in my typical suburban garden. Two are doing extremely well, and two are so-so. According to Steve, the beekeeper, those two hives have poor quality queens. (Who knew that queens came in different qualities?!) Something else I've learned is that beehives produce a perfume, and these days the garden has a wonderful scent of honey.

So, last week, the first of the honey was harvested, an activity that upset the bees rather a lot, and forcing Steve and his brother-in-law helper, to don shirts along with the face veils. I got my first sting since I was a small child when a bee got tangled in my hair. I wasn't particularly close, but I wish I'd worn a hat. Still, I feel I've been initiated!

The "supers" were laden, each bearing some 60-pounds of honey. We tasted some scrapings from one of the hives; it had a wonderful mild flavor and I'm eagerly anticipating Steve's return with our "rent" of bulk honey.

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I remain fascinated by my bees, happily sitting next to the hives, watching the bees come and go. (As long as I don't block their flyway I'm ignored.)


From: Queen of the Sun
The other day I saw the beautifully shot documentary Queen of the Sun, about the worldwide decline in honeybees and how returning to wholesome practices may take the stress off colonies.

Trucking hives from the Eastern US (and flying them in from Australia because so many American colonies have died from colony collapse disorder), for a three-week pollination frenzy at Paramount Farms' massive almond groves, is, on so many levels, a travesty against nature. Paramount needs to do this because it operates a monoculture, there's nothing else for bees to survive on for the rest of the year.

Taking out every tenth row and planting native flowering plants would likely solve the problem, but that, it seems, would diminish profits. A quick view of Paramount's home page indicates the bees' problem. (Notice that its sustainability pages says nothing about bees!)


While I was in England I saw so many bumblebees, and I can't remember when I last saw one in South Florida, although there are plenty of native species. How can you not love bumblebees? Even the scientific name, Bombus, is wonderful! And, like honeybees, bumbles are another vital pollinator.

Bumblebees were, and probably still are, in decline in the UK, so the Brits launched a massive campaign to save them. (The website includes North American bumblebees and info on encouraging them to visit your garden.)


The UK campaign to save pollinators extended to mason bees, too. Friends I stayed with in rural Dorset in southern England had built a delightful "house" to encourage them to stay in the vicinity. If you have mason bees, and they're common in North America, you'll find lots of info here.


Ultimately, the survival of the bees depends on what we, as individuals, choose to do to save them: Keep your own bees, plant flowers, write to Paramount Farms and other farming conglomerates practicing monoculture, donate to pollinator awareness campaigns are just a few suggestions.


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NanaK said...

Glad to hear from you again, Penny. Sure sounds like you had a fun trip to England and I will be looking forward to seeing your "every leaf" pictures. The beehive report is quite exciting, especially the honey you will receive for rent. One of the treats I enjoy in my garden is watching the various types of bees (bumbles included) who frequent my flowers.

Terra Mirabilis said...

Thanks, Nana! Perhaps when your grandchildren are a wee bit older, you could put hives in your garden, too. They are an amazing thing for children to grow up around.

Pictures of English leaves will be posted soon. :-)

-- Penny

Meems said...

Hi Penny,
So nice to see you return to blogging... and to Florida. Glad you had a nice getaway to your home country. I look forward to the photos, too. Always enjoy reading about your bees. I guess the honey tastes like whatever the bees are nectaring on? I don't know much about how that works except for the various names of honey indicating different flavors. What flavor does your honey produce? I'm so thankful my little garden has all sorts of bees and bumbles living happily about.

Terra Mirabilis said...

Hi, Meems. Thanks for your comment. Steve brought a five-gallon bucket of our honey last week. That's our "rent!" It's hard not to like any honey, and this is no exception. Now it's a blend of everything made over the last six months and has a stronger flavor to that mentioned in the post.

I should think oak blossom is a major contributor, but, according to steve, not mango, Apparently, S. Fla bees are not particularly fond of it, while they are in Jamaica. Anyway, whatever it is, all the pollen was gathered within three miles of our house, so it's a "garden" honey. Yum!

Terra Mirabilis said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Cydney said...

Great to have you back, I've missed you and your blogs! How are the roses? I'm hopeful some of those "everything with a leaf" pics from the UK are roses!

Terra Mirabilis said...

Hi, Cydney. One of my favorite mental images is of a bee burying herself into a partially opened rose. The bees adore roses.

Sadly, the new growth on Vesuve didn't make it, so I'm looking forward to trying again. I've been checking your website. :-)

-- Penny

David said...

Hi Penny,
I'm so glad you posted this! This is now the second blog to mention bee-keeping as a possible in town practice. My grandfather kept bees out on his farm as did my wife's uncle on his farm. We have so many honeybees here in my yard since I grow a lot of varieties of flowers all year long. I do wonder now where they live. They seem very healthy.
Ah..to have your own honey. What a treat.
Me? I've started raising my own chickens for fresh eggs. I have 6 friendly, happy hens in my garden as well as a chicken coop for them. Maybe I should look into bees as well.
Great post. David/ tropical texana/ :-)

Terra Mirabilis said...

Hey, David. Sorry for the delay in responding. If you get a chance to see Queen of the Sun, you'll want to become an urban beekeeper, too. The simplest way is to "host" hives for a professional. You get all of the benefits and none of the hassles!

Glad to hear you're keeping hens. I was instrumental in getting our municipality to pass an ordinance allowing residents to keep them. I still don't have my coop, so I don't have any hens, yet. Very much looking forward to it, tho.


PJ | Home and Garden Decor said...

Hi Penny,
I was wondering if something was wrong or if you maybe gave up on blogging.
I visited your blog on a regular basis but there was never any new post anymore. The more I'm happy to see you are back and even with this very interesting post about your honeybees. I would love to place a couple beehives in my garden but I also know about the understanding level of my neighbors in such matters.
Best Regards
Paula Jo

Terra Mirabilis said...

Hi, Paula Jo. Thanks so much for your comment. I keep meaning to get more posts written, but I've been so distracted by family matters.

Perhaps your neighbors would be more interested if you promised them lots of honey? I've been dispensing honey to mine and they're thrilled. Also, my bees are about 6' away from, and facing, a fence covered with a tall bougainvillea so their flight path takes them straight up and away, not directly into anyone's garden. But on the whole, the bees are singlularly uninterested in people, even though my neighbors all report seeing more bees around.

Maybe talk to a professional beekeeper to see what s/he says?

-- Penny

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janealvarado83 said...

Hi Terra,

I hope you're having an awesome week! I thought you might like this infographic I helped build about the health, mental, and financial benefits of gardening (http://blog.lochnesswatergardens.com/how-gardening-benefit/).

If you think your readers would like it too, please feel free to use it on the Terra Mirabilis blog. There's code at the bottom of our post that makes it super easy to post on your blog. It's all free (of course). If you have any questions about posting it, let me know and I'll try to help.

I don't know where else to contact you so I just posted a comment here. :)


~ Janey

Terra Mirabilis said...

Thanks, Janey. That's a nice blog, I'll add it to my favorites.

I'm on hiatus (blogging blahs), but plan to pick it up in the New Year. Stay tuned!

-- Penny