In Praise of Bees

If you live in or near Austin, The Tour de Hives will be held this coming Saturday, August 15.  The tour of local bee yards  is in celebration of National Honey Bee Day and also a fundraiser for the Travis County Beekeepers Association, a nonprofit organization committed to promotion of and education about honeybees.  Check out the links for more information. If you live elsewhere, there are activities planned nation-wide–check out your local gardening calendars and/or beekeeping societies for activities and tours.

IMGP1077_cropped_3415x3060..new Honeybees and all other pollinators need us and we need them–our survival depends on their survival.  There are simple things that gardeners/homeowners can do to help declining pollinators, birds, and other wildlife:

–Remove sterile monoculture turf and replace with native perennials, shrubs and trees. You’ll find the gardening work easier, less expensive, more interesting and beautiful.

–Plant with intention, for wildlife and/or pollinators–after all, that’s who plants were invented for.

–If native plants aren’t readily available in local nurseries, choose pollinator plants that are not invasive to wild areas.  Additionally, growing plants from seeds is often easy and rewarding.

–Don’t use pesticides or herbicides–those products are unnecessary and disrupt the  balance that exists in the natural world.  Using native plants and wildlife gardening methods decreases harmful insect and plant disease infestations.

–Do your part to heal the world, one wildlife habitat at a time.

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Honeybees!!

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While honeybees are grand (aren’t my girls just lovely?), a more important group of pollinators are the unappreciated but vital-to-the-survival-of-everything, native bees. There are 20,000 identified native bee species worldwide, 4,000 of which live in North America, and over 300 known species in Texas.   Here are a few of the many which visit my gardens:

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Plant for wildlife, plant for life!

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22 thoughts on “In Praise of Bees

  1. I love that there are so many types of native bees even the experts don’t think they’ve seen or “know” them all.

    After reading some native ground nesting bees prefer unmulched soil, I’m intentionally keeping more bedding areas open (especially where I’m trying to encourage reseeding of native plants), in hopes it will increase their habitat in our area. Open soil that isn’t being chemically treated in some way is a real rarity in our suburb, and in many places folks are using fabric weed barriers in combination with mulch which limits ground nesting options.

    Are your hives on the tour?

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    • Considering how much ground is cemented and chemically altered, it’s a wonder that there are any ground nesters around. A tribute to their resilience and toughness, I suppose. I have a “messy” work area, with bare soil–except when leaves fall. 🙂 I seed things out there and I haven’t looked, but am fairly sure that there are ground nesting bees in that area. Having that kind of “wild” or unkept area, with wood and brambles and bare soil, is one of the suggestions for a wildlife habitat.

      No, my hives are not on tour, but I did visit several bee yards on the tour the summer before we hived (2012?). It was fun, if you’re into that sort of thing. 🙂

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  2. Congratulations on your success story. I came in late on an interview on the radio with a local bee keeper this morning. It must have been in association with the tour. is this the first year? I think many of my bees were killed by the terrible hail we had because I don’t have so many and I certainly provide for them.

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    • I heard that story too–Kut?? I believe this is the third year for the tour. I went two years ago, it was held in June that year. I’m sorry you don’t have as many as usual, there could be many reasons for that. You could hive your own honeybees!! 🙂

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  3. Oh, Tina! I know you are busy but I hope you might include your bees someday. You have the perfect little habitat for them. It would be great if people could see how everything connects. I am so scared this week. The people at Mueller cut ALL the prairie grasses and forbs last week. Acres and acres are all gone. My bees are very suddenly and very truly in danger of starvation. I tried using sugar water but they are ignoring it and I worry that I am going to attract robbers. The situation is dire for all the pollinators and wildlife in the whole area. I keep reminding myself to take deep breaths to calm down.

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    • Firstly, do relax. Aside from the monumentally stupid timing of the Texas Chainsaw Massacre at Mueller, your bees still probably have enough to forage on. My guess (and it’s only a guess) is that if your bees are ignoring the sugar water, they’re getting nectar elsewhere. Keep offering it, as well as water, but you have to trust that they know what they’re doing Attracting robbers is a thing of concern, but there’s only so much you can do about that. Keep the sugar water a distance from your bees.

      I’ve only visited Mueller once or twice, but I remember seeing really bad pruning, or rather, poor choices in plants, where the homes are located. The plants were situated in very narrow spots and then whacked back to prevent them from spilling over onto the walkway. Stupid, just really stupid. The plants were mostly native and well-adapted plants, but way too large for the spots chosen. I took photos and was going to do a *this is the way to NOT plant and prune* post, but never got around to it. Do you know who “maintains” the grounds at Mueller? It’d be interesting to find out. Austin, for all it’s “green” PR, chooses really incompetent landscape crews. Honestly, it’s embarrassing. And, hypocritical.

      You might contact someone at the bee tour today, someone more experienced than I am, and ask about the likelihood of your bees starving. Good luck–let me know.

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      • I do know who is involved and you won’t be surprised to hear I have been in contact with them. hahaha snort. They do a crappy job with the demo gardens and I usually just ignore those areas but it was the acres and acres of prairie areas that they clear cut. And yeah I know all about ‘managing’ prairies with controlled burns and mowing but this was a clear cut. I am calling it animal abuse because they have attracted all kinds of wildlife to the area. By not rotating the cutting the way people rotate crops they have ensured many creatures are going to starve. I mean seriously: where will they disperse to? The neighbouring houses and construction sites? Besides freaking out about the removal of all the bee forage seeing the birds in distress was totally breaking my heart. I know: breathe breathe …. and then call PETA hahahaha

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      • And, City Council member(s). I’d say Parks and Rec, but ugh, so awful. I’m not at all surprised that you’ve already contacted them. 🙂

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  4. It is managed by Catellus so the lovely people at Parks probably don’t have a say. It is awful. Seeing the birds freaking out tore at my heart.

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    • Thanks, Beth. I know you have lots of wildlife and pollinator friendly plants in lovely Wisconsin. I agree that if everyone does their part, we can improve their chances of surviving and thriving.

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  5. Great pictures, and I love the idea of the Tour de Hives. Bees seemed a bit scarce earlier this summer but now there are so many – especially the bumbles. Gives me hope for the future to see them at work.

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    • Thanks, Jason. I didn’t go yesterday, but I did attend a couple of years ago and learned quite a bit–it was a lot of fun. So glad that you have bumble bees. I have a variety of bees, but not bumbles. I wonder why??

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