A few months ago, our neighbor was over for tea and cookies. “I was approved to host honey bees on my property, and my payment will be free honey,” she said. “I can’t wait!” As lovers of honey ourselves, we were quite intrigued, so we asked her how she got approved. She explained, “I applied for a very unique beekeeping program, located in our town, that looks for suitable land to place their hives that will provide forage for their bees. In exchange, they give you a share of the honey.” We currently have a vegetable garden and a wildflower garden, and we knew that both gardens would benefit from an increase in pollinating residents. She gave me the contact information, and later that day I sent an inquiry to the beekeeper:
Hello Mr. Beekeeper,
We would love to be considered for a hive to be placed on our property.
We have two large gardens . . . a large vegetable garden and a large wildflower garden. In addition, our entire property is native grass and wildflowers.
We also would love the educational aspect of learning more about bees.
The Beekeeper replied:
All we ask is that our members use organic practices, zero pesticides, and as much planting for pollinators as possible!
Since we are completely organic gardeners, and do not use pesticides, we were approved as a host site for the honey bees and they arrived in April! The beekeepers primary interest is in their own bee’s welfare, but their secondary interest is in educating us on how to become beekeepers ourselves, in hopes that we will eventually want to manage our own hives. For now, we will be keen observers and learn from them as they manage the hives.
Honey bees are not native to the United States. The introduction of the honey bee began with European colonization of the Americas in the 17th century. There are about 4,000 native bee species in North America, including about 50 different bumblebee species. Native bees and honey bees are both critical in our agricultural world for transferring pollen and seeds from one flower to another, and fertilizing the plant so it can grow and produce food. Even if you do not have the opportunity to host a honey bee hive on your property, there are still things you can do to create a welcoming environment for the native bees in your own neck of the woods:
-Plant native flowers. And aim to provide blooms over several seasons. Bees also like nectar from flowering trees.
-Provide a water source. Bees need to drink water as they forage and pollinate.
-Keep your yard pesticide free. Pesticides are harmful to bees and keep them from pollinating your flowers. We have found many organic treatments to help manage garden problems.
-Make a bug hotel to create a safe living space for solitary bees. With the exception of honey bees, most bees live alone. Our neighbor simply drills various sized holes into a piece of wood to provide a home for the bees.
Be kind to the bees, and happy hosting!