A common comment I hear from people is “I never see bees around my garden any more”.
I have a look at their garden – it contains a nice, green weed free lawn and lovely trimmed hedges. Well, a garden like that is more or less a desert when it comes to the needs of the honey bee. Of course, honey bee colonies are massively reduced in range of ‘suburbia’ – just talk to a friend in construction and find out how many hives are destroyed while clearing land for development. That’s where beekeepers come in – keeping honey bees involves making sure they are placed in areas where they have plenty to eat and drink. They need Honey Flora.
Honey Flora is a tree, vine, shrub, native or exotic (or any other flora) that provides a source of pollen (protein) or nectar (which becomes honey). Some trees, like the Paperbark Tea Tree are a MAJOR source of both pollen and nectar. Others, like the Iron Bark are a MAJOR nectar source, but provide very little pollen.
Hobby Beekeepers often ask what they can plant to get honey from their garden – if you have twenty years and a few hectares then plant some Blue Gums, Paperbark Tea Tree, Ironbark…. my point here is that to profit honey from a hive there must be a large amount of mature honey flora within a kilometre or two of the hive location for them to profit – a beehive will need around 125kg of honey a year just to survive! Let alone provide enough honey for the beekeeper to harvest.
If you aren’t a beekeeper and just want to know what you can do to help the bees within flying range of your garden there’s good news. It’s actually things you don’t have to do that’ll help the most.
1. Don’t pull out dandelions! They are great honey flora, often all Summer long. I don’t mean let every flower turn to seed and spread to your neighbours. But let them flower so the bees have a chance to collect. Every flower, in every yard, over a whole street would add up to a substantial amount of food for your local beehives.
2. Stop poisoning clover. Removing bindii is one thing. That nasty weed isn’t honey flora. But destroying clover also reduces the available food in your area. A nice green lawn to us is a dry desert to a honey bee.
3. NEVER feed honey (no matter where it’s from) to birds in the open, or leave it in the open (not only bad, but illegal!). Honey is the biggest transmitter of disease for the honey bee. A bacterial spore (American Foul Brood Disease – 100% harmless to humans) is often contained in honey – and a bee eating honey from another hive often triggers an infection in their home hive. This one bee feeding on bread soaked meant for birds returns home and with it, brings a death sentence to every bee in the hive. The infection is so bad that all the equipment within the hive also becomes a bio-hazard, needing to be incinerated in irradiation isn’t an option.
If you want to actively help bees, buy honey from a local beekeeper. Actively spend time in your garden, planting anything that flowers and enjoy your time out there!
Even though it was a pretty cold day, Spring isn’t far away where the bees are concerned. The Blue Gums are out and with it comes it’s bucket loads of pollen.
Until next time!
Lionel and the Pesky Bees.