I’ve written earlier how honeybees survive the winter. But what about the beekeepers? What do they do? Winter is a good time to clean up the bee yard, rebuild old hives, and build new ones. If one is lucky enough to have a good supply of wax, many beekeepers make candles and sell them during the holiday season. I had only a small supply of wax, as I harvested just a few combs this year. My garden is also sleeping so I have plenty of time to pursue some of my other hobbies. I have started making native bee houses and selling them here at the Farmers Market. They have been very popular and folks like the idea of having something in their yard that supports the native bees. They are technically “bee nurseries” as the bees use the tunnels in the wood to lay their eggs. You can read more about my bee houses on this page. Here are some of my latest creations:
Bee House #1
Bee House #2
Bee House #3
I will make them to order, so if you are interested in one, just reply to me via this blog. I also have started working in glass, making coasters and small plates and have listed them on Etsy , and my shop is named “SantaFeCraft”.
I have the kiln in the garage so I call it my “studiage”. Keeps me busy and out of trouble. Hahaha! Come Spring and I will again be busy with my bees, chickens and my garden. Best wishes to all for the New Year. May 2015 bring peace, contentment and good health to all of us. And let us not forget all our pollinator friends as well!
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Biologist Laurence Packer writes that “humans will be better off if we rely less on honeybees in managed hives for pollination and more on some of the 20,000 species of wild bees.” in his book, “Keeping the Bees: Why All Bees are at Risk and What We Can Do to Save Them”
He was interviewed recently on NPR’s ” Fresh Air”
Listen to his interview here
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Did you know that honeybees are not the only bees in town? While a lot of attention has been given to the plight of the honeybee, “colony collapse disorder”, and it’s impact on our vegetable, nut and fruit crops, there are many, many native bees that are busy doing the job. The honeybee ( Apis mellifera ) is not a native bee…. in fact it was brought over by European settlers to provide honey and pollinate crops. Native bees have evolved with our native plants and are much better pollinators than the honeybee. Blueberries for example, are almost exclusively pollinated by native bees, and the colorful sweat bees are major pollinators of commercial sunflower, alfalfa and watermelon crops.
Green sweat bee on echinacea
There are more than 4000 species of native bees in north America. Most native bees are solitary, which means that they live and raise their brood alone, not in large colonies as does the honeybee. Most are small, inconspicuous , overlooked and mistaken for flies. The exception to this is the bumble bee and carpenter bee which are giants of the native bees! About 70% of native bees live in the ground, while the rest live in rotting wood or tunnels in trees and branches. One of the most beneficial of all native bee groups are the mason bees, so called because they seal up their young with a dab of mud to protect it as it develops.
Blue Orchard mason bee
The Blue Orchard Bee is a more efficient pollinator of fruit trees than the honeybee. Native bees do not produce honey and will not normally sting, as they do not have a large cache of brood or honey to protect. The female will lay her eggs in the tubes, feed the larvae and then seal it off once it reaches the pupa stage. In winter, the adults die, but the pupae remain in the tube, and then hatch out the following spring. For the most part, native bees usually just produce one set of young a year.
Having a native bee house in your yard will not only provide habitat for native bees but will be a visible reminder to provide a “bee friendly” yard and garden for all pollinators. It is easy to make, and there are many sites online to show you how it’s done. Here are a few of the ones I have made. Place the house so that it faces east to get the early morning sun and then don’t disturb it. By autumn you should see many of the tubes have been filled up with a mud seal. Next spring they will emerge and start the cycle all over again.
To learn more about native bees, check out the following sites:
Bee Basics: An introduction to our Native Bees
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