On bees

Malbekh

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Some years ago I was on a fruit farm in north county Dublin, which was cultivating strawberry plants out of season in plastic tunnels for the multiples. We were discussing a lot of issues, mostly multiple related, when the talk revolved around the more technical aspects of fruit growing.

It was the first time that I stated to understand the real importance of pollination, because the 'farmer' was using imported bumblebees to propagate his crop. In this particular instance, the advantages were that the bumblebees worked in relatively cold temperatures and operated in twilight hours, both very useful in an Irish climate.

So on a wider level did you know that bees, and honeybees in particular, pollinate the following crops: apples, pears, tangerines, peaches, soybeans, pumpkins, squash, cucumbers, cherries, blueberries, raspberries, blackberries, strawberries, carrots, broccoli, avocados and almonds?

In US terms, this is equivalent to $15b worth of crops. The US, in terms of bees is a basket case. On average 30% of hives have died off over the last three years owing to a variety of reasons, the most serious being Colony Collapse Disorder or CCD.

In CCD, the hive adults just simply vanish leaving the queen and a few hatched young workers. What makes it more unusual is that the hive remains untouched by neighbouring ones, who normally would plunder the honey and resources of hives affected by parasites and diseases.

As the bee genome has been completed, scientists researching the issue have identified differences between healthy and unhealthy colonies. It turns out that most of the various camps were right, although on a limited basis. So in other words the factors involved are viruses, fungi, pesticides, varroa mite and nutrition. Essentially, honey bees are under attack form all sides because increasingly they are operating in an artificial environment.

In the rest of the word, honeybee propagation of commercial crops is estimated as €215b. In Europe, CCD in conjunction with the varroa mite has decimated hives, but the carnage is far worse in the wild and native colonies. The dreadful effect of this is to reduce the pollination of wildflowers which in turn reduces the quality and quantity of honey produced.

Here in Ireland, where bees are reckoned to contribute €85m to the economy, the last three summers have been disastrous for our native and bred colonies. The key period of growth in hives in late June and July have coincided with the worst weather imaginable. The varroa mite has still to work its way through the existing colonies leaving behind more resistant strains.

In terms of a functioning population, our bee colonies are dying. There is very little or no commercial beekeeping in this country as we cannot compete with the more commercial and weather friendly countries in Europe, Australia and South America. All that remains is a steadfast group of hobbyists determined to maintain an ancient and essential tradition. CCD has yet to effect this country, one can only hope that our diverse spread in agriculture will ensure this won't happen.

So what can we do? I don't expect you all to become apiarists, but for those of you that have gardens or terraces or patios, think a little about what plants and flowers you will grow next year. Put a little time and effort into creating a wild area for flowers, or just plant flowers that are rich in nectar and bloom in the more productive months.

Bees are like canaries in a mineshaft, we need to take heed the damage we are causing to our environment.
 


He3

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What flowers do you recommend for nectar etc malbekh?
 

bprob

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So what can we do? I don't expect you all to become apiarists, but for those of you that have gardens or terraces or patios, think a little about what plants and flowers you will grow next year. Put a little time and effort into creating a wild area for flowers, or just plant flowers that are rich in nectar and bloom in the more productive months.
are there any particular varieties or plants that you can recommend?
 

spidermom

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They love my lilacs.lavenders,roses and the flowering cotoneasters in my garden...I grow lots of calendula,poppies and aquilega in the summer!

Trouble is I think so many turned their gardens in to the low maintenance...with grasses and the like...can't imagine the bees like it somehow(???)
 

EUrJokingMeRight

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Good OP. Experts agree that the human race would last just three years if bees were extinct! I do an impression of a crazed reiki therapist with a frog in his pants if a bee or wasp come near me! Much to the delight of passers by I might add. But the strange thing is, I have actually seriously considered the commercial side of bee keeping. With global bee population declining and human population increasing, the demand for pollenation from bees will surely increase. If any one has any ideas on the commerical side of beekeeping I would be interested to hear from them.
The signs are there, increased homogenised and unhealthy environment = increased occurences of CCD.
Same can be said of the decline in the native frog population, another sign of environmental decline.
 
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Malbekh

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What flowers do you recommend for nectar etc malbekh?
There's two I always plant no matter where I live. The first is lavender as it blooms at the right time and is a mass of activity all day. The second is buddleia or butterfly bush. It's a bit late in the season but fantastic for butterflies (duh) like Red Admirals and Peacocks, particularly if you've allowed some nettles to grow at the back of the shed.

Heathers are great as well. But the best one I've seen I don't know the name of. It's a climber, very vigorous, and has small white lightly scented flowers. The flowers are very small but they bloom over a long time, and the bees just swarm over it all summer long.

It's relatively common, but annoyingly I've never been able to find it in the local DIY stores.
 

spidermom

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There's two I always plant no matter where I live. The first is lavender as it blooms at the right time and is a mass of activity all day. The second is buddleia or butterfly bush. It's a bit late in the season but fantastic for butterflies (duh) like Red Admirals and Peacocks, particularly if you've allowed some nettles to grow at the back of the shed.

Heathers are great as well. But the best one I've seen I don't know the name of. It's a climber, very vigorous, and has small white lightly scented flowers. The flowers are very small but they bloom over a long time, and the bees just swarm over it all summer long.

It's relatively common, but annoyingly I've never been able to find it in the local DIY stores.

Climbing Hydrangea???
 

scratchnsniff

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I leave half my land (approx 1 acre) wild and i have planted a lot of flowering shrubs, I love the amount of insects and thus birds this attracts, I also keep some chickens and am happy for the non crows to share the food and chick crumbs.
I have considered keeping bees but will need to do some study, I don't particularly want to "farm" them, just provide a home and let them get on with it. Is their some way of encouraging them to set up naturally in a tree or shed?
 

asset test

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On the trellis on either side of the patio area we have Passion Flower (passiflora). It is really easy to grow and will thrive anywhere. The bees love it, and the humming sound as they dart in an out to get the nectar from the flowers is really soothing on a Summer evening.

The bees never come near us at all. They are too focused on getting the nectar to bring back to the hive. I find them fascinating to watch.

Wasps, on the other hand are vile creatures. If they annoy you, put a few saucers of jam far away from you on the grass etc. and they will enjoy that and leave you alone.
 

scratchnsniff

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On the trellis on either side of the patio area we have Passion Flower (passiflora). It is really easy to grow and will thrive anywhere. The bees love it, and the humming sound as they dart in an out to get the nectar from the flowers is really soothing on a Summer evening.

The bees never come near us at all. They are too focused on getting the nectar to bring back to the hive. I find them fascinating to watch.

Wasps, on the other hand are vile creatures. If they annoy you, put a few saucers of jam far away from you on the grass etc. and they will enjoy that and leave you alone.
wasps are fascinating, i once watched a wasp hunt for spiders on a clothes line, it kept lightly touching the webs until it drew one out, then killed it and flew away with it, no one will believe me, but i saw it happen.
 

asset test

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Malbekh, I'm throwing out a suggestion for the prolific white flowered shrub - solanum jasminoides, or potato vine. Glorious alright and the bees love it.

Potato vine (Solanum jasminoides)

As for the wasps, yes I do believe you scratch, but I couldn't stay around long enough to watch them. The blighters built a nest under the living room floor, having got in there through a ventilation hole under the old patio door. What a mess. They swarmed every night.

I was like the great white hunter in the end. Got the gear on and had tin foil at the ready. Got the big bottle of wasp killer, and puffed the stuff in at nighttime after they had all flown into the nest to bed, stuffed the hole with tin foil, and ran like blazes. They obviously croaked, as we never saw them again. Very dangerous for both adults and kids if there's a nest around and it's disturbed. Stay away from them!
 

spidermom

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Malbekh, I'm throwing out a suggestion for the prolific white flowered shrub - solanum jasminoides, or potato vine. Glorious alright and the bees love it.

Potato vine (Solanum jasminoides)

As for the wasps, yes I do believe you scratch, but I couldn't stay around long enough to watch them. The blighters built a nest under the living room floor, having got in there through a ventilation hole under the old patio door. What a mess. They swarmed every night.

I was like the great white hunter in the end. Got the gear on and had tin foil at the ready. Got the big bottle of wasp killer, and puffed the stuff in at nighttime after they had all flown into the nest to bed, stuffed the hole with tin foil, and ran like blazes. They obviously croaked, as we never saw them again. Very dangerous for both adults and kids if there's a nest around and it's disturbed. Stay away from them!

me thinks it's a climbing hydrangea!!!
 

asset test

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me thinks it's a climbing hydrangea!!!
That's a lovely climber too and you are probably right. But M says the white flowered shrub is fast growing and very vigorous, and I know from bitter experience that the hydrangea takes a few years to get going. But I have learned to be very patient now, some plants are worth waiting for!!
 

GabhaDubh

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Malbekh: Thank you for the pleasant break from the usual doom and gloom. Time to make a beeline for the bed.
 

gatsbygirl20

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Thank you for this lovely thread Malbekh. Bees are the most wonderful and mysterious creatures. Philosophers (Plato) and poets (WB Yeats, Sylvia Plath) have written about them, and saw them as symbols of hope, creativity and renewal.

So CCD is bad news. A shop-owner in a tourist town told me this summer that she could get none of her normal honey from her supplier, Some people are predicting ecological disaster, What have we done?

I always grow lavender as it is such a richly scented plant. Buddleia attracts bees but mainly butterflies. You can watch them shimmer and flitter past as you listen for that low drone of the bee in the still heat of the day. Ah, summer!
 

scratchnsniff

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Malbekh, I'm throwing out a suggestion for the prolific white flowered shrub - solanum jasminoides, or potato vine. Glorious alright and the bees love it.

Potato vine (Solanum jasminoides)

As for the wasps, yes I do believe you scratch, but I couldn't stay around long enough to watch them. The blighters built a nest under the living room floor, having got in there through a ventilation hole under the old patio door. What a mess. They swarmed every night.

I was like the great white hunter in the end. Got the gear on and had tin foil at the ready. Got the big bottle of wasp killer, and puffed the stuff in at nighttime after they had all flown into the nest to bed, stuffed the hole with tin foil, and ran like blazes. They obviously croaked, as we never saw them again. Very dangerous for both adults and kids if there's a nest around and it's disturbed. Stay away from them!
I don't blame you if they were in the house!.
When we were children wasps set up home in the wall of one of our barns, my older brother (about 13) decided to be a man and burn them out with petrol, It took about 10 years for my father to be philosophical about the ensuing carnage. so yes, wasps and children do not mix. (an inflammable combination:D)
 

yehbut_nobut

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Thanks for a good post Malbekh - kind of weird as I've just spent the evening reading
about bees, and Warré beehives in particular.


I know next to nothing about beekeeping, but following a good peruse of the internet feel I now now a little more than I did. And then you start this thread!

Warré hives are require less human intervention, and are supposed to be less stressful on the bees, as hive warmth is maintained, and they're not constricted in ways that go against their bee-nature.

Index of /warrebeekeeping

and
http://www.dheaf.plus.com/warrebeekeeping/new_view_article_summer_2009.pdf

for interesting articles and photos.
 


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