Homesteading and Livestock

Self-reliance and sustainability in the 21st century.

Add to My MSN

Feeding Bees With Real Food - Honey and Pollen

1/16/2012 10:03:28 AM

Tags: Kim Flottum, Bee Culture Magazine, Feeding Bees, Seed Bombs, honey bee nutrition, bee garden, seedlings, Guerrilla gardening, cover crops, trees, shrubs, clovers, Kim Flottum

I’m going to take a break from the organizational bent I’ve been on, and toss out some thoughts on feeding bees, that, like you, need to eat every day, all year long. Now I’m not talking about feeding sugar water in the spring or fall, or protein of some sort – man made or bee collected - at the same time… no, I’m talking about providing the raw material for your honey bee colony…honey and pollen.

Mostly, we think that the bees know best and will find what they need, when they need it, and when it’s available. That’s mostly true. Most years, most places. But in all honesty it’s a crap shoot on honey crops. Drought, rain, farming practices, that new mall, herbicides, removing fence rows, late freezes, early freezes…all these can, and routinely do mess up a honey flow, and a honey crop.

You can take the attitude that it’s in God’s hands, and that’s how it should be, or you can take measure of the local conditions and move your bees to a better spot, or you can babysit those colonies with sugar syrup and protein patties so they have something to eat. Those are been pretty much the three choices beekeepers have. Unless you reconsider.

Yes, you can provide for your bees to overcome every one of these nutritional inconveniences. Here’s how.

If you had complete control over what grows on, say a five acre plot, you could support as many as 20 colonies just on that land. It takes an acre of land, constantly in bloom, to support a colony for a season. One acre, one colony. Unless. Yes, unless there’s more blooming on that acre than a single crop. Consider for instance a fence row crop of early maples and willows blooming, followed by dandelions, then a stand of locust trees at the far end of the lot blooming followed by apple and other fruit trees on another fence row, followed by tulip poplars, then a cover crop of clover comes into bloom at the same time as a big crop of honeysuckle then sumac all kick in. These are followed by more clovers, holly, cotoneasters, Bee Bee trees, another clover…well, you see the plan here. On a single acre, with careful planning, there will always be two, three even more things blooming at once…that one colony one acre suddenly becomes three or four colonies one acre for the whole season.

This single red dosier dogwood provides lots of food good wildlife cover and a screen to bootLook at it this way. That acre isn’t a single dimension…flat. It has ground cover, shrubs and trees, all blooming at once, or all blooming some time during the season, thus providing more than a single crop at the same time…more flowers, more bees supported. So, no matter what happens during the season, some crops will bloom, some will deal with the rain, the drought, the cold and the heat. Your bees will always have something to eat. Something real to eat.

But…what if you don’t have those five acres? Guerrilla gardening takes over. You can be planting your bee food on land that doesn’t have a plan…roadside ditches, away from the herbicide treatments, fence rows, vacant lots in cities and towns, vacant fields in the county side…where ever things are growing, but aren’t being planted…you drive by a hundred likely places every day on the way to work.

You’ve heard of seed bombs…seeds you want to plant mixed with soil and clay into marble sized projectiles, then spread all over where ever you want those seeds to grow. You can buy for very, very cheap two or three year old tree or shrub seedlings for a buck or less. These can be stuck in fence rows, back lots, vacant lots, where ever a spot just yells to have a plant. After about five years, only 25 percent of them will still be around…rabbits, deer, lawn mowers and land owners take their toll…but 25 percent will make it to bloom stage…that come to about $4.00 a tree…incredibly inexpensive investment in you bees for the rest of your beekeeping career. You can plant them anywhere within a mile or so of where your bees are, so you’ll never have to move your bees to overcome weather’s hardships…farmer’s poisons or that new mall down the road. Plant a bee garden this year, but make it a garden to roar about.

For much, much more on this subject, see the new book Better Beekeeping, by Kim Flottum, Editor, Bee Culture Magazine.



Related Content

Learning About Bees and Beekeeping - Three U. S. Regional Associations

Three U.S. regional beekeeping associations offer much to beekeepers at any skill level and experien...

Seed Bombs: Random Acts to Re-Flower the Earth

Have you heard of “guerrilla gardening,” where folks toss flower seeds into vacant lots, or sometime...

Honey Bees and Easter Eggs

We had a once in a lifetime opportunity over Easter this year to talk to more than 30,000 people abo...

British Beekeeping and Its Spring Convention 2012

Over in the UK we do our beekeeping conventions a little bit differently than in the United States, ...

Content Tools




Post a comment below.

 

Maria Carter
2/28/2012 3:02:32 PM
This is rather a very serious matter and would ask that many people respond to this please. We farm, conventional at the moment and are looking into organic farming practices. My grandfather was a excellent beekeeper in his day and we know something about beekeeping as well. The bees have been disappearing. We are in the northern part of the US. Also, the USDA was up here researching why the deer population has decreased a lot as well. Our take...GMO in the corn. We have learned as well that the larger beekeepers are using corn syrup to feed their bees. Could this be why the collapse of the colonies? There is something very wrong here and we cannot figure out why beekeepers aren't talking more about this? There is the study on the deer population and going on so time will tell.










Subscribe Today - Pay Now & Save 66% Off the Cover Price

First Name: *
Last Name: *
Address: *
City: *
State/Province: *
Zip/Postal Code:*
Country:
Email:*
(* indicates a required item)
Canadian subs: 1 year, (includes postage & GST). Foreign subs: 1 year, . U.S. funds.
Canadian Subscribers - Click Here
Non US and Canadian Subscribers - Click Here

Lighten the Strain on the Earth and Your Budget

MOTHER EARTH NEWS is the guide to living — as one reader stated — “with little money and abundant happiness.” Every issue is an invaluable guide to leading a more sustainable life, covering ideas from fighting rising energy costs and protecting the environment to avoiding unnecessary spending on processed food. You’ll find tips for slashing heating bills; growing fresh, natural produce at home; and more. MOTHER EARTH NEWS helps you cut costs without sacrificing modern luxuries.

At MOTHER EARTH NEWS, we are dedicated to conserving our planet’s natural resources while helping you conserve your financial resources. That’s why we want you to save money and trees by subscribing through our earth-friendly automatic renewal savings plan. By paying with a credit card, you save an additional $5 and get 6 issues of MOTHER EARTH NEWS for only $12.00 (USA only).

You may also use the Bill Me option and pay $17.00 for 6 issues.