Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Bee Happy

I remember an especially enjoyable of those you happen upon, thinking it is one thing, but after opening it and discovering it's quite something else, you're already hooked...and happily so for hours, or maybe days, in stolen happy moments.

Such a book for me is Sue Hubbell's A Book of Bees: And How to Keep Them.

I'd gathered it up with some other general beekeeping books with the intention of familiarizing myself with some honeybee basics. What I encountered in Hubbell's book was a departure into a fascinating combination bee knowledge repository, personal journal through the beekeeping year, irrepressible individuality, and writing par excellence.

I left this book wondering if, in my desire to someday include a diversity of native plants/grasses/forbs, etc in an acreage, if I could not neglect to include as many bee-loving plants as possible. Honeybees, and many other sorts of bees and wasps, make pollen their business, and this boosts the plant life to no end...and the harvest.

I did some basic Googling to see what plants are especially beloved of the honeybees, since I think I'd like to keep some one day, and there is quite a list. There are also some plants to be avoided, being poisonous to honeybees, or others that simply don't attract them.

I was wondering if the concept of bee-loving plant and livestock-loving plant might be merged, and list created of plants beneficial to both. I havent yet compiled THAT list, but it's on the idea board.

In the meantime, while trying things on a tiny experimental scale during all the planning stages (and not investing a lot into our current property since we're hoping to be elsewhere before too long) I did decide that mints are easy. I'm trying my hand at finding out as much about certain plants, one or two at a time, ones that might be really easy to start with. Mints definately qualify, and in many areas would soon be considered pests. I put mine in an area that's a long way from ever being concerned with an aggressive plant takeover. I've done our "brown paper grocery bag" weed barrier experiments with these, too, since they grow quickly and I can gauge better if the grocery bag barrier is durable enough to not only keep the weeds OUT, but also keep the mints IN.

Well, anyway, so far my bee plant collection is simply a very healthy clump of lemon balm, orange mint, and bee balm, and some dianthus. I have anise hyssop seed, and borage seed. With my recycled containers I've been saving, which are now threatening to take over the entire laundry room if I dont start using them right away, I'm going to be starting these to add to the Bee Garden. (That's just a fancy term for "the mint patch.")

I wonder if livestock are ever attracted to nibbling on any of these plants, and if they'd be beneficial, or otherwise. Basil is also supposed to be a good bee plant, and I'm going to try to find some in the garden center to plant near my baby tomatoes. The other diversity/companion planting thing I want to keep going is to include flowers with all my veggies and herbs. I've done this so far, even if it's only a marigold here or there (there are a few tucked at the feet of some of the tomatoes) or other tough-and-pretty flower, and I truly think it has helped keep a good balance.

I'll be tucking a few things into this Bee Garden as my little continuing experiment. I'd eventually like to encourage an even broader "salad pasture" when we have livestock, and also tuck beneficial herbs and flowers in the waste areas and fencerows both for bees, beauty, and selective animal nibbling.

If anyone out there is already incorporating a particular herb or plant in your grazing areas or woodland forage, I'd love to know which ones work best. And among those, I'll be checking them out to see if any of them are bee-friendly. I love the idea of honeybees humming around the fields and trees with lots of plants and flowers to choose from. I'm trying several clovers right now to see how those do mixed in with existing grasses.

Hope to see some very happy bees! :)


farmer, vet and feeder of all animals said...

Hey Robbyn:
We planted Siberian Pea Shrubs recently and they are multi purpose: livestock, humans, soil and bees. That's one of the reasons why we are trying them. I too try and encourage bees as much as I can---too little for them in the "average" homeowners lawn. Besides--then they pollinate my veggies too :-)
We had a bee hive until this last fall---but my husband is dangerously allergic to them we found out so we had to have them go. Even though they are fairly benign--we didn't want to take the chance. Better safe than sorry. Now he just has to watch for all the wild ones I am trying to get to come!

Robbyn said...

I loved the post on your site about your Siberian Pea shrubs (more pics, please!) and honeylocust trees. Can't wait to see how they do for you. Those were on your post that made me wax nostalgic for All the Trees I've Known Before :) What part of the Siberian shrub can humans use? And what part for livestock? I'm following your planting those with great interest.

Oh, the bees! Yes, you don't want to run the risk of uncle is deathly allergic to them, too.

I don't think any of us are allergic (dont folks usually find out the hard way?), but I read somewhere if there is an enclosure or something, such as a fence near the hives that the bees have to clear before making their level horizontal flights, they'll fly at the level of the top of the fence. Wherever I read that, it was their suggestion to make sure it was over 6 feet so that passersby wouldnt be inadvertently in the line of fire by accident. Of course, I can't confirm that's true. With allergies, I'd never take that chance.

You guys are doing great things to enhance your soil and grasses, etc. I'm watching with great interest, Monica. So much fun!