As you may or may not know, the bee population is declining rapidly. Bees are dying off from disease as well as the increase use of pesticides farmers and gardeners use on their crops. You may think, “Who cares; it’s a bug” but the fact is, we need bees to live.
Bees pollinate valuable crops – about $14 billion worth – that we use for food each year. They also pollinate crops that we feed to livestock. Without those plants, our diet could get very minimal. My husband shared this post on Facebook yesterday (originating from Sustainability the Musical):
And the list goes on. Now, I’m not going to get into a big rant about how much I despise Monsanto and how they are contributing to the demise of so many species of pollinators (among other things). I’ll get into that another day. Today I want to talk about raising bees.
A few years back, I took a class on beekeeping. I haven’t started yet because of the cost, which can be several hundred dollars, but it is on my (very long) to-do list. The cool thing about raising bees is, once you get beyond the initial cost of equipment, they pretty much take care of themselves. You might spend a half hour a week taking care of your hives, and you will have to extract the honey a couple of times a year. That’s it! Bees, being the amazing workers that they are, do all the rest of the work. That makes them some of the best “livestock” to have on a homestead.
And that brings us to the benefits. I’m sure you know we get honey from bees (and I will discuss the incredible benefits of honey another time). We can also harvest bee’s wax. And let’s not forget, they will pollinate your fruit trees and veggies. That means more food for you, and if you like to grow your own as much as possible, that is pretty important.
If you can’t raise your own bees, you can plant things that bees like. This will help the wild colonies of bees that are left. Plant native plants around your yard because that’s what wild bees are most accustomed to. You might consider lots of these plants to be weeds, like dandelions, but if you really have to get rid of them, please don’t use toxic chemicals. Allow the bees some benefit before you pull those weeds from your yard.
If you want to learn more about how to help pollinating insects like honey bees, read Protecting Pollinating Insects and How to Help Pollinating Insects by my friend Jeanne Grunert. And if you have even the slightest interest in gardening, follow her blog at Seven Oaks.
The University of Illinois gives a nice list of bee-friendly plants, herbs, shrubs, etc. that you can add to your landscape. You can read more about raising honey bees by reading How to Raise Honey Bees: A Beginners Guide. And if you’re ready to get into beekeeping, Brushy Mountain Bee Farm is just one of several suppliers. You can also find local beekeeping clubs through your county Extension Service.