As spring approaches, Chaffee County residents are beginning to plan their gardens, and honeybees play a crucial role in the success of both flower and vegetable gardens.
Over the course of the summer, honeybees need to bring back enough nectar for the hive to store nearly 100 pounds of honey to survive the next Central Colorado winter. To do this, they will fly a combined total of 5 million miles and visit 200 million flowers.
It is estimated that from 50 to 80 percent of the world’s food supply is either directly or indirectly affected by honeybee pollination, but honeybees are struggling to survive and thrive today due to man-made challenges. Even if you are not able to keep honeybees, you can still care for the bees, the earth and your fellow human beings by supporting honeybee foraging on your property in the following ways:
1. Stop using pesticides and herbicides. I remember a day when I had bees returning to their hive and their legs wouldn’t work correctly. After landing, they had great difficulty crawling back into the hive. It was heartbreaking. They clearly had encountered a pesticide, and I’m certain they died shortly afterwards. I guarantee, if you were ever to see that with your own eyes, you’d never use pesticides again.
2. Plant more flowers, flowering trees and shrubs without neonicotinoids. Neonicotinoids are already in the plant when you purchase it. These kinds of systemic pesticides are being shown to be devastating to honeybees and a major factor in colony collapse disorder. There is a worldwide movement happening to ban neonicotinoids, and France has already forbidden them.
When purchasing plants at your local nursery, be sure to ask for plants that are certified to be free of systemic pesticides. Home Depot has reported it is going to start requiring suppliers to label any plants that have neonicotinoids in them. It does no good, and great harm, to purchase a “bee friendly” flowering plant if it contains a systemic pesticide.
3. Plant a diversity of flowers, flowering trees and shrubs that have bloom times from April through October. Honeybees collect nectar and pollen, and they need sources of both throughout those months.
Any given type of flowering plant produces nectar and pollen for just a short window of time. That’s why the diversity is needed. Study both hardiness zones and bloom times when selecting your variety of flowering plants.
Catmint and Russian sage are two examples that you will see honeybees busily foraging on throughout our region.
4. Provide a consistent water source. Honeybees use a lot of water to perform various tasks in the hive. Returning to a water source only to find it dry forces that field bee to find a new source and then communicate that information to the other field bees in her hive, so a lot of time and energy is wasted.
Make sure the water source allows the bees to land on something dry, but easily put their proboscis into the water to draw it up. A concrete bird bath is ideal.
For more information or to ask questions about supporting honeybees, contact Scott Sailors on his Facebook page, Little Mountain Town Beekeeper, or email CentralColoradoBeekeepers@gmail.com.
Scott Sailors is president of Central Colorado Beekeepers Association.