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Last week I wrote about bees and pollinators to prepare for Pollinator Month in June. Longtime beekeeper Gillian Kerr and master beekeeper Linda Groves answered many of my questions about beekeeping.
Who can a hobby gardener turn to if he wants to plant bees in his garden? And what should they know first?
Contacting your local beekeeping club is a good place to start if you are considering buying equipment and bees or want to host a beehive on your property for pollination purposes. Becoming knowledgeable by taking classes, reading books, researching online, and joining a bee club before getting your bees will make your new hobby more rewarding and successful. Raising bees is not much different from raising cats or dogs, they have specific needs.
What you need to consider before installing bees in your garden:
— Bees take time
— Beekeeping is a VERY expensive investment
— Most areas need bear fencing around beehives
— Watching your bees die for any reason is disappointing
— No two beekeeping seasons are the same
— Take into account the amount of fodder available in and around your home. It’s critical!
— Know where the nearest water source is
– Local state and city ordinances should be considered before obtaining beehives
— Ask yourself, do you want bees for pollination or honey? Honey cannot be taken thoughtlessly.
If, after all your research, you choose to become a beekeeper, you will experience a miracle watching the amazing honey bees. Plus, you’ll meet like-minded people who love their bees!
Can you recommend any good bee books for the home gardener?
An excellent resource on bee forage is 100 Plants to FEED THE BEES, Lee-Mäder, E., Fowler, J., Vento, J. and Hopwood, J. (2016, The Xerces Society) available at Carson City Library. Greenhouse Garden Center and Gift Shop offers information on local plants, including growing instructions. For a book on the beginnings of beekeeping, The Backyard Beekeeper, 4th Edition: An Absolute Beginner’s Guide to Keeping Bees in Your Yard and Garden, Flottum, K., (2018) is a good choice. A great online resource is the Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation at https://xerces.org/
For those who want to plant more pollinator-attracting flowers, consider these nectar and pollen perennials: bee balm, Rocky Mountain bee, black-eyed Susan, blue flax, sulfur-flowering buckwheat, candytuft, coneflower purple, coreopsis, creeping thyme, lupine, catnip, milkweed, penstemon, summer snow and yarrow. Some of the shrubs that feed on pollinators include: butterfly bush, Apache plume, gooseberry, elderberry, honeysuckle, Russian sage, serviceberry, and wood rose.
Good luck and keep planting for pollinators!
— JoAnne Skelly is an associate professor and extension educator, emeritus, cooperative extension at the University of Nevada. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.