You’ve likely heard that beekeeping, or apiculture, is a growing trend among gardeners who want to help stem the alarming rate of decline in honeybee populations. For the last two decades, bee populations have been under serious pressure from a mystery problem called Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD). Experts disagree as to the exact cause, but it appears to render honeybees more susceptible to a host of pathogens, stemming from nutrition problems from lack of diversity in available pollen and nectar sources and possible sub-lethal effects of pesticides.
If you’re concerned about the fate of honeybees, you will enjoy visiting one of the gardens featured on this year’s EMG Garden Tour, which features an apiary. Even if you’ve decided that apiculture isn’t for you, you can still learn how to use your landscape to help local bee populations find forage.
Honeybees gather nectar and pollen from flowers, a process called pollination, to make honey. It’s fascinating to watch honeybees visiting flowers with their back legs laden with bright yellow pollen bundles!
To attract bees, plant a diverse array of native wildflowers and avoid pesticides. Honeybees are particularly attracted to flowers with a single row of petals such as asters, cosmos, marigolds, sunflowers and zinnias. Yellow, white, blue and purple flowers attract bees more than pinks, oranges and reds, yet an environment of year-round, uninterrupted bloom creates the ideal environment for honeybee colony reproduction. Don’t forget to also let some herbs and vegetables go to flower for the honeybees!
If you grow edibles, thank honeybees for pollinating tree fruits, nuts, many vegetables and melons. It’s estimated that honeybees are responsible for one-third of everything that people eat every day!
Article written by Alison Arnold, Extension Agent, Agriculture, Consumer Horticulture, Master Gardener Volunteers.