Mike Uncorked: Bees and Thank You!

Mike Butler

Our Valley is filled with gardening, wildlife, and nature enthusiasts, and for good reason: we live in such a beautiful area with so much to be thankful for. Over the last few months, I’ve been presented with concerns and issues involving environmental change and sustainability and its impact on honey bees and other pollinators. I love honey, beeswax candles, and honestly, I love bees. I wasn’t aware of the plight of pollinators and so, with some help from my bee friends, here is a helpful list of things we all can do this spring, and down the road, to help out our local pollinators! Bee aware, bee respectful, and bee informed! Here’s your honey-do list!

Plant, Plant, Plant: Ponder the many wildflowers and bee-friendly plants you can add to your area. Set up a bee refuge spot on your property that will be a call to the pollinators to enjoy! If you have children or grandchildren, get them to make some fun Bee Refuge signs for this area and teach them the value of saving the bees in our area. When I spoke to local beekeeper Perry Brandt, he noted that “honey bees produce a wonderful product, honey, as well as beeswax, and yet these are really only by-products of their most important function, which is pollination. Bees are responsible in some way for at least one out of every three bites we consume of our daily dietary requirements. If that isn’t important I don’t know what is.”

Home gardens can be, by far, the biggest source of food for pollinating insects. Here in the Valley we have a vast range of local businesses ready to supply the materials needed to create a home garden filled with nectar-rich flowers. Stop by Tangled Garden for gardening tips and answers to questions, and visit Blomidon Nurseries, Hennigars, or Sterlings for seeds and seedlings, and be sure to visit the Wolfville Farmers’ Market to chat with Perry Brandt, Wolfville’s most knowledgeable beekeeper!

Stop Weeding: There are numerous additional plantings that can help, but a much easier and simpler thing to do is to just stop weeding! Lawns that are incessantly mowed to prevent the spread of white clover, or constantly weeded to remove dandelions, are nothing more than a complete wasteland to honey bees. It can seem as though we thrive on mowing as soon as the grass starts blowing in the wind, but for the sake of the pollinators (bees and thank you), don’t excessively mow away the dandelions! At my apartment building , we have a huge number of dandelions but we don’t mow the lawn three times a week. We allow for a growth period to hopefully help our bee friends! There has been quite a lot of information on, and many are aware of, the damage that clear-cutting can do to woods and forests. Unfortunately fewer are aware that clear-cutting the lawn is not a good policy either, especially as far as pollinating insects are concerned. Bee aware and let others know. Bee enthusiasts and local gardening groups are very eager to start a “re-wilding” initiative to make our area more bee and pollinator friendly and with your help, the early goals can bee achieved.

Make it a Community Effort: The Wolfville Memorial Library has a garden designed to attract butterflies and bees—bravo! Another project for families would be to grow a butterfly garden, have a gardening contest with neighbours, or as a parent, introduce some of these tips to your local school and start some insect and gardening clubs. In Wolfville, the Blomidon Naturalists Society will be starting some butterfly/wild bee/pollinator gardens this summer to continue the pioneering work of the town library. Are you new to the garden world and want to help our bee friends? I suggest you contact the Blomidon Naturalists Society with questions about what to do to help. They can be reached by email at info@blomidonnaturalists.ca.

Are you a landlord? Well, how much available garden space do you have at your buildings for tenants? Is there a space you could make available for a bee refuge? Can you advise your property maintenance person to be less eager to mow and cut back weeds? Allowing tenants to plant some wildflowers in their yard will be a fun hobby and very helpful to the bees! Bee flexible with the space you rent.

Spring Forward: Springtime is critical for bees. “The wild and domesticated bees, along with other insects, that pollinate Valley crops need a suitable habitat to survive and prosper,” Says Perry. “Ideally such a habitat includes a diversity of native flowers, shrubs, bushes, and trees. Spring is an important time for the insect kingdom. A strong start in spring means better numbers of pollinators in our environment.” Before raking and disposing of your leaves in rapid efficiency, in both spring and autumn, follow the Nature Conservancy of Canada and leave the leaves on the ground as shelter for insects.

There’s many resources out there so you can bee better informed. We live in a high-tech world with webinars and gardening groups. You can also visit novascotiahoney.com or your local farmer’s market and get better educated on how to help. Stay tuned to the Blomidon Naturalists Society Facebook page and bee ready for more information on how to help. Bee a friend to the Bees! They need us as much as we need them! Bees and thank you!

Photo courtesy of Howard Williams.