Spring is almost here, yippy!! It’s been a long winter and our little honeybee friends are feeling it too. Spring is a very critical time for them and you can help by knowing more about their world.
Depending on the form of beekeeping taking place near you, the bees you see out and about may not have had any ‘natural’ food all winter. Unless the keeper adheres to organic standards or has a natural approach, chances are the bees have been surviving on sugar water and protein patties throughout the winter. If this is the case, they are hungry for some sustenance! Your best course of action is to assist them in having some early blooming plants growing on your property. Short of your purposeful planting, you can allow those natural bloomers to have a home with you, the most abundant source will be Dandelions! They are very early to show their smiling little faces and full of nourishment for both the bees and us. Bees begin to fly, searching for food and water, whenever the weather is 50 degrees or warmer. If you should happen to see them out before anything is blooming, you can still help them. Place a small dish with some stones on it and pour a spoonful or two of well sourced honey on it and place it in a safe, protected area. More than likely you will have some visitors within a day or two!
Bees are thirsty too and need clean, easily accessible water to drink. You can provide them a shallow dish or drain pan from a flower pot. Bees can’t swim and need something shallow to drink from. Whatever you provide make sure it has something for the bees to fly onto. I prefer to float pinecones in mine because they are abundant for me and they absorb and hold water so that the bees don’t even have to come into direct contact with the water reserves in order to drink from the cones and I don’t have to be as careful about the water level. Other people recommend pebbles on the bottom of the dish with enough of them above water for the bees to land on. Whatever you prefer, the main thing is to make sure that it is a natural, non-toxic surface. After providing this you can watch it daily and hopefully begin to see your little visitors making good use of the water you provide! It can be as entertaining as bird watching and deeply satisfying to know you are helping them in their survival. One more note on watering issues. Just as any other living thing, once they find your water they will quickly become dependent on it. It is vital that you maintain it for them going forward, please make sure you are able to follow through for the balance of the summer and throughout fall as well.
I know what some of you are thinking, “I don’t want to attract bees to my yard!” and I understand your thinking but it is important to note here that bees are very unassuming when in flight or away from their hives. They only sting to protect themselves and unless they feel threatened you really need not worry. Most people are stung from a bee because they unknowingly step on it or crush it against their body with normal movements. None the less, place your bee food and water in a corner of your property where you can keep watch but not be close enough to bother them while they are there. I warn you though, once you start watching their activity, you will be hooked and find yourself spending plenty of time just watching their coming and going from your yard!
I can’t cover all I would wish to about springtime and bees within this short post but there is one more very important issue we should discuss. Swarming bees are common in the spring and early summer. If you should happen to run across a swarm there are a few things to remember. The first and most important is not to panic! The sight of thousands of bees hanging in a ball from a building or tree can look quite scary but I assure you there is no need to panic. Bees are normally very docile while swarming, their minds are concerned with finding a new home, keeping the queen safe and not much else. Still it is advisable to keep people and animals away from the area, especially young children. If you know a beekeeper you can call to come collect them, they will be very happy to respond quickly. If you are unaware of a beekeeper you can contact your local county extension service and they should know of several. If you live in a larger city, beekeepers may even be listed in the phone book. Please, above all else, do not attempt to destroy them with spray or any other method! Chances are you will not be successful and you may make them angry and aggressive, which is when they become dangerous.
Keep watch here, I will be posting information for a live class on “Health from the Hive” where we will be learning about all the health promoting gifts the bees provide for us. In the meantime, have a lovely spring and enjoy those little flying beauties this year!