An Ode to Bees on National Honey bee Day
Close to 3/4 of the world’s flowering plants rely on pollinators, and a big chunk of that is the humble honey bee. It’s difficult to fully grasp the vast and delicate balance that our ecosystem rests upon and the part that bees play in that. And for as much as we appreciate a drizzle of honey in our tea, many of us may overlook the larger implications surrounding honey bees and their dwindling populations. Let this blog serve as an opportunity for a newfound (or renewed) appreciation.
National Honey Bee Day, held every third Saturday of August, shines a light on these tireless pollinators and the equally tireless beekeepers tending to them. Beginning as a National Honey Bee Day in 2009, the essence of this day has spread and its purpose is twofold: to savor the sweet nectar that is honey and to stand in solidarity with efforts that sustain honey bee populations.
This year, we would like to help spotlight the amazing flight of the honey bee and capture the moments that accentuate its beauty and significance to us all.
Some Quick Fun Facts About Honey Bees:
- The amount of distance that bees travel in an effort to make enough honey for one jar is about 100,000 air miles
- When the temperature in the hive drops below anywhere 50 degrees in Winter, bees shiver themselves warm with the help of their flight muscles. In this way, they can heat their home back up to over 85 degrees
- Bees communicate with each other using a special “waggle dance.” Through specific movements, they can convey information about the direction and distance to patches of flowers yielding nectar and pollen, water sources, or to new nest-site locations
- Bees can fly at a speed of up to 15 miles per hour and their wings beat about 200 times per second
Our connection to honey bees goes far beyond the jar of honey you have in your pantry. Their pollinating abilities play a critical role in our agricultural systems. Without their intervention, many foods that enrich our diet wouldn’t even make it to our plates in the first place. Global and national reports such as the annual Loss & Management Survey show that the decline in honey bee populations is alarming. This makes World Honey Bee Day more than just a day of acknowledgment—it’s a call to foster environments that support honey bees.
The rich agricultural landscape of Yolo County and its surroundings is a testament to the hard work of local farmers and, of course, our buzzing friends. However, the region’s dependency on pollinators like honey bees brings to light the urgent need for sustainable practices to bolster their populations. Pesticide use, habitat destruction, and other factors challenge their survival here.
While it’s pivotal for us to urge policymakers to devise bee-friendly policies, it’s equally essential for us to integrate practices into our daily lives that amplify their well-being right here at home.That’s why we prioritize sourcing from local, organic, and sustainable producers . This conscious choice aids in promoting bee-friendly agricultural practices so that we can preserve and uplift bee habitats.
While the blooming flowers of 2023 after a wet Winter have brought a prosperous season for our pollinators, it’s imperative that we maintain our momentum in supporting and celebrating them, not just today but every day. So, next time you spot a bee (or beekeeper for that matter), make sure you say something sweet as honey to them to show your appreciation.
We all know that it is crucial we take steps to save the bees. After all, every one out of three bites of food we eat is dependent on bees for pollination. Our bee populations face many threats from things such as Colony Collapse Disorder, the overuse of pesticides, and habitat loss. We hear about how desperately we need to save the bees from our friends, the news, and countless TED talks. But it can be hard to know what one should actually do if they want to play a part in preserving our pollinators and their natural environments. So we have rounded up 5 different small things you can do that will have a big impact if enough people take the initiative. Read on to start saving the bees today!
Cultivate Native Plants
In order for bees to get pollinating, they need plenty of plants that they can choose from. But you want to make sure that you are cultivating plants that are native to the area in which you live if you want to help out your bees. This is because those bees have evolved to interact with those native plants specifically, non-native plants might not provide pollinators with the pollen or nectar that they need.
Here are some native California plants that you could put in your yard to help out your local pollinators:
- California Poppies, this annual plant produces iconic orange flowers that are sure to lure bees in. It is a perennial that grows well in both sun and partial shade, it is also drought resistant.
- Germander Sage, this bush is covered with brilliant blue blooms in early summer and fall. It needs full sun in order to thrive but it is deer resistant and attracts both bees and hummingbirds.
- Cascade Creek Goldenrod, throughout spring and fall this plant displays bright yellow flowers that attract bees and butterflies. It needs full sun to partial shade and is drought resistant.
- Catmint, this spreading perennial is hardy and herbaceous. It blooms in the spring and early summer and is beloved by many varieties of bees.
Use Safe Forms of pest control
There are many factors contributing to the decline of bee populations but one of the most significant is the use of pesticides in domestic and commercial agriculture. If you have a garden going then you want to find natural ways to keep out pests, or else we risk losing the ability to keep such gardens in the future. After all, many of the fruits and vegetables that we enjoy are pollinated by bees.
When looking for a pollinator-friendly form of pest-control it’s not enough for it to be labeled organic, some can still be toxic to pollinators even though they are plant-based. Instead, keep your eyes peeled for non-toxic ingredients such as Kaolin clay, garlic, and corn gluten. There are many other forms of natural pest control from bacterias and oils.
Create An Oasis For Bees In Your Yard/Patio
No matter the size of your yard or patio there are ways that you can create a safe haven for bees, even if you only have a front porch step to work with. Here are some things that you can do to keep your local bees happy:
- Leave a dish of water outside for bees to rehydrate themselves. Make sure that you provide “landing zones” for them in the form of stones, twigs, or corks, as bees are clumsy and can easily drown. Also, don’t add sugar to the water. This is a myth and does not benefit them.
- Place a bee hotel outside your home. We carry beneficial bug houses such as this at the Co-op! They allow bees to find a resting place on their long journeys from flower to flower.
Even if you don’t have room for a full garden having a single native plant on your patio is better than nothing!
Support Local Farmers and beekeepers
We can’t stress this point enough as the use of pesticides is one of the greatest threats to bee populations. Choosing to support farms that don’t spray pesticides will help the bees even more than if you personally stop spraying pesticides. Check out our local page to see some of the great local farms with outstanding practices that we carry at the co-op. You can also find many of these farms at the farmer’s market if you want to support them directly.
Supporting local beekeepers is an even more direct way to help the cultivation of local bee populations. Purchasing bee products such as beeswax, honey, and honeycomb not only garner a sense of connection to the bees, but they help to support the people who’ve made supporting bees a life priority. A great local producer is Pure Honey from Winters, California.
Use YOUR VOICE, SPEAK FOR THE BEES
One of the most powerful ways that we can help the bees is through speaking out. By sharing what you’ve learned with others you may be able to inspire change in those close to you, and if we all do this it can lead to big results. You can also choose to support local organizations that are doing important work to help save the bees, such as:
- Circle of Bees, which is built around sub/urban pollinators, especially honey-bees.
- The Davis Bee Collective is a group of small-scale beekeepers dedicated to the cooperative practice and promotion of ecological apiculture.
- The UC Davis Honey and Pollination Center is working to help UC Davis become the world’s leading authority on honey bee health, pollination, and honey.
- The Haagen-Dazs Honey Bee Haven at UC Davis is a unique outdoor museum that provides resources for local bee pollinators and educates visitors to create pollinator habitat gardens. It also provides a site for the observation and study of bees and the plants that support them.
Written by: Rachel Heleva, Marketing Specialist