Do your part to help bees
There are few gardeners who clock as many hours as honeybees. Many are out at first light of morning and continue to work until the last light of the evening sun from late spring-autumn. While honeybees do not mulch and weed they do provide us an invaluable service: pollination. When bees leave their hives to forage for pollen, they bring life to millions of plants along the way. A 2000 Cornell University Study estimates that one out of every three bites of food we take relies on the pollination of honeybees; either plants that directly rely on pollination to produce fruits and vegetables or livestock who are fed diets of plants dependent on insect pollination. In 2006 when beekeepers started losing massive portions of their bees, it did not take the media long to notice.
A new term was born — Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD). CCD essentially applies to hives that lose their bees for no apparent reason. There is no sign of damage from mites who prey on bees, no signs of trauma to the hive, and no dead bees anywhere in sight. Essentially when bees vanish without a trace, as they started to do in astronomical numbers in 2006, it is called Colony Collapse Disorder.
Of course as with any story sensationalized by media, a number of theories arise from all corners of the world. Beekeepers in France and the United Kingdom fought government and the Bayer Corporation for stronger restrictions on pesticide use. Some theorized the rapidly declining honeybee population were a result of global warming and climate change. Other theories are tossed around with modern farming practices to blame. According to a Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture Study, since 2006 the number of CCD cases has risen consistently every year. A healthy beehive routinely loses 15 to 20 percent of its bees over the winter, a hive with CCD averages about 40 percent of bees lost.
Because many U.S. commercial crop productions like almonds, blueberries, pumpkins, and cranberries rely on pollination from commercial beekeepers. These beekeepers shuttle thousands of hives on 18-wheeler trucks across the country, setting up their hives in fields of farmers who contract them. Because of the decline in their bee populations, the price of their service has almost tripled since 2005. This is reflected in the climbing costs of many of these crops.
While this is all very big, and my ability to help is very small, I am excited to incorporate as many new plants to attract honeybees in my garden as possible. Unfortunately I do not know the cause of CCD or how to fix it, but I can definitely provide additional habitat for bees in my garden. I am interested in keeping my own hive, but not ready to take that leap at this time.
Many of the plants favored by honeybees are beautiful specimens of stunning flowers and fragrant herbs. Even one container planted with a few pollen-producing plants is a step in the right direction and valuable forage for bees.
A few favorite plantings for bees:
• Borage (Borago officinallis): With beautiful and edible blue blooms, this herb stands out as a winner for any garden. An annual herb that often seeds itself and returns year after year. The leaves have a light and fresh cucumber-like taste and fragrance and are often used in salads. It grows well in full sun-partial shade. Also is often used as a companion plant to tomatoes and strawberries.
• Cosmos (Cosmos): Incredibly easy to grow from seed, these flowers are an inexpensive and beautiful addition to the home garden. Full sun.
• Sunflower (Helianthis annus): Who doesn’t love sunflowers? These icons of late summer attract bees and always stand out as cheerful and welcoming. Full sun.
• Lemon Balm (Melissa officinallis): Melissa is actually Greek for honeybee. Lemon balm has a light lemony fragrance that can be used for anything from flavoring tea to a natural mosquito repellent—while attracting bees. It grows best in partial sun, although mine thrives in full shade. Because it is a member of the mint family, it must be planted in a container—otherwise it will spread rapidly.
Not only can we feel good for providing them with forage, but they will thank us by pollinating our gardens.
If you are interested in learning more about beekeeping, there is actually an Ohio State Beekeepers Association that can get you started. Visit ohiostatebeekeepers.org to learn more.
Community Garden Day planned
Join the Delaware County Master Gardeners for the annual community garden day. This year it will take place on Feb. 9 at the Columbus State Community College Delaware branch location.
The topics are designed for community garden leaders and gardeners in general. A Year in Vegetables will be presented by Barbara Arnold of the Franklin Park Conservatory and Botanical Gardens. She will be showing you how you can have a full year of vegetables in our central Ohio climate. Growing Communal Garden and Building Relationships is being done by Trish Clark of Local Matters. She is the Growing Matters Program manager. Her topic is so important to all the community gardens that have come up over the recent years. We are always looking for ways to involve the local residents, community leaders and gardeners into the community garden concept.
Next will be two fellow Master Gardeners from Lucas County to present their featured program called From Plant to Plate. Find out ways to improve your gardening experience using local items, connecting the kids to produce, and how you can incorporate their ideas into yours.
Shawn Belt from the R.E.A.P. program in Cleveland, will present a very fun program titled “Lasagna Gardening.” He will explain in detail how to treat your garden like layers of our favorite Italian dish, lasagna. How cool is that?
The community garden day will begin at 10 a.m. and end at 4 p.m. Feb. 9. The registration is open to the public, but reservations must be made by Feb. 1. To register, call the OSU Extension Office at 740–833-2030 or download a registration form at delaware.osu.edu and mail to the extension office. Seating is limited, so make sure you sign up soon. The cost is $20 for the day and includes a box lunch, coffee and handouts. Hope to see you all there for a great day full of gardening inspiration.
Stephen Jones is an OSU Extension Master Gardener volunteer.