Keep­ing bees helps gar­den­ers understand plants bet­ter

Kuwait Times - - HEALTH & SCIENCE -

NEW YORK: Want to be­come a bet­ter gar­dener? Then learn some­thing about bee­keep­ing. Be­come a match­maker who en­sures that flow­er­ing plants and hon­ey­bees enjoy a ben­e­fi­cial re­la­tion­ship. Keep­ing bees in­creases one’s in­ter­est in botany, says Jim Tun­nell, a mas­ter bee­keeper and owner of Beez Neez Api­ary Sup­ply in Sno­homish, Wash­ing­ton. “I can’t help but look at the world more from the bees’ per­spec­tive,” he said. “When­ever I see them show an in­ter­est in a par­tic­u­lar plant, I have to know what it is and whether it is a nec­tar source or a pollen source or both.” Bees gather pollen, nec­tar and wa­ter to make honey, re­pro­duce and sur­vive. Pollen is used pri­mar­ily to feed new gen­er­a­tions of brood. Wa­ter cools the hives and di­lutes the honey on which the bees feed. The sug­ary nec­tar is stock­piled for over­win­ter­ing when flow­er­ing plants are dor­mant. Pollen and nec­tar-rich plants, mean­while, need the kind of cross-pol­li­na­tion pro­vided by bees and other in­sects. “Bees tend to con­fine their at­ten­tion to one flower species dur­ing a sin­gle for­ag­ing trip, but they move from plant to plant, fa­vor­ing cross-pol­li­na­tion,” a Mis­souri Botan­i­cal Gar­den fact sheet says. “Cross-pol­li­na­tion re­sults in greater ge­netic vari­a­tion, which can mean stronger, more vig­or­ous plants.”

Hon­ey­bees seem par­tial to white, blue, yel­low and vi­o­let flow­ers. Flow­ers with saucer­shaped blooms, like dahlias, cos­mos, cone­flow­ers and sun­flow­ers are more open than tube­shaped types, making pollen and syrup eas­ier to col­lect. Pro­vide flow­er­ing plants and the pol­li­na­tors will come. But it takes more than sev­eral sub­ur­ban yards to sup­port a honey­bee colony. “A hive’s for­ag­ing area ex­tends sev­eral miles in ev­ery di­rec­tion,” Tun­nell said. “If you de­fine ‘sur­rounded by pol­li­na­tor-friendly peren­ni­als’ as a yard filled with such plants, that is woe­fully in­ad­e­quate for a sin­gle bee­hive.”

Rather than em­pha­siz­ing plant­ing in quan­tity then, plant for avail­abil­ity. Prac­tice suc­ces­sion plant­ing with species that bloom from early spring through late au­tumn. Food sup­plies for pol­li­na­tors are par­tic­u­larly scarce early and late in the year. “This is crit­i­cally im­por­tant,” said Mace Vaughan, a spokesman for The Xerces So­ci­ety for In­ver­te­brate Con­ser­va­tion in Port­land, Ore­gon. “We know that honey­bee hives that bring in a di­ver­sity of pol­lens are health­ier and bet­ter able to cope with diseases, pests and even pes­ti­cide ex­po­sure. “Also, bees are ac­tive year-round,” he said. “There are times when the nat­u­ral sup­ply of nec­tar or pollen is low dur­ing the year. By work­ing to have blooms avail­able con­sis­tently through­out the grow­ing sea­son, honey­bee hives are bet­ter able to thrive.” In many cases, na­tive plants are best be­cause they pro­duce an abun­dance of pollen and nec­tar and are eas­ier to main­tain, Vaughan said. But that doesn’t mean there isn’t a role for non-na­tive plants. “Lawns full of clover or crop fields full of buck­wheat or phacelia can be very valu­able and in­ex­pen­sive to es­tab­lish,” he said. Not ev­ery gar­dener is cut out to be a bee­keeper, but all have a vested in­ter­est in the long-term health of bees and other pol­li­na­tors, Tun­nell said. “I think it’s al­ways a good thing to keep the pol­li­na­tors in mind when we plant our gar­dens,”he said. — AP

WASH­ING­TON: This Sept. 11, 2015 photo shows a honey­bee cov­ered with pollen, af­ter for­ag­ing on a col­lec­tion of Dahlias at a home near Lan­g­ley, Wash.

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