To Bee or Not to Bee

By this time, most edible gardens are in full swing. Flowers are blooming, which means veggies and fruits are not too far behind. My apple trees, actually, already have apples … not quite ready for picking, but I’m starting to plan for apple pan dowdy. And, I ate my first raspberries this morning on my breakfast bowl of granola.

While I’d like to believe that my stellar gardening know-how and techniques are at the root of this success, I have to give credit where credit is due … the pollinators, and specifically, the honey bees.

Honey bees are, well to quote a euphemism, the bees knees. They’re industrious, hard working, pretty savvy when it comes to finding nectar and, without them, many plants would just not bear fruit. 

You know those beautiful squash blossom flowers, the precursor to zucchinis and pumpkins and so many other yummy squash varieties? Well, they need honey bees to make their tasty progeny. One flower is male; one female. It takes a honey bee to hook them up. What’s in it for the honey bee? Nectar. Pollen. What’s in it for us? Honey!

Here’s an amazing statistic: the US Department of Agriculture estimates that honey bees pollinate more than $20 billion worth of crops each year. On average, Americans eat about 150 million pounds of honey a year.

To quote another euphemism, honey bees are … busy. All that buzzing around connects them with millions of flowers. One hive can produce about 60 pounds of honey a year. All for one purpose. And, sadly, it’s not for us. All honey bees bow to their Queen. Every one of the 230 beats per second of their wings is in service to Her; building the honeycomb palace, caring for the royal young and protecting the kingdom. 

Now don’t get a bee in your bonnet about all this. Fortunately for us, honey bees don’t need all of the honey they make. Just enough to get them through the tough times. And that time is now for the day laborer of the honey bee clan … the worker bee. They’re flying their tiny black and yellow bodies to death. Hundreds of hives are being shipped around the country to pollinate all types of nut orchards; melons and squash; thousands of fruit trees. So many flowers, so little time. They worker bees are the drones of the garden - the unmanned aerial vehicles sent in to seek out every flower, retrieve as much nectar and pollen as possible and return to the hive unscathed. They have a good six weeks of hard work in the fields and then they’re busy lives are done. But the gardens and orchards left behind in their wake are blooming masterpieces.

We all benefit from the busy honeybee. So, entice them to your garden by planting sunflowers and marigolds and snapdragons and bluebells. Add to your culinary war chest and put in an herb garden with mint, rosemary and thyme. 

No noble suffering in the garden. To bee is the answer.

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