Where would we be without the ‘birds and the bees’? As far as workers go in the garden, bees have to ‘bee’ the hardest workers of all. For years only a few environmentally orientated people and beekeepers understood and acknowledged the work of bees until recently they had become underrated and misunderstood.
Now the plight of the bee has come to the fore, with numbers dwindling all over the country, gardeners are being urged to think carefully about encouraging bees back into the garden by planting flowers and plants which provide food and shelter for them. Gardeners need to be educated about excessive use of sprays and chemicals which often inadvertently kill bees and their communities. Alternatives are available, choose either bee friendly insect sprays to treat flowers, fruit and veggies, or eliminate pesticide use altogether.
Honeybees and bumble bees are the two most prominent kinds in New Zealand gardens. Bees feed on the nectar produced by flowers and while they are busy extracting nectar, pollen sticks to their legs or bodies and rubs off onto other flowers as the bees move from one flower to another, resulting in fertilisation. This is a vital process to ensure fruit, crops and seeds are produced.
The list is long of flowers that encourage bees into the garden. Essentially the best flowers are single with open, flat shapes or clusters of tiny flowers, rather than ruffled, frilly double flowers. These are the easiest for bees to get a feed. For the vegetable garden its particularly important for some crops such as tomatoes, beans, cucumber, pumpkins, watermelons etc to have the help of bees for pollination. Crop failure is common in these crops if bees are in short supply.
What Plants Encourage Bees Into your Garden
NZ Natives: manuka is our fav!
Annual Flowers: calendula, marigold, sunflowers, poppies, cosmos, hollyhocks, foxgloves, echium, clover, nasturtiums
Perennials: comfy, dahlias, echinacea, geraniums, aquilegia, gladiolus
Shrubs: lilac, buddleia, echium
Climbers: Honeysuckle, clematis
Fruit & Veg: All berries, stone fruit, cucumbers, pumpkin, courgette
Herbs: beebalm, borage, coriander, rosemary, thyme
I love using The Tui NZ Flower Garden Book, you will find ALL the information on what to grow and how invaluable!! (Thanks to Tui for helping with some of the info in this blog - https://www.tuigarden.co.nz/)
Dealing With Bugs
One of the biggest threats for bees is the use of insecticides in the garden. Most bug sprays are generic and kill both the good bugs and the bad ones. Excessive use of these sprays is part of the reason that bees and other good bugs are in decline.
The solution is to reduce the risk of insect attack, by keeping plants healthy, well-watered and well fertilised to maintain a strong plant. Insects are more likely to attack weak plants. If insect problems do occur check at your local garden centre for a suitable spray, bee and lady bird-friendly insect sprays that kill only bad bugs and leave the good ones to carry on doing a sterling job in the garden.
Bees For Hire
In some areas, local beekeepers hire out hives and offer classes to those that are interested in bees. Contact the Natural Beekeepers association to find local contacts www.nba.org.nz
Au Natural Skinfood & Inspirational Bees
Au Natural Skinfood relies heavily on the hard work of bees to get our products to our subscribers. Gratitude is a concept that we fully embrace, working with and relying on living creatures teaches us to be humble. We have learned to be appreciative of the remarkable life cycle of bees and the gift of their honey. Living for just a short six weeks in the summer and four to six months in the winter, each bee only produces 1/12 a teaspoon of honey in her lifetime. Collectively, however, a hive makes enough honey to not only support itself over winter but also to have a little extra, that beekeepers can harvest as food for people and of course for skincare/ wound healing.
The team at Au are constantly amazed by what bees can do, produce and how they live, there are three lessons about gratitude honey bees have taught us showing somehow that we are all connected :
Strive for Unity – Bees work closely together toward a common purpose, which is to ensure the survival of the hive. People come together in celebration for all sorts of occasions—they may travel far geographically or ideologically. People take the time to reconnect with the lives and activities of far-flung relatives and friends. It is often a time to reconcile differences and to reach out to others and strengthen one’s bonds with one another.
Teach the Young – Worker bees take on multiple roles throughout their short lives depending upon the hive’s needs: feeding baby bees, tending the queen, cleaning the hive, foraging for food, guarding the colony, and making honeycomb. With such a large population of bees (upward to 80,000 in a healthy hive), these social insects need to be able to communicate effectively and do so either through scent or by dancing (i.e., waggle dance). People often gather together, multi-generations, friends and families and stories are retold and shared, weaving together and strengthening connections between past and present. Children absorb these tales and they become part of their identity. Families and friends may gather in prayer or song over a rich, aromatic meal as part of their ongoing legacy.
Open One’s Heart – We’re all familiar with the saying “Busy as a Bee” and while bees are industrious, they may work anywhere from 2 to 12 hours a day depending on their role in the hive. What is impressive about bees, however, is that they perform work for which the reward doesn’t come until much later. As part of our embrace of gratitude, we have learned to open our hearts and reflect upon all the gifts that we receive daily, especially those that are hard to achieve. This reflection enables us to focus outward and to use our gifts and resources to help others.
While bees may be small, they make an essential contribution to maintaining human health, and indeed, our survival. It is thought that one in three bites of food we eat depends on bees for its production, and their influence is spreading into health and skincare. World Bee Day is a perfect opportunity to stop and learn something new about bees and definitely think about planting something in your garden or even in your kitchen or apartment that will help to keep our bee population growing.
Happy World Bee Day!
From the team at Au Natural Skinfood
For Your Skin – For Our Planet
Thank you to Rachel Vogan and Tui for your help with the content in this article.