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Honey Bees and WaterWise Gardens

Want to help your local honeybee and native bee populations, while cutting back on water use at the same time? Plant a drought-tolerant garden with nectar- and pollen- rich plants!  Not only will it provide forage for pollinators, but the plants require less water than lawns, and produce beautiful, fragrant blooms.

Simple ways to save water — and use it wisely

  • Reduce or remove grass and replace it with WaterWise landscaping that uses up to 50 percent less water!
  • Make your existing functional lawn WaterWise! Click here for more information.
  • Check your sprinkler system frequently and adjust sprinklers so only your lawn is watered — and not the house, sidewalk, or street.
  • Minimize evaporation by watering between 9:00 p.m. and 6:00 a.m.
  • Use a layer of organic mulch around plants to reduce evaporation and save hundreds of gallons of water a year.
  • Divide your watering cycle into shorter periods to eliminate runoff.
  • Direct rain gutter spouts and other runoff towards shrubs and trees, or collect and use for your garden.
  • Use drip irrigation for shrubs and trees to apply water directly to the roots where it’s needed.
  • Install a rain shut-off device on your automatic sprinklers to eliminate unnecessary watering.
  • Use a broom instead of a hose to clean your driveway or sidewalk.
  • Don’t water on windy days.  After all, sidewalks and driveways don’t need water.
  • Water your plants deeply but less frequently to create healthier and stronger landscapes.
  • Fertilizers increase water consumption.  Apply the minimum amount of fertilizer needed.
  • Remember to weed your lawn and garden regularly.  Weeds compete with other plants for nutrients, light, and water.
  • Use a screwdriver as a soil probe to test soil moisture.  If the soil is moist, you probably do not need to water.

Pollinator-Friendly and WaterWise Planting

  • A variety of flower colors will attract a diverse variety of bees.  Perennials that bloom blue, purple, and violet are especially beneficial, attracting bees in large numbers.  Yellow flowers also work well.  Bees are not colorblind but they are unable to see red.  Although red flowers are often rich in nectar and pollen, bees don’t visit them as often as flowers in other colors.
  • Most members of the compositae family (plants with flower centers composed of many tiny florets, such as daisies, cosmos, and zinnias) are good sources of nectar and/pollen.
  • Plant species that bloom in different seasons to extend enjoyment of the garden — both yours and the bees’!
  • Native plant species are adapted to local conditions, often thriving with little to no water or care.  They are also often excellent sources of nutrition for native pollinators.
  • Bees collect only one type of pollen during a foraging trip, so large clumps of a single species (3 feet square) will attract more of them.  However, even single plants will be found and enjoyed by pollinators.
  • Encourage low-water plants to root by watering infrequently and deeply.  Frequent watering cause plants to grow shallow root systems, making them less drought tolerant.  Infrequent, deep watering encourages them to grow deep roots.  Properly-rooted drought-tolerant plants can often require watering only once or twice a month during the summer.
  • Put the right plant in the right location.  A shade-loving plant in a sunny location will be stressed, and therefore vulnerable to disease and insect infestation.  Additionally, make sure plants are getting the correct amount of water and pruning, so that they stay strong and healthy.
  • Use organic fertilizers, and don’t over-fertilize.  Synthetic products can add to environmental pollution, and too much fertilizer can cause plants to over-grow, requiring more water than they normally would.
  • Dead-heading (removing spent blossoms) can extend the bloom season for many plants.
  • Include a “watering hole” for visiting bees.  Fill a shallow container of water with pebbles or twigs for the bees to land on while drinking.  Maintain the water level so they can return to the same spot every day (if you have a drip irrigation system, it’s easy to add an emitter that tops up the container).  Bees don’t care if water is brackish, so don’t worry about cleaning it too often!
  • Mulch Moderately! Mulching is a great way to help your plants require less frequent watering, but it prevents native bees and bumblebees from burrowing into the ground to create their nests.
  • Mulch around the root zone of your plants, but leave a patch of the garden in a sunny spot uncultivated and un-mulched for bees that burrow.
  • Use bark or other biodegradable material for mulch.  Rock ‘mulches’ form a permanent, impenetrable layer over the soil.
  • For wood- and stem- nesting bees, piles of branches, bamboo sections, hollow reeds, or nesting blocks made out of untreated wood will be much appreciated.  Water & Feed Wisely.

Types of Bees in the hive

  • There are three types of bees in the hive: queen, workers, and drones.
  1. The Queen
    • Will live normally between 1 and 4 years.
    • Consumes royal jelly provided by the workers.
    • Has a non-barbed stinger.
    • Without a queen, the colony will eventually die.
    • Develops in 16 days, from egg to emergence from the queen cell.
  2. The Workers
    • Worker are all females.
    • Can have numbers ranging from 40,000-60,000 in a strong hive.
    • Performs a multitude of tasks to include: Tending to the queen, feeding larvae, feeding drones, nectar ripening, producing heat, collecting water, house cleaning guard duty, field collection of pollen and nectar, to list a few.
    • Will die if she stings.  Has a barbed stinger that is left behind after stinging.
    • Will live 6-8 weeks in the summer, working until her wings give out.
    • Will live 4-6 months in winter when not actively working/foraging.
    • Develops in 21 days from egg to emergence.
  3. The Drone
    • Sole responsibility is fertilization.
    • Leaves hive for 2-3 hours each day.
    • Has no stinger.
    • If the workers stopped feeding them, they would die of starvation.
    • Develops in 24 days from egg to hatching to emergence.

General Facts

  • A single honey bee may collect 1⁄12 teaspoon of honey in her lifetime.
  • To make 1 pound of honey, bees may need to fly 50,000 miles.
  • Honey bees may forage up to 2-5 miles from the hive.
  • Bees do not hibernate, but cluster for warmth.  They remain active all winter.
  • Bees will maintain an internal cluster temperature of 92 degrees in the coldest part of winter while raising brood.
  • Bees will disconnect their wings allowing then to pump their wing muscles to create heat.
  • Bees fly outside the hive normally when temperatures rise above 50 degrees.
  • A beekeeper’s main tools are a protective veil, smoker, gloves, and a hive tool.
  • Smoke inhibits alarm pheromone from alerting other bees of danger.  They also gorge themselves with honey in preparation of possibly fleeing a wildfire, taking as much resources with them as possible.
  • A beekeeper will harvest extra honey that bees store beyond what they need to survive.
  • The record harvest for one colony is 404 pounds, by the Aebis Family in 1974.
  • Raw honey contains many beneficial minerals and vitamins.  Honey also has antibacterial properties and anti-oxidant benefits.  Many claim allergy relief by using local honey that contains pollen.
  • There are many varietals of honey.  From orange blossom honey, award winning tupelo honey, clover, alfalfa, blueberry, to apple blossom.
  • Honey comes as extracted, liquid, creamed, or in the honeycomb.
  • We only produce about 30% of the honey we consume in the U.S.
  • Local beekeepers produce the best “green” sweetener you can buy … local honey.
  • Besides honey, you can harvest pollen, propolis, and beeswax.
  • Directly, honey bees pollinate the flowers of 1⁄3 of all fruits and vegetables.
  • Indirectly, honey bees pollinate 70% of the food crops, through seed production, etc.
  • There are 1⁄2 the number of beekeepers there were 25 years ago.
  • There are 1⁄3 less beehives as there were 25 years ago.
  • For every 100 beekeepers, 95% are hobbyists, 4% sideliners, and 1% are fulltime or commercial beekeepers.
  • Beekeeping dates back at least 4,500 years.
  • Beekeeping can be a sustainable endeavor.
  • Renting bees to farmers in need of pollination generates a source of income.
  • Beehives are kept on farms, in backyards, on balconies, and high-rise rooftops, all across the country.
  • There are local, county, state, and national bee associations.
  • Honey bees are kept or managed in all 50 states.

Did You Know

  • 1⁄3 of all vegetables and fruits produced are pollinated by honey bees. Depending on the crop, some fruits would not develop without pollination from honey bees. With other crops, we might get fruit, just not the same amount or quality we desire. Ever see a lopsided apple or pumpkin? That is a sign of improper or a lack of, pollination. Without the honey bee, many things in nature would be “lopsided”.
  • Some estimates range from 50-80% of the world’s food supply being directly or indirectly affected by honey bee pollination. Whether it’s pollination of apples, or pollination of the seeds used to produce grain for livestock, the food chain is linked to honey bees. The world’s production of food is dependent on pollination provided by honey bees.
  • Honey bees provide the most “green” sweetener you can buy. Buying local honey is the “greenest” purchase for most food products. Become a “localvore” and help the environment, the farmers, and the honey bees.
  • Honey bees provide among others things: honey, beeswax, propolis, pollen, royal jelly, apitherapy, enjoyment, and an income for some beekeepers.
  • Honey bees have been managed and have sustained farming practices as far back as 4,500 years.
  • Einstein did NOT say the world would end in four years without honey bees. However, we certainly would have to change farming practices if that happened. Food prices would soar without the industrious honey bee. Be grateful the honey bees work so hard, and can be managed. We need to respect that, and be good stewards of not just the honey bee, but the entire environment.
  • Bees and bee products have been used in many areas of health. From bee sting apitherapy for arthritis to antibiotic treatment with honey for burn victims. Studies have shown that relief of a sore throat is higher with honey, than most over the counter medicines available.
  • Bee provide products that are used in the horse industry such as hoof salves (propolis), a host of varied medicinal applications (propolis/honey), used as embalming fluid (honey), a form of currency (honey) a food source (honey, pollen, brood, bees), and even in the military service (bees). Ongoing research such suggests antibacterial and antiviral applications on a wide scope of uses, to even include cancer treatments.
  • Honey bees are perfect as a measuring device for gauging the health of the environment. Bees are very sensitive to pesticides. Some pesticides have been shown to effect the honey bees with devastating and deadly results with only several parts per billions in contamination. Many of these pesticides can be bought for homeowner use and application. If it kills the bees at that level, what about the family pets or the grandkids running around the backyard barefoot? Be aware of the impacts that chemicals play. And eliminate as many as possible.

Remember to “BEE” WaterWise!