The Wine Country Online

Bees in the Garden

By B. Goodrich

 Our friend Bibiana has kindly sent us this note from her bee garden on Livengood Tree Farm, a lovely and productive piece of land set in the tall timber of North Idaho. Bibi is an active member of the Sandpoint farmers market and writes regularly on the subject of bees, botanicals and health for the Sandpoint Daily Bee, as well as The Nickel's Worth from Coeur d'Alene, Idaho.

There are many insects to observe in the garden now. One of my favorites is bees. Bees are pollinators. Their fuzzy bodies carry pollen from plant to plant. Bees pollinate a quarter of the foodstuffs we eat.

Bees native to our area include bumblebees, the leaf-cutting bee and various other ground-dwelling bees. Bees collect pollen for protein and nectar for carbohydrates. The landscape is full of flowers that must be pollinated by insects in order to produce fruit and seeds. Many kinds of bees visit flowers, but none of them is as efficient a pollinator as the honeybee.

Rosita at Livengood Farm
Honeybees pollinate millions of dollars' worth of almonds, alfalfa, clover, citrus and squash every year. Honeybees aren't native to North America. They came to this continent with the European colonists. Today's bees have been carefully bred for gentleness and honey production.

If you're stung by a bee, immediately use your thumbnail to scrape away the barb and pulsating poison sac. The less poison that's squeezed into the puncture means a milder reaction to the sting.

The best way to get along with bees is to have respect for plants in bloom. Bees work in and between flowers in the warmer parts of the day. Do necessary work with plants in bloom in the cool early morning hours.

"The Girls" at Livengood Farm
Don't spray blooming plants with pesticides, because the bees carry the contaminated pollen and nectar back to the hive to feed the young. Thousands of hives of honeybees re killed this way each year.

Yellowjackets aren't bees, they are wasps. Yellowjackets have patterns of yellow and black on their hairless bodies. Yellowjackets aren't pollinators, they're scavengers of dead insects and animal meat. Most "bee stings" are actually inflicted by yellowjackets. But there is a big difference between the aggressive yellowjacket and the peacefully pollinating bee. Observe them carefully and you'll see.