WHERE the BEES ARE

At last! Spring is officially here and more plants are starting to bloom, providing much needed pollen and nectar for bees.  You should be seeing honeybees and queen bumblebees feeding on dandelions, the ubiquitous and pretty weed Redstem Filaree (Erodium cicutarium), the fantastic, long-blooming Golden Storksbill (Erodium chrysanthum) – not a weed!, Creeping Phlox, Maple trees, tulips, crocus, Crown Imperial Fritillaria, and other spring-blooming bulbs.  Soon the willows that grow along our creeks and ravines will have their inconspicuous bloom which provides pollen, and there have even been a few flowering crabapples starting to bud and leaf out. The time of abundance is near as apples and other fruit trees unfurl.  Native bees will begin emerging from their winter nests and will be flocking to these plants as well.

Engrid says “Our family first moved to a large old piece of property thirteen years ago with a couple of huge crabapples. I could stand under the trees and hear them “hum” with the sound of pollinators.  Alas, that hasn’t happened for at least five years even though the trees bloom just as prolifically. There are still bees in the blossoms, but not like before.  An experienced local beekeeper told us in beekeeping class that it is up to the hobby beekeepers to sustain the populations of bees as the number of professional beekeepers has declined.  He also said that the bees are on “life support”. We are so fortunate in this area to have a large and growing population of these hobbyists who tend to hives in their backyards or on property owned by others.”

There is a sense of urgency for both new and experienced beekeepers to prepare their equipment for the new season.  New beekeepers must either purchase and assemble their hives and frames, or buy pre-assembled hive equipment (and Harlequin’s Gardens new Bee Barn is well-stocked with hive boxes, frames and all the other equipment you’ll need). It’s also a good time to practice lighting (and keeping lit) those pesky smokers which can be quirky and challenging.  Smoke helps to keep the bees calm when opening the hive to check on them, which must be done frequently. There are a wide variety of options for smoker fuel including untreated burlap, straw or dried grass, herb cuttings such as lavender or thyme and the seed heads of Rhus (Sumac) collected in the Fall which are purported to help control varroa mite.  Some beekeepers swear that the corky, dark wood from the cottonwoods along local creeks are the best fuel.   There are also beekeepers who prefer to use a water-based spray with a bit of lavender oil or sugar for keeping the bees calm.  Calm bees are easier on the beekeeper. There are times when neither smoke nor spray will work.  Bees are sensitive to temperature and weather and should be “worked” on calm days when it is not too hot or windy, or when there is an approaching storm.

These fascinating and important creatures need the help of local beekeepers and organic gardeners to survive and thrive.

Mikl wrote the following article as a contribution to the Audobon Society’s Habitat Heroes Program blog, and it also appears on the Friends of the Earth website.

BEES, NEONICS AND THE ORGANIC WAY

Toxic pesticides were never a good idea. They were designed to make money for the petroleum industry, not to benefit the public good. Pesticides, fungicides and herbicides are poisons that were developed to kill life. Not only has this approach poisoned our earth and ourselves, it has failed to control Nature. Our soils are less productive, and weeds and pests have adapted by becoming resistant. Stronger poisons are not the answer.

In the last 20 years, the new “nicotine” pesticides (neonicotinoids) have become the industry standards because they are less toxic to people and animals than the old organophosphate pesticides, and that is good. But the neonicotinoids (neonics) are even more toxic to insects; these nerve toxins remain active in plant tissue for 3 months to 5 years; all parts of the plants are poison, and the poison goes into our soil and water.

It has become difficult to buy landscaping plants that do not contain neonics. From the root hairs to the pollen, this systemic poison kills or undermines the health of honeybees, wild bees, butterflies, beneficial insects, ladybugs, earthworms, soil insects and insect-eating birds. We are heading into a dead end.

Insects are not enemies of plants; they have co-evolved together. They coexist where there is balance and where nutritious soils grow strong and healthy plants. This is not romantic thinking; it is the basis of the organic way that has proven effective all over the world.

At our nursery, Harlequin’s Gardens, we have been growing plants to sell for 23 years without using any toxic pesticides or chemical fertilizers. The plants we grow are neonic-free. Like most sustainable or renewable energy systems, the costs are higher in the beginning and lower as time goes on. We pay extra for nutritious soil ingredients, but we spend little time and money on pest management.

This year the plants we buy from other growers will be 100% neonic-free. We have hired a custom propagator to grow pesticide-free plants for us. And we just purchased the one acre property next-door to us to build an energy-efficient commercial greenhouse to grow even more pesticide-free plants. We don’t need any more proof that neonics are killing our bees and undermining the vitality of our environment.

This year we will also be carrying beekeeping supplies to support honeybees and beekeepers. We will be teaching classes on beekeeping and organic gardening, and as always, we will be carrying soil-building supplies and non-toxic pest management supplies.

Science and history will prove that supporting Life is a more sustainable, economical and successful method than poisoning life. This is the 21st Century direction that will replace petroleum-thinking.

Mikl Brawner

Harlequin’s Gardens

www.HarlequinsGardens.com

“We cannot command Nature except by obeying her.”  Francis Bacon

Please check out our Class Schedule at http://www.harlequinsgardens.com/classes/ for classes on gardening without toxins, gardening for pollinators and wildlife, beekeeping (both Langstroth and Top-Bar), native wild bees, and much more!

Happy Spring! We look forward to seeing you soon!

BEES, NEONICS AND THE ORGANIC WAY

Pesticides were never a good idea. They were designed to make money from petroleum, not to benefit the public good. Pesticides, fungicides and herbicides are poisons that were developed to kill life. Not only has this approach poisoned our earth and ourselves, it has failed to control Nature. Our soils are less productive, and weeds and pests have adapted by becoming resistant. Stronger poisons are not the answer.

In the last 20 years, the new “nicotine” pesticides (neonicotinoids) have become the industry standards because they are less toxic to people and animals than the old organophophate pesticides, and that is good. But the neonicotinoids (neonics) are even more toxic to insects; they last 3 months to 5 years; all parts of the plants are poison, and the poison goes into our water.

So now it has become difficult to buy landscaping plants that do not contain neonics. From the root hairs to the pollen, this systemic poison kills or undermines the health of honeybees, wild bees, butterflies, beneficial insects, ladybugs, earthworms, soil insects and some birds. We are heading into a dead end.

Insects are not enemies of plants; they have co-evolved together. They coexist where there is balance and where nutritious soils grow strong and healthy plants. This is not romantic thinking; it is the basis of the organic way that has proven effective all over the world.

At our nursery, Harlequin’s Gardens, we have been growing plants to sell for 23 years without using toxic pesticides and chemical fertilizers. Like most sustainable or renewable energy systems, the costs are higher in the beginning and lower as time goes on. We pay extra for nutritious soil ingredients, but we spend little time and money on pest management.

This year the plants we buy from other growers will be 100% neonic-free. We have hired a custom propagator to grow pesticide-free plants for us. And we just purchased the one acre property next to us to build an energy-efficient commercial greenhouse go grow even more pesticide-free plants. We don’t need any more proof that neonics are killing our bees and undermining the vitality of our environment.

This year we will also be carrying beekeeping supplies to support honeybees and beekeepers. We will be teaching classes on beekeeping and organic gardening, and we will be carrying soil-building supplies and non-toxic pest management supplies.

Science and history will prove that supporting Life is a more sustainable, economical and successful method than poisoning life. This is the 21st Century direction that will replace petroleum-thinking.

Mikl Brawner

Harlequin’s Gardens

www.HarlequinsGardens.com

“We cannot command Nature except by obeying her.”  Francis Bacon

ANNOUNCING the new Harlequin’s Gardens BEE BARN & our new WHERE the BEES ARE Bi-Monthly Reports

HEAR YE, HEAR YE!

ANNOUNCING the new Harlequin’s Gardens BEE BARN & our new WHERE the BEES ARE Bi-Monthly Reports

Harlequin’s Gardens is now open for the 2015 season!

We at Harlequin’s Gardens have loved and supported bees for a long, long time. We also know that many of our customers keep bees, or would like to learn more about how to support bees and other pollinators and how to keep honeybee hives.

Now we are very excited to announce that we are inaugurating a Neonic-Free policy, (about which we will tell you more in our upcoming Spring Invitation & Newsletter). And, we are now offering an extensive line of beekeeping supplies! By the Herculean efforts of Mikl, several fabulous helpers who pitched in at just the right time, and our staff of amazing Wonderwomen, we have transformed the back portion of our building into The Bee Barn (painted the color of honey, of course!).

The first shipment (over 80 boxes and 3 pallets) of beekeeping supplies have arrived and more is on its way.  Our new Bee Barn is full of a good selection of products including Langstroth hive equipment such as starter kits, Deep, Medium and Honey Supers (both assembled and unassembled) as well as a selection of Top Bar hives.  We have locally constructed Top Bar Hives made with Beetle-Kill Pine and screened bottoms. Come and check out our great selection of Hive Tools, Equipment, Protective Gear, Feeding supplies and great books including the recently published, “Beekeeping Mentor in a Book”  by local beekeeping expert, Don Studinski. Special Ordering is also available and we will be expanding our product line in coming months.

If you are a new beekeeper, we can help you decide what you need because we have beekeepers on staff to answer questions and give advice. You will find our prices are quite reasonable. And we are offering three different classes about honeybees (in which you’ll be able to visit the bees in our own Top Bar and Langstroth hives) and native bees, as well as other great bee-related subjects. Please review our extensive class offerings here.

~Introducing a new Blog~

We are happy to present the first edition of our new feature, Where the Bees Are, a bi-monthly report on what’s happening in beehives around the Front Range area, and what bee-supporting plants are blooming, both in the natural landscape and in gardens. We plan to send this informative report to you twice a month through the bee season, and post it on our website as well. We hope it will give gardeners and beekeeper-gardeners some new ideas for choosing plants and sequencing bloom in their gardens to make the garden a haven for honeybees, wild bees (Boulder County is home to hundreds of species!), and other pollinators. If you have feedback about Where the Bees Are, please contact us by sending a note in the mail to 4795 N 26th St., Boulder CO 80301.

WHERE the BEES ARE, ed. 0315Aphoto

As we all know, late February and early March have been bitterly cold and snowy, which is very hard on honeybee colonies.  Honeybees are the only bees that over-winter as a colony. This makes hive management interesting and challenging.  Temperatures in January and February were unseasonably warm, which triggered the bees to get out and take cleansing flights and search for forage. The Maple trees bloomed about 3 weeks early this year and pollen was eagerly collected. In some sunny gardens, early Crocus and Species Iris, like I. reticulata and I. danfordii, began blooming as early as the first week in February. One of our native shrubs, Silver Buffaloberry (Shepherdia argentea), was blooming in February – inconspicuous to us humans, but definitely noticed by the bees. Honeybees will leave the hive if the weather is sunny and temperatures are over about 50 degrees, but when conditions are cold they stay in a cluster in the hive, shivering to create the kinetic heat that keeps the Queen and the brood warm.  The rest of the bees in the hive rotate from the outside to the inside of the cluster and back again for warmth. The brood is very limited in size to 50-100 bees and the brood cycles overlap and become larger over time as forage and weather begins to be favorable.  Hopefully, there is enough stored honey for them to make it through these lean times, but many beekeepers supplement with pollen patties and sugar cakes. Even so, prolonged cold can cause hive losses as the bees are reluctant to move away from the cluster and the brood to tap into nearby reserves and may starve within an inch of stored honey as they will not leave their brood unprotected. Sometimes robbing occurs and the bees entering and leaving the hive are not the residents. Beekeepers check their hives for dead-outs caused by weather, starvation and disease whenever temperatures are warm enough to observe the bees out and about around the hive or by opening the hives on warm, sunny days.

As this latest cold snap recedes and throughout the month of March, things become a lot more exciting for beekeepers. Equipment needs to be cleaned, repaired, replaced and built in anticipation of bee packages and nucs (brood frames), ordered at least 45 days ago for delivery and installation in April. Inspections will be conducted more frequently as Queen health and brood sizes are checked. Colony strength is assessed for the possibility of splits and old comb may be removed from the bottom of Langstroth hives.  It’s also time to scrape off burr comb and remove uneaten candy, if any.

As temperatures warm a very important bloom time begins – Dandelions!  Dandelion pollen is moderately nutritious and the nectar is abundant and they bloom just in time to feed over-wintered colonies. Dandelions are a vital source of food for honeybees at a time when almost nothing else is available. And they often occur in large groupings, which makes foraging more efficient.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Special thanks to Engrid Winslow for providing much of the content of this report!

Look for our second edition in your mailbox later this month.

We look forward to seeing you soon!

In MARCH we are open Thursday, Fridays, Saturdays & Sundays, from 9am to 5pm

for soil amendments, potting soils, seeds, seed-starting supplies, gardening supplies and tools, seed potatoes, onion plants, early cool-season veggie and herb starts, beekeeping supplies, great classes, gift certificates, and much more!

Beginning APRIL 1, we will be open daily. Please see our upcoming Spring Invitation & Newsletter for more details.

Eve & Mikl Brawner and the fabulous staff at Harlequin’s Gardens