Thursday, 3 April 2014

On Honey and Diversity

My husband emailed me this picture and I'm sorry I have no source for it.

We are receiving our bees at the end of May (from Sweet Acres Apiaries) which means that I've got to get a wiggle on when it comes to preparing for seeding good forage for them.  There's no guarantee that we'll be able to harvest any honey from our hives, as first priority will be ensuring that the bees have enough honey (and pollen stores) to get them through next winter.  If there is a surplus, we'll harvest with glee, but not at the expense of the bees.   I'm firmly in the "Let Bees Eat Their Own Honey All Winter" camp, not in the "Give Bees Sugar Water To Get Through Winter So I Can Harvest All The Honey" camp.  Supplementary feeding in times of dearth is another matter, but when it comes to honey harvesting, BEES ALWAYS COME FIRST.

Good local honey from unmedicated hives is an expensive product (as it should be!).  We use quite a bit of it and are looking forward to having our own honey (in whatever quantity the bees can comfortably provide).

To hopefully stack the odds in our favour, we're converting large swaths of our grass over to bee forage meadows.   We are surrounded by (monoculture) agriculture but dotted throughout the are a few "islands" of natural forage.   I'm aiming to create a lush and diverse forage area right on our land which will not only benefit our bees, but also, lots of other pollinators.

Here's an interesting chart showing North American nectar sources for honeybees.  Not all of those species will grow in our region, but it gives me a good guideline as to what to plant so that we have nectar available all season long.   Like any natural ecosystem, diversity is key to have a steady and varied supply of food for our bees.   In urban areas, there tends to be more varied bee forage, but out here in Ag country, not so much.  We are fortunate to have a 200 meter willow windbreak which provides reliable early forage, but there's much that I can do to create a full season of bee food after the willows' contributions.  Specifically, I'd like to plant more trees (a Linden would be nice) to round out the diverse perennial plant forage choices.

I've been thinking about and reading up on to the topic of diversity this winter and I'm reasonably confident that the health of every living thing can be boosted simply by consuming a more diverse diet.  We have experienced that health boost first hand this past winter (as a family).  My goal was to add serious diversity to our diet in the forum of eating a much BROADER spectrum of species.  The reward was our healthiest winter on record in spite of lots of nasty flu and cold bugs making their rounds in our community.  In nearly 23 years of parenting, this was truly a remarkable discovery - experiencing FIRST hand how our immune systems were aided through the simple quest for diversity.   Generally speaking, most people eat a very limited diet (from a species perspective) as a lot of our food comes from only a few crops.  Additionally, we tend to be creatures of habit, relying on favourite foods to make up the bulk of our diet.   Why would honeybees be any different from us?  Wouldn't they be healthier with a diverse offering of food (just like we found)?    I'm betting yes, but we'll see how that theory pans out this year.  I'll keep you posted on what we learn (oh boy, there's much humble learning to come....).

For information on natural beekeeping, check out Bush Farms.  It's a great site!

FYI, I took my beekeeping course through Apiaries and Bees For Communities and can't speak highly enough about Eliese Watson (my instructor).  She's a wonderful woman doing GREAT work on behalf of honeybees.


  1. I do want to try bees, someday. Thanks so much for the link and I will be watching to see how well they work out for you.

    1. Becky, I'm sure you'd be a great beekeeper with all of your animal experience :)

  2. Your posts about bees are so informative, I am saving all of them for when we keep bees one day. Thanks!

    Also, this is totally random, but I just want to let you know that I nominated you for a Liebster Award. It’s basically a way for bloggers to show appreciation for their own favorite bloggers, while learning more about each other and gaining some readers along the way. If you’d like to participate, just visit my blog for the details and questions. If not, then act like I was never here! Just know that I enjoy your posts and have a great day! :)

  3. You will love being a bee keeper! It is such a buzz (pun intended) to collect the honey!! I'm still in the learner category. I have an elderly mentor which is just fantastic! And do you know, I hadn't realised until you commented, but we avoided all the winter bugs too.

    1. Oh, that's fantastic about your bees making it through winter in good health!