Friday, March 28, 2014

To Bee or not to Bee



Mike Turner, who owns Marin Coastal Bee Co., knows bees. He harvests and sells their honey, he removes their nests, relocates their swarms, and helps set up and or manage hives of them for his customers.  You can even order his local honey here.

Mike will discuss the life and habits of the honeybee at the 38th annual Marin chapter of the California Native Plant Society at 11 a.m. on April 12 at Green Point Nursery in Novato where native wildflowers, perennials, shrubs, grasses and seeds will be on sale.  Other talks will focus on butterfly gardening and top native plants for the Marin garden.

You can win one of four plants, grown by the Society's volunteer by entering the contest below.



Image: Deborah Turner

Here, Mike Turner shares his favorite fun facts from The Beekeepers Handbook by Diana Sammataro and Alphonse Avitabile.   


The Life (and death) of a Busy Bee

In its lifetime, a honeybee produces about 1/12th of a teaspoon, or about five drops, of honey.

It takes 15 adult bees to make one teaspoon, not tablespoon, of honey.

It takes about two million flower visits to collect enough nectar to make 1 pound of honey. 


Image: Bob and Mieko Watkins

A colony can collect 40 to 125 pounds of pollen in a year and eat about 40 to 65 pounds in the same amount of time.

If bees eat eight pounds of honey, they can make one pound of beeswax.

Bees fly from 9 to 15 miles per hour. If bees fly two miles from their hive, they can cover about 8,000 acres of forage area.  This adorable bumblebee, below, isn't known for its honey-making skills, but it's a great pollinator for the garden and needs food, too.


 Image: Bob and Mieko Watkins

If a bee is gorged with 30 mg. of honey, it can cover 34 miles without running out of fuel,  so that's about 1 mg. of honey per mile.  If it is swarming,  it carries 36 mg. Swarms, like the one below in a Mill Valley, CA tree, occur between March and June when hives are bursting with bees and the queen takes off with half of her hive to find a new home.  

 Image: Mike Turner

At the peak of summer, a hive can have as many as 50,000 adult bees and 35,000 incubating young bees.  In a colony of 50,000 bees, 500 die each day.   Colonies can live in beehives built by the bees or by beehive makers like Mike Turner.




An adult worker bee lives 15 to 38 days during the summer.  During the winter, it can live 140 days or more.

Queens, on the other hand can live three to five years.  (The queen, below, is the largest one with a harmless dye on her to make her easily recognized by the beekeeper.)

 Image: Doug Fairclough

She mates -  in flight - with as many as 10 to 15 drones, whose sole purpose is mating, and then lay 1,000 eggs per day…up to 200,000 per year. 

All worker bees are female and perform most of the hive duties, including cleaning cells, feeding the babies and the queen, packing pollen, building honey comb, ventilating and cooling and guarding the hive, waking up or clearing out dead bees, and waking up taking out the trash (dead bees).

It would take 10 stings of bee venom per 100 pounds of body weight to kill an average person.  So, a 200 pound man could be killed by 1000 stings. 
        
On the other hand, it just takes a few bites of the blossoms of the native California Buckeye to kill a bee. They will avoid them unless there is nothing else to eat.  Then, they’ll take the pollen back to the hive, eat it later, and die. 



Image: Bay Nature.org

So, Mike Turner's best tip for helping bees is to plant flowers that bloom late in summer when other sources have dried up.



image: Bob and Mieko Watkins

Now for the Contest!  Here are the rules:  Please enter the name of one plant for hungry bees that blooms late in summer and isn’t mentioned in this week’s Fine Living column. We'd love to hear why you like it.  The prize for the first four correct winning entries is a bee-friendly plant, courtesy of the Marin chapter of the California Native Plant Society.  

That's it...good luck!

Tiny print:  The contest is open to any Marin resident. You must leave your first name and the first initial of your last name with your answer, for verification purposes, and you must check back on April 4 to see if you have won and to send  your address.  Please mark your calendar. Prizes will be hand-delivered in Marin that week. 

If you have trouble registering your comment, try switching browsers to Safari and see if that helps. To keep it fair and transparent, only comments posted here are eligible.

43 comments:

  1. I love salvias for the bees. I have several small planter bowls on the top of the deck rails planted with annuals and I always include salvias for the hummingbirds and the bees. The bumblebees especially enjoy them and are fun to watch them slowly visit them.

    We had two bee swarms on our property. Once in the attic where they found a vent hole opening and they made a huge hive and we had to have a bee keeper vacuum them out!

    About three summers ago, a swarm developed in a small crepe myrtle tree in the front yard and I called Marin Bee Keepers to come and pick up the hive. They did a great job!
    --Dawn Marie Carlson, Novato

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