Bee Friendly Gardens

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Nature’s Bioshield for Bees

Story ran in HuffPo August 26, 2016

The fate of the honeybees and humans is inexorably linked.

The bees provide us our food and clothes (cotton). In addition to 2.6 billion pounds of honey and 44 million pounds of beeswax each year, bees provide potent pain and cancer medicines.

The key to our survival lies in working with nature, not against her.

Scientists from the University of Maryland and the U.S. Department of Agriculture recently identified as many as 21 pesticides and fungicides in plant pollen found inside honeybee hives.

Nursery bees mix protein-rich plant pollen with honey, known as beebread, and feed it to developing larvae. That protein is of paramount importance because it builds healthy autoimmune systems and bee brains. There are approximately one million neurons in a bee’s brain and some of those neurons are responsible for giving honeybees distinctpersonalities.

When healthy honeybee larvae were fed pollen contaminated with fungicide like those used in some apple orchards, they were three times more likely to be attacked by parasite.

America is suffering its worst bee crisis. Last year, 44 percent of U.S. honeybees died.

That is an astounding 58 billion bee deaths.

Beekeeping in America is quickly becoming a non-starter business. Is there a way to protect the honeybees from these deadly agricultural chemicals?

My colleagues at Washington State University undertook a longevity stress test on honeybee populations. They found beneficial fungi that bees collect in their environment turn on genes for detoxification pathways in honeybees. Red-belted polypore mushrooms are known to breakdown pesticides, herbicides and fungicides.

Agricultural fungicides reduce beneficial fungi in honeybee colonies. In turn, this shuts off the bees’ beneficial fungi precluding detoxification of colonies. Instead, beehives accumulate poisons and die.

That is Colony Collapse Disorder.

A solution called mycohoney made from polypore mushroom mycelium or roots and honey is a powerful antidote. When bees are fed mycohoney it extends their lives significantly.

We need the bees and the bees need polypore mushrooms. It is nature’s bee medicine.

We also have nature’s flawless blueprint SMART (Sporulating Mushrooms and Repelling Technology) pesticides from fungi that can easily and affordably replace 5.2 billion pounds each year of agricultural chemicals thereby preventing the death of nature on farmer’s fields including honeybees.


Earth Doctor Reese Halter is the author of “The Incomparable Honeybee & The Economics of Pollination.”


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Making Honeycomb

Honeybees working on the comb

It takes 66,000 bee-hours of activity to produce the 77,000 splendid hexagonal cells that form the comb of the hive. Almost 20 pounds (9 kilograms) of honey are required for a young worker bee to produce  2.2 pounds (one kilogram) of beeswax. Bees eat the honey and trigger a gland in their abdomen to secrete wax. The bees then chew the wax flakes to soften them. One kilogram (2.2 pounds) of this hearty wax can support 48 pounds (22 kilograms) of honey, or more than 20 times its own weight. Many decades ago, the aeronautics industry recognized the strength of honeycomb and adapted nature’s design to enhance the bending and stiffness of aircraft wings, as the wings must support heavy loads of fuel in the aircraft.

To construct the honeycomb, hair plates at the base of a bee’s neck act as a plumb bob to determine the changing orientation to gravity. When a worker bee turns relative to the Earth’s gravitational field, the pressure of the hair plates on its legs tells the bee which way is up. Without these hair plates, workers could not build honeycomb. When honeybees were transported into outer space on the 1984 Challenger shuttle flight, they were unable to construct honeycomb, due to the lack of gravitational force.

Workers use the tips of their antennae to assess the thickness and smoothness of comb cells, but the exactness of the cell diameters and their orientation is still not explained. Bees construct honeycomb horizontally. Amazingly, chambers are back to back at exactly a 13-degree angle to prevent honey from dripping out.

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Medicinal Benefits of Honey

A golden treat packed with Nature’s medicines

Over 2.65 billion pounds of honey are produced each year on Earth. Honey contains over 200 substances. Bees secrete a glucose oxidase enzyme that assists in converting nectar into honey. Along with oxygen, the glucose enzyme splits the glucose molecule into water and hydrogen peroxide. Due to its hydrogen peroxide and glucose oxidase content, honey is a powerful antiseptic. High amounts of malic, citric, tartaric, oxalic and other organic acids combined with the enzymes catalase and peroxidase give honey its renowned antibacterial properties.

The ancient Mayans revered the stingless honeybees, and a thousand-year-old document of theirs, the Madrid Codex, pictures shamans successfully treating cataracts, conjunctivitis, chills and fever with honey-based medicines. With over 80 percent sugar content and its natural acidity, honey creates an inhospitable environment for the single-celled microbes that form infections. The low water content of honey keeps bacteria, which thrive in water, from flourishing. Ancient Greeks and Romans had also discovered these properties of honey; they used honey to treat cataracts and heal open wounds. Some modern bandage companies line their products with diluted traces of honey.

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The Bee Tree: American Linden

Honeybees love the American Linden — that’s why Halter Brothers call it ‘The Bee Tree’

Trees are remarkable for many, many reasons. They suck carbon dioxide from the atmosphere turning a greenhouse gas into a solid (wood). As a by-product of photosynthesis trees give off oxygen. In fact, for every metric tone of wood created, 1.5 metric tons of CO2 is absorbed and 1 metric ton of oxygen is released. Trees planted near homes, schools and colleges, and hospitals also reduced heating and cooling costs by as much as 40%.

Some trees like American Linden or basswood have exquisite fragrant yellow-white flowers that attract pollinators like bees. They attract so many bees Linden’s are affectionately known as ‘The Bee Tree.’ Bees take the Linden nectar and turn it into honey, which is light in color and full of a floral bouquet.

‘The Bee Tree’ honey is loaded with vitamins and minerals. It contains water-soluble B1, B2, B6, pantothenic and nicotinic acids, vitamin C – as well as high amounts of fat-soluble vitamins E, K and A. Honey also provides us with essential minerals: calcium, phosphorus, potassium, iron, copper, manganese, magnesium and sulfur. Some of these minerals in the specific concentrations found in honey mimic the concentration of blood serum. If you suffer from anxiety or insomnia a tablespoon of ‘Bee Tree honey’ just before bedtime will help cure these conditions.

Since honeybee and wild bee populations are crashing around the globe, planting bee-friendly trees is one way each of us can lend a helping hand. Another way to help the bees is by not using insecticides, herbicides, miticides or fungicides in your yard or balcony.  The bees are incredible and they need our help.

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How Can You Help the Bees?

Native northern Florida critter

There are many things that each of us can do to help urban honey-, bumble- and solitary-bees. Creating habitat for urban pollinators in your yard is easy and it’s a fun family project.

Consider the following:

  • Buy organic foods.
  • Buy organic cotton.
  • Support your local beekeeper by purchasing their honey at local Farmer’s Markets or visiting their farms.
  • If you ‘Google’ local beekeepers, make it a family day and drive to their farms, see the bee hives, ask questions and purchase their honey, beeswax and propolis.
  • Do not use herbicides, insecticides, miticides or fungicides in your yard. If you must use an insecticide, the Indian neem tree is a wonderful natural powerhouse. Neem-based products do not harm bees, moths, bats, hummingbirds nor any other beneficial insects including spiders,  ladybugs and dragon flies. Neem products do not harm any warm-blooded animals or birds either.
  • Plant a wide variety of native flowers – especially yellows and blues in solid blocks of 3X3 feet so the bees can see them.
  • Provide somewhere for bees to live in your yard, such as a thick, dead tree branch (with a few sizes of drilled holes which they will use a burrows) or a wooden bee block (also with various sizes of drilled holes). Or clear a bare patch of earth (1X1 foot) and make a small (about the size of a quarter) burrow an inch-deep.
  • Let some of your garden’s leafy plants go to seed at the end of the season;  they’ll provide food for some species of bees before the cold months.
  • Bees need water, too, so place a water bowl with ‘dry rock islands’ in your garden, replenish it daily.
  • Become a citizen scientist.
  • In the U.S.A. join The Great Sunflower project: 
  • In Canada join Plant Watch:

Climate change is occurring rapidly and it has dramatically affected plants by speeding up the timing of flowering. Native bees and other pollinators time their awakening in the spring to floral blooms. If pollinators incorrectly time their spring emergence and miss the bloom, both plants and animals perish.

Please consider becoming one of the thousands of volunteers across the North American continent helping scientists and beekeepers track the timing of local blooms.

Visit the National Phenology Network

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The Dance of the Honeybees: Incomparable

The honeybee waggle dance

Nobel laureate Karl von Frisch (1886–1982) dedicated his life to unravelling many of the mysteries of the honeybee. He was the first researcher to decipher the purposeful and endearing dancing of bees. In 1972 he was awarded a Nobel Prize for his excellence.

The waggle dance is one of the most extraordinary forms of communication in the entire animal kingdom.

This dance conveys precise information about the food’s location, including its direction and the distance from the hive – as far as 8 miles. In his research, von Frisch determined that workers assess critical fragments of information from each of the dance’s components, including the duration of waggling and buzzing; the length of the straight run, in comb cell diameters; the number of unit circuits per dance; and the average distance of the dances from the hive entrance.

The waggle dance follows a nearly figure-eight shape, but with a straight (bee)line connecting the two semicircles. The scout runs along a narrow semicircle, making sharp turns, and then beelines straight back to her starting point. She then performs the same moves in the opposite direction. The dance is elaborate, with the bee waggling her abdomen in precise, intricate steps. At each turn she vigorously shakes her body: the side to side waggle occurs about 13 to 15 times a second and gives off a buzzing sound as her muscles and skeleton vibrate.

At the end of a complete dance, the scout will stop and share nectar with other workers, who extend their antennae to smell the dancer. Some new followers even squeak, causing the dancer to stop midstream and feed them a droplet of nectar.

Dance tempo and beeline length indicate distance from the hive to the flowers. That is, followers assess the distance by measuring the number of circuits per 15 seconds and the amount of time spent waggling and buzzing on the straight run. A slow dance tempo and long straight run communicate that the distance is greater. It does not convey exact distance, but informs the other bees of the amount of energy needed to find the new resource. This translates into the amount of honey each forager must eat before leaving the hive. The waggle dance can also inform foragers about new sources of water, tree resin and pollen.

Fascinatingly, the waggle dance – mostly performed in the dark and on the vertical face of the comb – somehow conveys the horizontal direction to the food source.

Interested in knowing more about other honeybee dances or keeping honeybees? Contact  Bee Friendly Gardens:

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Seven Kind Acts to Help the Bees

Bees need water, here’s a splendid home-made solution

There are so many things that each of us can do to help our planet and make a difference. Imagine that if each of us did two things differently and asked two friends to also follow our footsteps — what an enormous difference we would all make.

It all starts with good intentions and then just a couple good acts. Lending a helping hand has never been easier.

Here’s seven suggestions for helping our wonderful friends – the bees:

1. Grow or buy organic foods

2. Buy organic cotton

3. Support your local beekeepers by purchasing their honey, wax and propolis

4. Do not use herbicides, insecticides, miticides or fungicides in your yard

5. Plant a wide variety of native flowers especially yellow and blues in solid blocks preferably 3 X 3 feet so the bees can see them

6. Bees need water, too, so place a bowl with water in your yard and replenish it daily.

7. Consider becoming a citizen scientist and helping the National Phenology Network

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