Bee Friendly Gardens

Conserve, Save, Grow, Earn

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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.

Interested in growing a ‘Bee tree’ ?

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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

Interested in learning more about making a bee friendly garden?

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Welcome Home to Nature’s Garden

Welcome home to your special bee friendly garden – Halter Brothers

Imagine coming home to peace and tranquility in your special garden where bees, butterflies, hummingbirds, moths or even bats all contribute to its well-being. In addition to redolent fragrances there’s pure oxygen – and you are able to conserve water. Now envision walking over to your favorite fruit tree and picking its magnificent bounty. Welcome Home from the Halter Brothers

Interested in transforming your yard into a tranquil, fragrant, water-friendly bee garden ?

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Bees Drawn to Tupelo Trees

Tupelo flowers

Tupelo trees are an important mid-slope and valley bottom forest species in the eastern North American forests. Sometimes called black gum these handsome trees range from southwestern Maine and New York as far north as Ontario into central Michigan and Illinois, south all the way to Florida and across to eastern Texas and eastern Oklahoma. These trees even boldly venture into central and southern Mexico.

This stately tree can easily reach a height of 120 feet with light reddish brown bark that furrows with age. This species is very long lived easily lasting six centuries

Its flowers are small and greenish white, requiring bees to cross-pollinate them. In turn the bees use the nectar to make a divine tasting honey. The bees also depend upon Tupelo pollen, high in protein helping to grow their young.

Blue-black clusters of sour fruit begin ripening in September and October. The fruit is a crucial source of food for American robins, Swainson’s and grey-cheeked thrush, northern cardinals, blue jays, a variety of woodpeckers, yellow bellied sapsuckers, northern flickers and we’ve even seen crows eating the fall berries.

Hollow trunks from old broken-off branches  provide excellent nesting cavities  for both honeybees and mammals like squirrels, racoons and opossums.

These are truly great trees, often planted for their tremendous ornamental appearance and to attract honeybees. They display magnificent red leaves in the autumn.

Our favorite honey – and the title of a melodious 1971 song by Van Morrison – is tupelo honey. Its heavenly burnt-sugar tang is scrumptious and very healthy.

Tupelo trees a are a splendid example of an important ‘bee tree’  which we strongly recommend to promote a bee friendly garden.

Interested in knowing more about how to create your own bee-friendly garden?

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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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In the Beginning… Bees (Part 1)

Champion trees — northern California coastal redwoods equivalent to 38-story skyscrapers

The history of bees begins with the evolution of plant life. While life on our planet began over 3.5 billion years ago, land plants have been around for about 400 million years. Giant horsetails, ferns, cycads and conifers – trees that bear cones and release naked seeds, such as pines and redwoods – all relied upon the wind to disseminate male pollen and assist in cross-pollinating plants. The prehistoric forests were so prolific that the billions of tons of organic matter accumulated in the Carboniferous Period – 354 to 290 million years ago – currently provides fossil fuels to most of humankind.

At the beginning of the Cretaceous Period – about 140 million years ago – land plants underwent a fantastic change. They grew colorful, pungent flowers filled with large, protein-rich pollen grains surrounded by nectar. Instead of relying on the wind to cross-pollinate these new flowering plants (angiosperms), nature conscripted insects – initially beetles and flies – by enticing them with the sweet and nutritious nectar. While feeding, these insects inadvertently brush against the male anther and transfer its pollen to an adjacent flower’s receptive female stigma. The pollen fertilizes the ovule, which develops into a seed. Eventually, a fruit grows to enclose the seed(s).

By the end of the Cretaceous – about 65 million years ago – the diversity of plant life had exploded, adding over 21,000 angiosperms to about 3,000 species of conifers. Today, there are over 235,000 different species of angiosperms catalogued, whereas there are only 650 kinds of conifers remaining. Geologic upheavals and climate change have certainly had a hand in this change, but one particular insect has irrefutably assisted the angiosperms in conquering the land: bees. While flies, gnats, beetles, butterflies, moths, hummingbirds and bats are pollinators too, bees conduct the lion’s share of pollinating on Earth today.

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Urban Beekeepers to the Rescue

Humans have been working with bees in cities for thousands of years. In fact, the oldest known apiary is 3,000 years old and was recently found in the Iron Age city of Tel Rehov in Israel. Today, from Vienna to Paris and London and from New York to Los Angeles and Toronto, across the Pacific from Melbourne to Tokyo and thousands of destinations in between urban beekeepers are reviving honeybees, helping to pollinate urban trees, plants and gardens.

Fairmont Hotels and their Royal York property in Toronto currently holds the record for producing the most amount of hotel rooftop honey in one season (2008) at a whopping 704 pounds. New York’s Waldorf Astoria is expecting a couple hundred pounds this year (2012).

Seventy thousand White House bees brought in a 175 pounds this year (2012) down from their record of 225.5 pounds in 2011. Kudos for First Lady Michelle Obama for bringing honey and carpenter bees to the White House in 2009 and to beekeeper Charlie Brandts for tending to them. This year some of that honey went into home-brewing White House Honey Ale, which is given away as a gift to foreign leaders and guests.

Please don’t use insecticides, herbicides, miticides or fungicides in your yard or on your balcony. It turns out that household insecticides may contain neonictinoids 120 times stronger than those approved for use on farmers field’s. Neonictinoids are known to cause honey and bumble bees to loose their memories, whilst they shake to death. Please help our urban bees and beekeepers by not using any poisons.

Google local beekeepers and support them by buying their honey.

For more information on starting your own urban beehive contact us: