Bee Friendly Gardens

Conserve, Save, Grow, Earn

Leave a comment

Remarkable Bees Need our Help in Sierra Madre


Story ran in Sierra Madre Tattler on August 4, 2013

Our beautiful city of Sierra Madre is known around the nation as ‘Wistaria City’ for the magnificent 500-foot wisteria vine.  Did you know that it depends upon bees to pollinate its dazzling purple flowers?

Let me tell you what else our solitary-, bumble- and honey-bees provide us, and why these magnificent pollinators are so important to our food chain and our quality of life right here in Sierra Madre:

Bees contribute $44B a year to the U.S. economy pollinating crops like almonds, apples, avocados, blueberries, broccoli, cherries, cranberries, cucumbers, grapes, peaches, plums, tomatoes, lemons, just to name a few; alfalfa and clover for beef and dairy industries; and cotton for our clothes.

Honey is to a bee what electricity is for humans – energy.  One teaspoon of honey weighing 21 grams contains 16 grams of sugar or 60 calories, and it took 12 bees their entire foraging lives, combined flying time of about 6,000 miles, to produce 21 grams of honey.   That is an impressive accomplishment, and many ways, these little pollinators do it all for us.

Honey is a powerful antiseptic and renowned for its antibacterial properties. That’s why some modern bandage companies line their products with diluted traces of honey.

Honey is filled with vitamins and minerals including 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.  It is a powerful agent for both adults and children.

Amazingly, bees make glue for their hives from tree resin, mixing it with enzymes in their mouths. This pungent bee glue is called propolis.  Propolis contains potent antiviral, antifungal, anti-inflammatory, antibacterial and cancer-fighting compounds.  Propolis is packed with efficacious plant metabolites that scavenge the human body to rid free radicals, keeping us healthy.  Propolis is now being trialed as a co-treatment for prostate cancer.

Did you know that honeybees have a memory, they vote, are being trained to count and are helping people as an early detector of disease by sniffing skin and lung cancers, diabetes and tuberculosis?

Frighteningly, something is going very wrong around the globe in our environment: 20,000 species of bees are showing scientists they are in trouble.  Just 20 years ago across America each of our 2.4 million commercial beehives produced about 100 pounds of honey.  Today they each produce almost half that amount.  In part, their natural diverse forage has been drastically reduced or more likely destroyed altogether.   Bees, like to dine, not dissimilarly to people, at smorgasbords.  Monoculture food crops cannot supply bees with enough nutrition.

This much we do know.  Over the past 110 million years, plants and bees have co-evolved; they depend on one another, when bees die en masse and rapidly all-hell-breaks-loose: Global food security is jeopardized.   Researchers affiliated with the Rocky Mountain Biological Laboratory at Crested Butte, Colorado recently discovered by removing just one species of bumblebee that one third fewer seeds were produced in Rocky Mountain subalpine wildflowers.

The biggest threat to our bees is in the hands of humans, toxic chemicals.   There’s one class of pesticides known as neonicotinoids with about 1,000 kinds available, globally.  When honeybees are exposed to as little as four billionths of a gram of neonicotinoids they suffer irreparable poisoning.   Many cities around the world today have started to ban the use of these dangerous pesticides in order to help the honeybees and cleanse the environment from toxins.    Not only do pesticides kill our much needed pollinators, bees, butterflies, even birds, but pesticides are a deadly poison for children and adults.

The American Medical Association reports a higher rate of human cancers each year directly related to exposure from various pesticides around the home and office.

This year we should consider ways to make Sierra Madre safer for our bees and all our pollinators.   Organic gardening is one wonderful way to introduce a healthy environment to our children and to our community.  If you find that your yard is buzzing with bees, enjoy them!  Do everything you can to nurture them.

Two weeks ago, the European Health & Safety Authority banned a fourth neonicotinoid, Fipronil . Last week, 36,000 solitary bees were found dead in all 12 nesting boxes on a farm in Niestetal, Germany; poisoned pollen has been implicated. A couple weeks ago, 37 million honeybees died in 600 hives on an organic honey farm in Elmwood, Canada just after corn seed coated in neonicotinoid’s was planted (link). A few weeks before that, 55 American linden or ‘bee trees’ were sprayed with a neonicotinoid (Safari) and 50,000 bumblebees in Wilsonville, Oregon.

In order to keep the bees buzzing it is clearly time to stop pesticides that are known to kill them. If the bees die, we die.

We need The Save America’s Pollinator Act of 2013. I signed the petition and encourage you to do so as well!



Leave a comment

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?

Contact us: