Bee Friendly Gardens

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Remarkable Bees Need our Help in Sierra Madre

Nature

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!

Contact: HalterBrothers@gmail.com

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Keeping the Bees Buzzing

Bald cypress forests of southern Florida are home for many solitary and bumble bees.

Bald cypress forests of southern Florida are home for many solitary and bumble bees.

 

Are you aware that honeybees in America generate in excess of $44B in commerce, annually?  I’ve been intrigued with bees all my life. They continue to show my colleagues important new information. Bees are most certainly modern-day canaries in coalmines, worldwide.

Recently, Italian researchers from the University of Trento found that just like humans shake with their right hands, honeybees also greet each other by predominantly using their right antennas. Apparently, the right antenna picks up on certain ‘social cues’ including recognition of their hive mates.

Bee brains might be small but they are packed with about 960,000 functional neurons (compared to 86 billion for humans). Bee neurons enable them to clearly recognize a human face as well as exactly communicate by dancing where food (nectar and pollen), water and tree resin (used along with bee enzymes for making potent anti-microbial propolis or glue) are located as far as 8 miles away.

A team of scientists lead by Cardiff University has just revealed some fascinating secrets of bees’ honeycomb.

Honeycomb is a precise hexagon, six-sided wafer-thin wax that honeybees make from their abdomen, which provides phenomenal strength for storage of honey. Two pounds of beeswax supports 48 pounds of honey! By the way, over a half a century 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 loads of fuel in the aircraft.

It turns out that honeycomb starts out as a circle and gradually forms into a hexagon. The subtle flow of wax is turned semi-molten by the heat of 113 degrees from a special class of worker bees. The wax becomes elastic, stretching like toffee forming a tiny point that becomes a perfect angle within the hexagon. Some incredible physics and math occur in order to form honeycomb.

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.

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 neonicotinoid’s they suffer irreparable poisoning.

Last week the European Health & Safety Authority banned a fourth neonicotinoid (Fipronil). This 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 neonicotinoids was planted. A few weeks before that, 55 American linden or ‘bee trees’ were sprayed with a neonicotinoid (Safari) and 50,000 bumblebees perished 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. We signed the petition and encourage you, to do so.

Contact: HalterBrothers@gmail.com

 


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How to Make a Backyard Compost

Peppers and tomatoes are easy to grown AND they attract bumblebees as their pollinators

Peppers and tomatoes are easy to grown AND they attract bumblebees as their pollinators

The ABCs of Composting

Composting is easy and inexpensive. It turns almost half your trash into plant food, which can feed your trees, shrubs, flowers and your garden (whether it’s in the earth or pots).

Take your vegetable peels, fruits peels, core or pits, coffee grounds, tea leaves and rinsed crushed eggshells, which are all full of nitrogen, and add them to dry leaves,  plant stalks, shredded newsprint or better still shredded brown paper bags and cut up cardboard. We recommend also adding pet hair, it will help repel rodents.

Backyard

Select a partially shaded spot with good water drainage to place your well-aerated compost bin (which you can either make or purchased from your local gardening store). Be sure to leave at least a foot-and-a half between fences, walls, bushes, doors or windows.

Whenever you add a food layer to the pile  it must be topped-off with equal amounts of shredded newsprint or shredded brown bags, strips of cardboard or we recommend dried leaves (browns).

To encourage oxygen for the beneficial microorganisms leave lots of air space in your bin. We suggest using a pitch fork to mix the contents once every week or two.

Collect dry leaves, storing them in a dry container, so you can add them year-round.

Your compost will be ready within a couple months.

If the pile begins to steam or it stinks — that’s a good sign because the material is decomposing.

Got these problems…

  • Compost is too wet and very smelly? You’ve added to many greens, try adding browns and turning the pile with a pitch fork.
  • Compost is too dry? You’ve added to many brown and not enough water. Try adding fresh kitchen scraps, moisten the pile with water and cover it to reduce evaporation.
  • Compost pile is cold? Try adding some greens.
  • Compost pile is attracting critters like racoons or rodents? Likely you’re adding incorrect material and there’s inadequate cover. Use pest/rodent resistant bins. And do NOT add oils, meats, grease or breads to the pile, ever.
  • Got fruit flies? Likely your food scraps are exposed. Try putting your kitchen scraps in the center of the pile and cover them with browns.

Do NOT add the following food scarps to the compost: Bread, pasta, rice, sauces, dairy products, nuts, fish, meat, oils, fats or bones.

  • Don’t put dog, cat or human feces in the compost.
  • Don’t put kitty litter in the compost.
  • Don’t put garden weeds with mature seeds in or you’ll inadvertently spread then throughout your yard.
  • Don’t put any treated wood products in the pile because they contain harmful chemicals.

Fact: Compost gives your garden far more healthy nutrients than buying a bag of sterilized peat moss.

Did you know? Organic household waste that winds up in landfills decomposes without oxygen and turns into methane — a gas that is at least 70X more powerful at trapping heat than carbon dioxide.

Want help creating your compost?

Email us: HalterBrothers@gmail.com


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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.

Interested in more information about honeycomb?

Contact us: HalterBrothers@gmail.com


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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.

For more information on honey contact us: HalterBrothers@gmail.com


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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’ ?

Contact us: HalterBrothers@gmail.com


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Bee Friendly Gardens: Making a Bee Bath

Bee Bath

As temperatures begin to warm our friends the bees are awakening after their winter rest.

Did you know that pollinators are responsible for cross-pollinating in excess of 336,000 plants or about 87% of all flowering plants (almost 400,000 known species).

Bees including honey-, stingless-,  bumble-, and solitary- conduct the lion’s share of that crucial task: Pollinating.

Just like humans and all other life forms bees require water. When you select your wide array of native plants that flower throughout the spring, summer and fall as a safe food source of nectar and pollen (insecticide-, herbicide-, fungicide- and miticide-free). You also need to build a bee bath so all the different kinds of bees can drink fresh water in between pollinating.

Bees cannot land in a convention bird bath because there’s nothing (usually) for them to safely perch upon.

Create islands in the bee bath for them to safely touch down and drink from.

We suggest that you line a bowl with stones.

Add water but allow the rock islands to remain dry,  providing a safe-zone for bees to land and drink.

Place the bath at ground level in your garden and move it around, carefully.

Replenish the bowl daily (making sure to always leave exposed rock islands).

If you have any plants attacked by leaf-sucking insects i.e. aphids, place the bee bath next to those infested plants, watch how Nature’s beneficial insects correct insect infestations post haste.

Interested to learn more about creating your own water-smart, bee-friendly garden?

Contact us: HalterBrothers@gmail.com