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That’s because we rely on honeybees for crop pollination, and although most of the industrial crops in the Coastal Bend go to materials and animal feeds, backyard gardens focus on food crops for families. Even if you’re planting ornamentals, anything with a flower is likely to bring bees to your yard.
Honeybees were introduced to North America in the 1600s when European settlers brought them. Honeybees established themselves here and then moved across the continent faster than the settlers. Native American peoples call the honeybee “the white man’s fly.” Bees were stopped at the Rocky Mountains because of the climate, but when the frontier expanded past the range, we brought the bees along too.
The purpose of honeybees for early settlers was somewhat different than their purpose now. Before electric lights, honeybees provided a valuable wax for candles. And of course, they made golden sweet honey! Crop pollination as a business purpose came later, and then expanded to the industrial scale we see today, where 1.8 million bee colonies are transported around the country each year.
Here in the Coastal Bend, most beekeeping is the set-down type, focused on honey production or small field pollination. Most beekeepers in the area are hobby or backyard beekeepers, but a few “sideliners” are raising significant amounts of honey for sale locally. Truly local honey is scarce.
For gardeners, the question is always, what can we do to attract or help bees? During the Spring and Fall, when rain is plentiful, the bees won’t need help, but during the Summer dry, and the Winter cold, gardeners can plant flowering plants to help bees. Beekeepers call these times “dearths,” when wild forage is lacking in an area. To fix the problem, think summer squash and melons. Let the weeds grow and flower.
High on the list of bee needs in the dearths is water. Bees keep their hive cool in the summer by spreading water on the combs and fanning it with their wings. In the Winter, bees need water too. You can provide water in any bird bath or bowl, but add a landing place for them by floating wood or adding marbles or rocks. Lava Rocks work great for bee-waterers.
If you’re interested in keeping bees yourself, make certain you have the time to devote to their care. New colonies are especially vulnerable and often require beekeeper attention and intervention. They can really add to your garden productivity and sweeten the deal in the end!
Garden Senior Center
Corpus Christi, TX 78412
First Thursdays, 6:30-8:30pm