Bee-Safe Garden Practices

By Heather Sylvawood, Amazon Author

In my last post I wrote about the findings of scientists in identifying the world-wide crisis in bee farming and their investigations into why up to 80% of beehives are dying each year.

black-eyed-susans1-400x265  lavender-rows

In this blog I want to share what I have found out about good practices in your garden for maintaining healthy bees that help you produce a bountiful crop. At the end I introduce some flowering plants that will have the bees flocking … er … buzzing!

Natural sprays

Tomato Leaf Spray (from About.com)

Tomato plants, as members of the nightshade family, contain toxic compounds called alkaloids in their leaves. When the leaves of tomato plants are chopped, they release their alkaloids. When the alkaloids are suspended and diluted with water, they make an easy to use spray that is toxic to aphids, but still safe around plants and humans.

Ingredients
  • One to two cups of tomato leaves
  • Two cups of water
  • A strainer or cheesecloth
  • Spray bottle

To make tomato leaf spray, simply soak one to two cups of chopped tomato leaves in two cups of water. Let it steep overnight. To make the spray, strain the leaves out of the liquid using cheesecloth or a fine strainer. Add another one to two cups of water to the liquid and add it to a spray bottle.

To use the tomato leaf spray in your battle against aphids, spray the stems and foliage of the infested plant with the spray, paying special attention to the undersides of leaves, since that is where aphids most commonly congregate. The tomato leaf recipe, above, won’t harm beneficial bugs like ladybirds.

Garlic Oil Spray

Organic gardeners have long relied on garlic as part of their pest-fighting arsenal. Garlic contains sulphur, which, besides being toxic to pests, is also an antibacterial and antifungal agent. The dish soap in this mixture also breaks down the bodies of soft-bodied pests, such as aphids.

Ingredients
  • 3-4 cloves of garlic
  • Mineral oil
  • Strainer or cheesecloth
  • Liquid dish soap
  • Water
  • Spray bottle

Mince or chop 3-4 cloves of garlic finely, and add them to 2tsp of mineral oil. Let this mixture sit for 24 hours. Strain out the garlic pieces, and add the remaining liquid to one pint (600mls) of water. Add one teaspoon of liquid dish soap. This mixture can be stored and diluted as needed. When you need to spray, use two tablespoons of the mixture added to one pint of water in a spray bottle.

To use your garlic oil spray, first test by spraying an inconspicuous part of the plant to see if your mixture harms it at all. If there are no signs of yellowing or other leaf damage after a day or two, it is safe to use. If there is leaf damage, dilute the mixture with more water and try the test again. Once you have determined that it won’t harm your plant, spray the entire plant, paying special attention to the undersides of leaves.

Warning: Garlic oil is a non-selective insecticide, which means that it will kill beneficial insects (such as lady bugs, who are natural predators of aphids) just as easily as it kills the bad guys. It’s best to keep as many beneficials around as possible. This spray should only be used if you haven’t seen any beneficial bugs in your garden.

Rhubarb insecticide Spray

Rhubarb garden spray is an effective spray for controlling aphids and other sucking insects, as it suffocates them. It is excellent for plants such as roses, which tend to suffer from aphid problems.

Ingredients
  • 1kg / 2.2lbs rhubarb leaves (not stems – use the stems for cooking rhubarb for dessert)
  • 2 litres / 67 fl.oz water
  1. Place the rhubarb leaves into a large pot
  2. Bring to the boil and then simmer for 20 minutes to half an hour
  3. Strain off the leaves
  4. Dilute. The solution should be diluted 1 part solution and 9 parts water; in other words, add 9 litres / 2.3 gallons water to create the spray.

Note: This spray should not be stored but should be used within 24 hours to achieve the best effectiveness.

Feed the bees

Here are some flowers you can plant in your garden to ensure bees have plenty to eat, while you attract them in as pollinators. Try to plant a range that flower at different times of the season from Spring through to Autumn.

bergamot-bee-balm-400x300  black-eyed-susans1-400x265

Bergamot/Bee balm (left) and Black-eyed Susan blooms (right) attract bees

Bee Balm

Bright flowers and a minty fragrance make bergamot (Monarda) plants ideal for perennial borders. Bergamot is known by several other names, including bee balm, monarda and Oswego tea.

Black-eyed Susan Rudbeckia

Black eyed Susan plants are drought resistant, self-seeding and grow in a variety of soils. Growing black eyed Susans prefer a neutral soil pH and a full sun to light shade location. They can be propagated from seed heads. Blooms late spring through summer.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA           lupin-flower-foliage

The flowering currant (left) and Lupin are two old-fashioned bee attracting blooms

Flowering currant

Flowering currant or Currant Ribes (above) is a breath of heaven as Spring warms up. the scent spreads and is a signal to honey bees that nectar is around.

Lupins

Lupins are later bloomers, but can be planted in autumn for winter soil conditioning. Keep a plant or two to flower on over the season and then collect the flower seeds for another blooming.

Penstemon  PurpleConeFlower

Penstemon (above) blooms in Spring and Purple Coneflower later in the season

Penstemon

Penstemon is in the foxglove family and blooms in spring. It grows from 2-5 ft.  and is a robust perennial topped with stalks of clusters of white, tubular, unevenly-lobbed flowers. Inside the flowers are purple lines especially to attract bees.

Purple coneflower Echinacea

A perennial plant with purple petals around a domed spiny centre.  A highly attractive nectar source frequently visited by butterflies and bees.  A good choice for mid-season blooms.

Sage1  pineappleSage

Sages like Variegated Sage (left) and Pineapple Sage have enticing trumpet-like flowers

Here are some other examples of bee-loved garden flowers
  • Basil Ocimum
  • Cotoneaster Cotoneaster
  • English lavender Lavandula
  • Giant hyssop Agastache
  • Globe thistle Echinops
  • Hyssop Hyssopus
  • Marjoram Origanum
  • Rosemary Rosmarinus
  • Wallflower Erysimum
  • Zinnia Zinnia

Visit the the website below for a list of plants to grow in New Zealand for bee fodder.

National Bee Keepers Association

By Heather Sylvawood, Amazon Author

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Follow Michelle Obama’s lead in saving honey bees

By Heather Sylvawood, Amazon Author

She might be tainted by her connection to a leadership that has not met our hopes, but Michelle Obama is taking a lead in the White House protecting bees.

She has planted a garden with bee fodder. We could do well to follow her example and show our support by signing this rather positive petition.

Sign the Petition Here

If you visit the petition page you’ll also read some of the facts about the appalling decline in bee numbers.

Other ways to inform yourself

HoneyBeesHive

1. View the trailer for:

      More Than Honey – Official Trailer

Then see the film – and take action

2. Watch the documentaries:

BBC Horizon What’s Killing Our Bees A Horizon Special BBC Full Documentary 2013 Full Movie

BBC Documentary Who Killed The Honey Bee

The possible villain?

Contact versus systemic pesticides

Contact pesticides are usually applied to crops after they’ve developed their fruit/leaf growth. These pesticides kill chewing insects. Because they are applied after flowering, bees are less susceptible to them.

Systemic pesticides are applied to the seed. As the plant grows all parts of the plant are affected. When they produce their flowers bees feed as normal. The fear is that the bees are affected by the tainted pollen and nectar.

Scientists are now investigating if low levels of systemic pesticide that a bee might ingest from these pesticides are affecting the bees’ navigation systems so that they cannot find the way home to the hive.

So what else can you do personally?

Stop using pesticides across your garden. Use only natural sprays that discourage non-beneficial insects chewing on your produce after it has developed.  Organic Spraying Oil; Caterpillar control. Here are some ideas on organic, non-harmful products used in the US

  1. Grow on your vegetables until they seed naturally, then gather and use the untreated seed
  2. Join a seed bank or buy seed from reputable organic sources
  3. Ask your neighbours to join you in banning non-organic sprays from their gardens
  4. Grow supplementary food plants for bees, choosing plants that flower at different times of the spring to autumn season
  5. Have a diversity of plants flowering all season. Have several plant species flowering at once planted in clumps.
  6. Plant where bees will visit. Bees visit sunny spots more often.

In my next blog I will bring you some Bee-Safe Garden Practices

By Heather Sylvawood, Amazon Author

The onus of proof on fracking and earthquakes

By Heather Sylvawood, Amazon Author

I have just read this article posted online on 11th April, 2014:

Ohio Earthquakes Linked To Fracking, A First For Region

Here in New Zealand there is growing concern that fracking could be triggering earthquakes around our coastline. New Zealand lies along the Pacific Rim, and is only an island state as the result of upward pressure of the two plates. Earthquakes, and some very severe ones like the recent Christchurch quake 2011, are a regular fact of life.

Most of the time we don’t feel them and only know they’ve happened when they’re reported in the media or on the websites we check out from time to time. The science of measuring, predicting and identifying the cause of earthquakes is in its infancy, and until more data is available it’s shaky ground to say fracking causes earthquakes. The few related incidents don’t give enough scientific proof that the practice is dangerous for our earth.

Consider these requirements for checking out the validity of research:

Spotting-Bad-Science-v2

Just like the earth was believed to be flat until the Portugese explorer,Ferdinand Megellan, organised the expedition that resulted in the first circumnavigation of the Earth in the 1500s, fracking is at the moment considered a safe and efficient way of discovering deposits of natural gas or oil.  That’s the ‘flat earth’ view.

How long must we wait to find out if there is a ‘provable’ link between the two before we say enough is enough? The many waged war against the hunting of whales; a few lonely voices were raised in defence of bees against the relentless onslaught of pesticides. How close do we have to go in causing earthquakes before we accept the evidence of proof and say instead we won’t do this?

Sometimes waiting too long is tantamount to condoning bad practices.

By Heather Sylvawood, Amazon Author

Life on earth could depend on the honey bee

Will Armageddon be world hunger?

by Heather Sylvawood – Amazon Author

A couple of years ago I noticed that in Spring there were very few bees buzzing around our fruit tree blossoms. The crop was minimal but I put it down to the fact that the trees were young. It happened again this year, with still tiny crops of fruit. In New Zealand the cause may be because of a Varroa Mite that kills off bees in hives.

Bee2

A busy bee that could mean my garden produces food next year

Reacting as I do to bee stings, I normally prune the flower heads off this plant so that I can sit on the deck without fear of a sting. This year I didn’t. In fact, I have rejoiced in the number of honey bees and bumble bees feasting on the nectar. I hope the food they have gathered this autumn will produce a good harvest of worker bees in the spring.

An environmental holocaust?

Alarming news comes from abroad via Ricken Patel of Avaaz that: “Already, there are nowhere near enough honeybees in Europe to pollinate the crops, and in California — the biggest food producer in the US — beekeepers are losing 40% of their bees each year. We’re in the middle of an environmental holocaust that threatens all of us, because without pollination by bees, most plants and ⅓ of our food supply are gone. “

Even scientists are raising the alarm over the trend and say it’s pesticides that are causing the decline in the bee population. This reduction in natural pollination could lead to a world-wide disaster that will hit us quickly. Within years, we could all be facing mass starvation as regularly suffered by African nations.

Pesticides kill all insects including bees

In striving to produce perfect, unblemished fruit and vegetables major producers are expected to apply pesticides. And we shoppers are part of the problem. We pick over the produce and reject any with blemishes. Good food is thrown away because it has the tiniest of marks. Gone are the days when housewives would pick over windfalls and cut out the problems. Now we expect to start with perfect specimens.

GardenBoxes

Could we increasingly see empty sparse gardens?

The problem with pesticides is that they don’t discriminate – if you have six legs, wings and a thorax, you’re the enemy. bang, bang you’re dead. There goes our natural sweetener and the potential productive garden we hope for next year.

But it will also mean mass plantings of plants like peas, beans, pumpkins, lemons and oranges, apples and pears, stone fruit and grapes (oh, there goes our wine crop) will not be pollinated. Add to that the fact that plants like onions, carrots, silverbeet and spinach that produce seed-setting flowers after these plants are left “to go to seed” won’t do so. We’ll have a smaller seed crop to grow the following year. It’s a grim picture.

Reliable research is urgently need to protect bees

The pharmaceutical companies go to great lengths to claim that pesticides are not killing off bees. They spend megabucks in skewed science to “prove” it, but the few scientists and lay people who have been shouting “No. Please listen,” don’t have access to that kind of money. To help, AVAAZ has launched an appeal to concerned members of the public to donate a small amount to fund definitive, totally independent research to show what is killing off our bee population.

Visit the AVAAZ website here to join the movement to find out how to save the bees.

Do your bit locally to protect honey bees

Here are some ways you can help honey bees survive:

  • Stop spraying your flowering plants with pesticides – rejoice when the bees visit
  • Plant flowering and fruiting plants in abundance around your property
  • Talk to your neighbours about making your area a pesticide-free zone
  • If you find a honey bee swarm, call up a local beekeeper, don’t try to exterminate them
  • Avoid de-heading flowering plants until they’ve given local bees a good feed
  • Talk to your council or local body about their spraying policy and lobby to have them remove pesticides from their spraying program
  • Encourage your council or local body to plant reserves and grass verges with flowering shrubs and plants – Yarrow, a common white roadside flower is loved by bees

And just for fun take a look at what could bee our future:

by Heather Sylvawood – Amazon Author