You aim to create habitats of interest and have added, or have on
your list, birdhouses and feeders, bat or butterfly houses, and
other attracters of intriguing biological activity. But, how about
something even more different?
Maybe you enjoyed reading the beneficial insects article in this
magazine. Well, here's one for you that tops them all. Have you ever
considered keeping bees?
It is easy to add a beehive to your yard, though admittedly, your
neighbors might not all be thrilled if they knew. So you may have to
consider painting the hive in camouflage.
Einstein once postulated that if the bees died, we'd starve in 10
years. Pollination by bees is estimated to affect as much as
one-third of our food supply. We not only eat fruits, vegetables and
some grains that are produced through pollination, but the livestock
and poultry that we eat are also fed by these foods that are related
to pollination. For example, clover needs to be pollinated to
produce seed to grow new clover. Cows eat clover.
Besides playing a big part in our food chain, bees are
entertaining. We all know that bees are fascinating creatures —
"busy as a bee" — with every bee colony supported by a highly
sophisticated hierarchy of position and purpose, from slave to the
one and only queen per hive, to the minions of specific-duty
laborers. The activity at a hive offers hours of entertainment to
the diligent observer.
Keeping a hive is primarily a low-maintenance activity, and it
offers sweet dividends too.
One of the more sensitive times to check a hive is toward the end
of winter to see how the food reserves are holding up. If the food
supply has dwindled, it may be necessary to feed your bees with some
of the reserved honey or a "simple syrup."
Along with hosting a home for highly valued insects essential to
seed and fruit production, you might even "bee" starting a new
The Leonard family in southern Logan County is in its fourth
generation as beekeepers, with the next generation in the wings for
training. Corey Leonard said that while his soon-to-be 6-year-old
son is a little too young yet, Clay likes the bees and is allowed to
help in some of the safer processes. Corey's dad, Don, has been
raising bees for 25 years.
Don has been surprised the past couple of years, given the poor
weather conditions and drought, how the honey production has been
relatively good, at 800 and 600 pounds a year. The family typically
hosts approximately seven hives.
The winter just past was hard on bees, and there were a lot of
losses related to the cold; some starved, some froze. Also, bees
won't defecate in the hive. There were not enough warm days of 40 to
50 degrees when the bees could get out.
Another thing that Don suggests is to vent a hive. During the
winter, you can open a hive and find bees frozen in a block of
crystals. Venting helps to prevent condensation.
Rich Ramsey of the Illinois State Beekeepers Association spoke in
Lincoln this spring during the Russel Allen Garden Day, sponsored by
University of Illinois Extension Master Gardeners. Ramsey shared
these bits about bees:
Bees collect pollen to feed the young that are in the
hive near the queen. They also collect nectar, which after
digestion becomes honey used for food and for storage in the
A bee will return again and again to the same food source
and will not change until that resource has dried up. If you
see a bee on an apple blossom, that same bee will continue
on apple blossoms and not go to another type of blossom.
A bee makes as many as 500 trips a day to the hive.
You should plant for bloom times in succession. Plant in
masses or bundled areas to aid the bees in efficiency.
A bee can travel up to a 2-mile radius of the hive.
One of many oddities: You can move a hive 2 feet or 2
miles. If you move it more than 2 feet, the bees can't find
it, because bees use landmarks like trees to find the hive.
Avoid the use of pesticides and herbicides.
If you must, such as with cucumber and pumpkin blossoms,
dust with Sevin in the evening, after the bees have gone to
Avoid the use of fungicides.
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Bees love blooms from weeds like dandelions and clovers.
Bees need daily water. Sources that do well: a garden
pond, troughs with moss on the side, and flat dishes with a
few sticks for landing and kept filled with water.
The phrase "a bee's space" comes from bees filling any
three-eighths-inch space with honey; they will fill larger
or smaller spaces with wax.
Honey will never spoil if it's kept dry at 18 percent
humidity or less.
When handled properly, bees are not a threat. A bee
doesn't hurt you unless it feels threatened, which might
include if it runs into you.
If a bee stings you, it dies afterward. It is best to
scrape away a stinger.
A true allergic response is if a person's throat swells.
It is important for anyone who is allergic to a bee sting to
carry an EpiPen.
Approximately $100 will get you a box of starter
Don't forget the sweet side of bees, the honey. Honey can be
substituted for sugar. Ramsey offered these tips for baking: Replace
half the sugar with honey — it takes less fluid in the recipe — and
turn oven temperature back 25 degrees (or your cookies will likely
Logan County has several beekeepers offering local honey,
including Nathan Sasse with Sasse's Apiary, Chestnut. You can find
his products in local stores.
The Leonards' honey can be purchased at either Corey's Shelter
Insurance office, 511A Pulaski Street in Lincoln, or his sister Sue Wakeman's business, Sue's Salon in Mount Pulaski.
[By JAN YOUNGQUIST]
Information and sources to get you started at being a beekeeper:
"Gardening for Honey Bees"
An exhaustive list of plant materials that attract bees
All about getting started raising bees
From the University of Georgia
"How to start an Urban Beehive"
Find recipes and learn more about honey
National Honey Board
Long Lane Honey Bee Farms
An Illinois supplier in Fairmount, east of Champaign