Over Labor Day, we spent the weekend at my husband, Ken’s family farm in Manchester, Iowa harvesting honey from my father-in-law’s bee hives. Every year it’s a collective effort gathering the hive frames, using heat to open up the wax honeycomb, spinning the honey from the frames, and bottling it up.
Being this close to the harvesting process, has given me such an appreciation for the honey bees. Their social hierarchy, the work they do pollinating flowers, and collecting nectar & turning it into honeycomb is just all around fascinating. And I was surprised to find over the years, that unlike wasps, the bees are actually incredibly gentle and unlikely to sting. My husband, Ken, even got a bee in his bee suit one year and wasn’t stung!
Bees make it possible for us to enjoy a variety of foods as they help with the reproduction of upwards of 75% of flowering plants and crops. Unfortunately, our honey bee numbers were down this year at the farm, and it’s part of a larger trend due to a combination of stress factors including loss of habitat, parasites and diseases, and pesticide exposure. Without the bees many of our crops and flowers would no longer be available.
Here a few things you can do to help the bees!
- Plant native wildflowers for bees, a strategy that has been shown to reverse the decline of wild pollinators and improve the health of honey bees. The ultimate goal is to provide flowering plants from April to September. Some bee-friendly Minnesota native plants include sunflowers, oregano and clover. See a full list compiled by the U of M Bee Squad.
- Avoid using pesticides, especially insecticides.
- Create homes for bees, such as brush piles and bumble bee boxes.
- Spread the word to bring more awareness to the health of our bees!