Row by Row Episode 147: Bees on the Homestead? Why?

Within the last few years, more and more people are taking steps to grow their own food at home. Whether that’s with a small home garden or larger homestead, growing your own food is an enjoyable way to get back to nature while being more self sustained. 

One of the many ways to be an active part of your garden’s success and experience the smaller things that have to happen for that success to happen is to add honeybees to your grow strategy. All flowering plants need pollination and while some handle this with closely clumped flowers, others need pollinators to help ensure pollination takes place.

We spoke with Wayne Odom of Lakewood Farm. Wayne is a local bee expert with years of experience in using bees on his 40-acre “hobby farm”. Wayne uses his bees to help with the vegetables and fruit trees on the property.

Starting

Starting a bee colony is easier than most people may think. There are many options out there from finding a local beekeeper to ordering a full kit online. It’s even possible to trap bee swarms and move them into hives. The possibilities are nearly endless when getting started. 

Should you decide to order an online kit to get started with your bees or trap your own and relocate them, it is still a good idea to find a local beekeeper, or “bee buddy”, to help with any issues you will encounter in the future.

Strategy

In order to get the most out of your bee population and to keep them happy, it is important to have a strategy in your garden that has your bees in mind. This will help you not only have happy bees but also happy crops for most of the year.

One strategy to look into is rotating flowering plants along with your veggies and fruit trees. For example, you can plant wildflower mixes, sunflowers, zinnias, various clovers, and others that bloom in time with your fruit trees and vegetables and even when your crops are past their flowering cycle. Bees love to stay busy and keeping flowers available to them will ensure a healthy hive.

Benefits

The most obvious benefit of having bees to help in the garden is that they will ensure pollination of your crop. Some crops, such as melon, squash, pumpkin, gourds, and cucumber, benefit more when bees pollinate.

The next obvious benefit of having bees is honey. An average active bee box with ten cells can produce 5 gallons of honey. The honey your bees will produce can become a seasonal income as well.

Pesiticides

When you have important pollinators like bees, it is very important that you pay attention to the pesticides that you use and when you apply them. If at all possible, avoid any pesticides that contain imidacloprid or any plants that have been treated with it as it is a systemic pesticide. This means that it can be present in the flowers of the plant and when a bee goes to the flower it will kill that bee.

When spraying your pesticides it is best to spray either early in the morning or late in the evening when your bees are least active.

Don’t be intimidated or afraid to fail at adding bees to your garden. Everyone fails from time to time. You’ll be glad you tried when you see all the work they do and all the important benefits they add.

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