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Bringing Back Bees

robzimmer_1By Rob Zimmer

Over the past few years, you may be aware of increasingly urgent news regarding the status of the honeybee and native bee populations throughout North America.

Numbers of both honeybees, as well as native bees, such as bumblebees and others, have declined seriously in recent years.
Many area residents are looking for ways to help. Thankfully, there are many things we can do to help maintain or restore populations of these beneficial and important insect species.

Bees for beginners
Denise Wagner of Black Creek, was concerned about the lack of bees near her rural Outagamie County property. She called on the experts at Honey Bee Ware, a specialty store in Greenville that provides education and supplies for those interested in maintaining healthy honeybee populations on their property.

“We started thinking of keeping bees after watching a PBS program about colony collapse disorder and the plight of honeybees,” Wagner said. “One theory for the cause of colony collapse disorder was pesticides.”

This prompted Wagner and her husband to cease renting a portion of their land for farming, thereby preventing pesticide use on that piece of property.

“The year after, we stopped renting some of our land to a farmer for crops and the field came back with a lush stand of clover,” Denise said.

robzimmer_2From there, the Wagners went to work creating a valuable and safe pollinator habitat.

“With that, we started to plan our first hive,” she said “in addition to the clover, we also have a large wildflower patch of coneflowers in summer and purple asters in fall, although honeybees will travel quite far to find pollen and nectar.”

Honeybee school
“I attended a beginner beekeeping class in March sponsored by Honey Bee Ware, a family-owned beekeeping supply and beekeeper education business in Greenville,” Wagner said. “The instructor was engaging and presented the information with subtle humor. With about 60 people attending that class, it was evident that interest in beekeeping is ramping up. One classmate came all the way from Manistique, Michigan, so I feel lucky to live minutes from the store which carries everything I could possibly need to keep bees.”

Honey Bee Ware provides everything necessary to keep bees, including the bees themselves, which Wagner expects to arrive the first week in May.

From there, her bee-keeping adventure will continue to grow.

For more information, visit honeybeeware.com

Pollinator gardens
In addition to raising bees on your property, there are a number of other helpful actions we can take to help maintain and restore bees.

Pollinator gardens are becoming increasingly popular throughout our area. More than butterfly gardens, pollinator gardens are designed with specific plantings to attract and provide valuable, safe nectar for pollinating species, including bees.

Utilizing pesticide-free native perennials is especially important when growing a pollinator garden. Providing a wide assortment of host plants increases the number of pollinators you can attract and help maintain throughout the growing season.

Providing blooming plants that are rich in nectar and span the seasons from spring right through late fall is important.

Early flying native bees and honey bees often do not have access to blooming wildflowers when they first emerge in March and April. The same situation may occur late in the fall if warm weather persists. Therefore, it is important to include late-blooming wildflowers in your palette of plants, as well.

Examples of late season bloomers that make excellent pollinator plants include Joe-Pye Weed, Purple Coneflower, New England Aster, Goldenrod, Cardinal Flower, Blue Lobelia, Black-Eyed Susan, Helenium, Sunflowers and Sedums.

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