I am a stitcher. For you non-stitchers that means I needlepoint. If you know anything about needlepoint, depending on the size and complexity of the canvas and the stitches you choose, you spend what seems like countless hours creating your personal work of art. Last Fall I stitched a smaller canvas that was a tea cup with the caption “Tea For My Honey”. When you spend so much time stitching a canvas it gives you a lot of time to think not only about the technical parts of stitching, counting, compensating, etc., but why you picked that canvas and why you love it. When I selected the tea cup canvas, I thought is was beautiful, but I have always liked honeybees so this seemed one that would suit me. After I finished the tea cup canvas, I selected a canvas of a Beehive – a little bigger and more ambitious – but I loved the idea of the honeybees flying in and out of the hive in their life’s work of making the rich, golden confection of honey, not only for themselves, but for us to enjoy too. This got me to thinking that I didn’t really know that much about honeybees and I wanted to learn more.
On my quest to learn about honeybees, one day I was at my favorite nursery in the Hamptons, Marders, and the woman who was helping me was wearing a pin that said she was a beekeeper. I was in luck! A real person to ask about honeybees! I learned a lot from our short discussion, but the most interesting thing that I took away from it was how responsible we humans are for the survival of the honeybee population, or its extinction. Here are a few facts about honeybees and what we can do:
- A 2010-11 honeybee survey by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Apiary Inspectors of America reported a 38.4-percent winter honeybee loss. The average yearly loss of honeybees has been about 30 percent, and the decline is steady. We now have the fewest honeybees since 1950.
- We can propagate the plants that honeybees love and need to survive. Honeybees will travel up to six miles from their hives on foraging trips. They look for a few things on these trips. Like almost all living creatures, honeybees need fresh water to survive. They drink water and store it in their hives for later use. You can help honeybees by placing a birdbath or shallow container with some rocks or seashells in the bottom so honeybees can rest on them while they have a drink. If you see honeybees in your pool filter, this means they are using your chlorinated pool water as their water source. It would be better to provide a supply of fresh water instead.
- The main source of energy for honeybees is nectar, a liquefied natural sugar. Honeybees gather nectar from flowers and make it into honey. Each worker bee makes about one-twelfth of a teaspoon of honey in her entire lifetime, which is only about six weeks. Honeybees will travel 55,000 miles and visit almost two million flowers to make just one pound of honey.
- Besides providing honeybees with food and water, a very important thing you can do for them is to stop using pesticides. Pesticides are poison and do not discriminate; they kill the good bugs and the bad ones.
- Honeybees need food in the winter, and plants that flower late in the fall give them one last chance to gather food for the cold winter months. Asters, autumn-flowering crocus and clematis, sedum, and Shasta daisies provide a variety of food choices for honeybees in the fall.
There are many responsible beekeepers dedicated to small-scale beekeeping using sensitive, non-invasive care to promote the honeybee’s survival. There are a couple of such beekeeping operation is here in the Hamptons. “Bees’ Needs” in Sag Harbor and can be found at http://www.newyorkmouth.com/products/bees-needs-early-summer-honey.
The other is East End Apiaries with Robin Blackley as the beekeeper. Robin is a regular at the various farmers markets here on the East End of Long Island and is a great source of information about bees and their production of honey. Visit her website and read all about her Adopt-a-Hive Program.
Now each morning when I have my english muffin with honey, it reminds me to thank our Creator for these smallest of creatures and the sweetness of their labors.