Bees are incredibly important to our farm and food system. So important in fact they say bees pollinate over 1/3 of our crops. At the farm we provide bees with tons of flowers (long with all their pollen) and they pollinate our vegetables so we can have fruit like tomatoes.
Pollinators and flowers have evolved together to create an incredible symbiotic relationship. Pollinators like bees have developed specific characteristics like long tongues or fuzzy legs which help carry pollen or food from flowers to their young. At the same time these pollinators help pollinate the plant. As bees visit flowers tiny hairs on their legs collect pollen from the male structures of the plant known as the stamen. When their pollen filled leg brush against the femal parts of the plant, known as the pistils, the flower has been successfully pollinated. That flower will then begin to produce seed.
If bees did not do this job then we’d have to, like in China, where there are far fewer bees now than ever before. The most dramatic example comes from the apple and pear orchards of south west China, where wild bees have been eradicated by excessive pesticide use and orchard workers have resorted to hand pollinate each flower with a paint brush. Without such effort these foods simply wouldn’t be able to be cultivated in absence of the humble bee.
Vibrant Valley Farm understands the importance of pollinators on the farm. During our first season, Kara and I decided to get bees and embark on as one of our farmer friends says, “the most expensive hobby there is.” We bought all the materials and supplies we needed including a book that told us if we haven’t taken a beekeeping class (which we hadn’t) to sign up for one immediately. We didn’t but we did have our friend Hamutahl teach us a crash course in the garage as we painted the hive. Kara picked up the queen and thousands of bees and drove them in her Subaru to the farm. Dressed in white bee suits, terrified, and armed with a smoker we released them into their new hive. For weeks we fed them sugar water as the pollen supply built. Then we watched them visit all the vegetables and flowers on the farm.
We checked on the hive once or twice noting the very yellow color of the bee’s honeycomb. This was because at our first site the main flower in the area is Scott’s broom, which has bright yellow pollen. The farm got busy and so did we and when we checked on the hive months later the bees were dead, slow moving or gone! Horrified we called our local beekeeping organization. He told us it could have been many things: maybe it was the sudden arrival of autumn and cold harsh rain, maybe the bees were from California and couldn’t hang, maybe it was a mite problem, maybe Colony Collapse Disroder (attributed most usually to a new agricultural pesticide group know as neonicotinoids, the use of which continues in the United States to this day – The European Union has even placed a 2 year ban on the use of them to protect their bees and study the effects of neonicotinoids. There is a bill, Saving America's Pollinators Act, being debated by the House Subcommittee on Biotechnology, Horticulture, and Research at this very moment. It was originally put forth in 2013 by Oregon's own Earl Blumenauer).
So last year we packed up the bee equipment and found a local beekeeper who wanted more capacity for more bees. He produced a ton of Blonde Girl Honey (which we still have for sale).
And this year our dear friend Ben Deines has come to keep bees on our farm. Ben did his Masters of Architecture thesis project on bees because he was concerned about pollinators. He has been a beekeeper for years and has brought three hives to our farm, which accounts for over 200,000 bees! Ben says, “Bees are a little different from chickens or gardening, in that they’re wild, even potentially dangerous. And what they produce is so damn pure and simple.”
One of the hives has a living roof and has succulents on top of it. The living roof is one of Ben’s experiments to see if it insulates the bees from the summer heat. We are so happy to have him be a part of the farm!
Some fun bee trivia taken from LifeLab:
How many flowers must honey bees tap to make one pound of honey?
How far does a hive of bees fly to bring you one pound of honey?
Over 55,000 miles.
How much honey does the average worker honey bee make in her lifetime?
How fast does a honey bee fly?
About 15 miles per hour
How long have bees been producing honey from flowering plants?
10-20 million years
How many flowers does a honey bee visit during one collection trip?
How do honey bees “communicate” with one another?
“Dancing.” Honey bees do a dance which alerts other bees where nectar and pollen is located. The dance explains direction and distance. Bees also communicate with pheromones.
In this week's box:
- Green Curly Kale
- Garlic Scapes
- Watermelon Radish
- Silky Salad Mix
- Summer Squash
In this week's bouquet will mostly include:
- Blue Flax