, Port Arthur, Texas


September 19, 2012

Be friendly to bees

Long ago, running barefoot through a patch of sweet clover and playing Red Rover was a favorite afternoon pastime for a summer day, and it almost always included stepping on a bee or two. Now, clover has been replaced by green lawns, and bees have been attacked by an unknown parasite that is killing hives throughout the United States.

In our area, hives have been depleted even more due to mosquito control. Herbicides and pesticides can be toxic to bees, but there are many bee-friendly plant-based fertilizers and pesticides available at local nurseries for home use.

If you have fewer blooms on your flowers and shrubs, less fruit on your trees and smaller vegetable crops, it could be due in part to a smaller bee population.  Here are some tips on making your garden bee friendly.

Bees visit flowers to collect nectar and pollen for food. Open-faced blooms with single flower tops make the most pollen and provide easy access. Zinnias, daisies, coneflowers and dianthus are a few favorites with long bloom time.

In our area it’s possible to have nectar producing plants almost all year. When planning your garden, choose plants that bloom in spring, summer and fall. In winter, add a few blooming plants in containers placed in a sunny spot near a doorway or under an eave for shelter. Hybridized plants have very little nectar, so avoid these for attracting bees.

Place small shallow dishes around your garden filled with a few pebbles and just enough water to cover the bottom. Both bees and frogs will appreciate it, which means more blooms for you and fewer insects on your plants.

A favorite watering hole for bees in my garden is a pot of flowers in a ceramic tray of pebbles on a table in front of my swing. I enjoy sitting with my coffee and newspaper in the morning, visiting with the early shift sitting on the rim, bobbing heads and refreshing themselves in the cool water from my rain barrel.

Did you know that many of your neighbors have their own backyard beehives and are enjoying not only a healthy garden, but honey, too? Find out how to attract bees to your garden and acquire a hive of your own by attending the Jefferson County Horticulture Committee’s bee seminar from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturday, Aug. 25 at the Jefferson County AgriLife Auditorium, 1225 Pearl St. in downtown Beaumont. The $25 fee includes lunch.

Local beekeeper Bryan Muldrow will present “Introduction to Honeybees” and Benny Roades of Shangri La Botanical Gardens and Nature Center in Orange will offer “Top Bar Hives for Backyard Gardeners.” For more information, call 409-835-8461.

In our grown-up lives, we are dependent on our bee friends, and while they might still sting, we want to encourage them to enjoy our gardens.

Ann Bares is a Jefferson County Master Gardener and Horticulture Committee member. Reach her at Reach the Jefferson County Master Gardeners at 409-835-8461.


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