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Insectidote of the Day 2012-09-07

twig's picture

[I'm stickying (ha) this because it's such a neat idea and it's something many of us could do with our gardens. --lambert]

bee house

Homemade bee nursery for wild bees

Yes, this is Petidote Friday, but rather than stretch the definition of "pet" to ridiculous lengths, I'm temporarily borrowing YesMaybe's brilliant Insectidote idea, but only because this is important. Wild bees need our help, and one relatively easy thing you can do is set up a plastic package bin or tote (the big plastic containers postal workers often use for packages) for a bee nursery.

Wild bees are needed now, perhaps more than ever, to help with jobs usually handled by America's premier pollinator, the European honey bee, Apis mellifera. Many of the nation's honey bee colonies have been decimated by the puzzling colony collapse disorder or weakened by varroa and tracheal mites or the microbes that cause diseases such as chalkbrood and foulbrood.

A single corrugated plastic tote can accommodate as many as 3,000 young, enough to pollinate one-half to one-acre of orchard. And, unlike bulky or stationary shelters, the tote houses can easily be moved from one site to the next.

Here are more details on building your own bee nursery, using inexpensive, everyday materials. Even if you don't particularly like bees, protecting them and encouraging colonies is extremely important to the future of food production.

A global survey of several studies demonstrated a severe decline of pollinators and provision of pollination services in a wide range of intensively managed temperate and tropical agroecosystems. Considering that global crop production worth 153 billion Euros (for Europe 22 billion Euros) relies on insect pollination, the pollinators' decline has direct impact on the stability of food production and consumer prices, and might also have serious consequences for human health.

I'm going to try this, because there are already quite a few bees in the neighborhood (there are hives nearby), so look for updates at some point. Either that or a story on how I survived being attacked by hundreds of bees after screwing it up.


Readers, please send twig ( images and stories for the ongoing Plantidote of the Day series. In exchange, you'll win undying fame in the form of a hat tip! Plants growing in your garden, your house, or neighbor's yard, plants from the forest or farmers' market, plants you preserved, plants you prepared (wine; cider; tea; dried beans), plants you harvested (grains; chantrelles), plants you picked (flowers), plants you dried (herbs), plants you covet or hope to grow someday. Herbal remedies, propagation tips, new varieties, etc.. And if you can, include some solid detail about the plant, too -- a story, the genus and species, or where you got the seeds, or the recipe, or your grandmother gave it to you. Or challenge us with a "Name That Plant" mystery entry ... And please feel free to add corrections and additional information in the comments.

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Submitted by lambert on

Too late in the year for me, but maybe not for you?

My father kept bees; he was taught how as a child, as a sort of remediation strategy when he was ill. I don't think we'd do such things today. Maintaining an entire society is quite different from having an animal companion, I would think.

It's too bad there's no "Little Beehive" movement as there is "Little Libraries."

NWLuna's picture
Submitted by NWLuna on

after reading a fascinating book on it. I used to keep honeybees, back when I had more time, and could move my hives in early summer out to the country so the bees could harvest lots of fireweed and blackberry nectar. Maybe next spring I will start again.

There's hardly anything more soothing than sitting to the side of a thriving beehive in summer listening to the contented busy hummmmmmmmmmming.

insanelysane's picture
Submitted by insanelysane on

Twig, thanks so much for posting this. It's so important. The wild bees here in California number around 800 different species!! Many of them come out to forage long before the usual pollination plants are blooming so I make sure I have early blooming plants for them. One easy bee favorite is Borage. It has beautiful blue flowers, blooms really early often in mid to late winter here! the bees go crazy for it and it holds them until the fruit trees and other flowers open. Borage is a snap to grow from seed.

I have seen very easy to make bee nests made from holes drilled into blocks of wood.
Also, several mail order nurseries have ready made mason bee tube nests that are not expensive and can be reused over and over.

WE all do really need to make life easier for our companions in the garden...the wild bees.

Submitted by MontanaMaven on

that is biodynamic. The vintner owner is cultivating native bees who are many times more productive than imported ones. (400 natives can do the work of 40,000 foreigners. The Calvinists of bees, I guess). He experimented with lots of different wood stumps for the bee nests. Redwood seems to be the wood they like the most.

Pick up the wonderful new book by Robin Shulman "Eat the City" about the beekeepers, fishmongers, butchers, gardeners and wine makers of New York from the beginning to present day. The first chapter is "Honey".

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Submitted by twig on

Also, first time I've run across the term "biodynamic vineyards," but I like the sound of it :-) There's so much creativity in agriculture right now, it's very encouraging to see.

Submitted by MontanaMaven on

He was named "Winemaker of the Year" for the 2nd year in a row. His winery is made from straw bale construction. He takes his runoff water and filters through plants and into a recovery pond. He is nurturing these amazing dark furry bees.
Bio dynamics proceeds "organic". He plants companion plants around his vines and his fruit trees. He makes all his own compost (only gets manure from a neighbor but plans on adding some sheep or a couple cows). Very inspiring. Small carbon footprint and almost self-sustaining. He and his family live simply and make great wine on this 35 acre piece of paradise 7 miles from the ocean. His father, Dick Lemon, wrote for the New Yorker, Newsweek, and wrote books. Ted's vineyard is like a great book. A wonderful accomplishment.
He rents a wonderful truck that has the bottling inside it. A couple engineers came up with this idea. So the $1 million dollar truck is then driven from small vineyard to small vineyard to bottle, cork, and label the wines. Littorai

Also, yes, get "Eat the City". I forgot it also has a super chapter on beer making.

twig's picture
Submitted by twig on

What a fantastic operation! And it looks like even us small-time gardeners can use some of the techniques. It's so encouraging to see people doing this sort of thing and being successful with it.