Bees Please

I think it’s time I explained the beans and honey blog title.  You see, I keep no bees. I like to think I have bee keeping blood – my great great grandfather (I think) was a beekeeper in Germany, and a beehive is even on the family crest. However, we also have matchmakers, sea captains, silversmiths and bricklayers in our family trees, so I think we pick and choose which parts of our family history make up who think we are.

Blue banded bees (image from Project Noah)

Bees are just so damn important for everything. Global declines in bee populations have been attributed to pesticides, diseases, changes in habitats, pests and all kinds of things that are the consequence of human ‘progress’. Yet without bees, we wouldn’t have vegetables. Now, even if you don’t eat vegetables, you have to think a little bit here. I bet you eat pizza. Aha – no tomato paste. Keep thinking and make those little connections between bees and your buzzy busy bee modern life. Such a tiny little creature means more to us than any other creature on earth, I’d argue. We wouldn’t even have our garden. You can read more about the consequences of honey bee deaths here and here. After reading these, I wondered why we don’t have an apocalyptic film based on decline of bees, as it would have more impact on us than a tidal wave, earthquake or even a zombie outbreak (though it’s easier to outrun a bee than a zombie, and I’d feel guiltier for decapitating a bee).

So, beans just sounds good with honey. It’s a bit of a wordplay, but it’s also a little nod to the bees that keep my garden alive.  This weekend @beaker303 came rushing inside full of boyish enthusiasm (the same one he reserves for Kelvin Helmholtz ‘wave’ clouds, thunder and lightning, and beer). What he’d discovered in the garden was a cool little guy called a blue banded bee. It’s an Australian native bee, and apparently they are great for greenhouse tomato pollination. They do something called buzz pollination, which I’m not sure about but sounds like fun if you ask me. Now, if our garden is becoming a haven for these guys, we are very happy.


Which brings me to the other reason for this blog post, and something I’ve wanted to blog about for a while, but haven’t been inspired til @beaker303 came buzzing in about his find. A few weeks ago he’d asked me if I wanted to rip up the kale and coriander, which had both gone to seed. Flying across the vegie garden with a resounding noooooooooooooooooooooooooo to rip the fork from his eager grasp, I pointed out all the little furry dudes who were partying around the flowers. Take away the flowers, where do the bees go? It’s a permaculture lesson, but one I’d only thought about when I observed it myself (I never take anything in unless it’s something I’ve seen and experienced with my own eyes – probably because I don’t pay attention until it happens to me!). The other bonus with leaving vegetable plants to go to seed is – well, yes, the seeds, of course  but the little micro climates they create – they shade the soil and protect other little plants, they provide nutrients (the broad bean is famous for trapping nitrogen in the soil) and thus worms and other happy garden micro creatures can bimble about and keep the soil living and breathing. Of course, you may get the bonus of other plants popping up when they fancy it, because the seed has blown off somewhere – this is why I have heaps of coriander in the winter, because I let it go to seed and it sows itself (coriander inevitably does better if you sow it from seed – seedlings bolt way too fast in dry, warm weather).

If we don’t have bees, we just have dreams of bees and flowers and all this beautiful, bountiful wildlife and produce around us.  I don’t know whether the reverie will do, as Emily Dickenson puts it:

To make a prairie it takes a clover and one bee, –

One clover, and a bee,

And revery. 

The revery alone will do

If the bees are few. 

I don’t want to even imagine ‘if the bees are few’, because I know it’s possible – maybe Emily hadn’t thought about that so much.

So that’s it. That’s why there is honey in the blog title, though I don’t officially ‘keep’ bees, I think they keep me.

Post Script

Having read this to @beaker303, he thought I’d been neglectful, and had forgotten Eric The Half A Bee. So, if you are a bit depressed about declining bee populations, here you go:


4 Comments Add yours

  1. Emily Heath says:

    Nice post 🙂 Buzz pollination is needed for flowers that have their pollen firmly stuck to their anthers. Bumblebees and some solitary bee species specialise in buzz pollination, grabbing hold of the flower and vibrating their flight muscles to shake the pollen loose.

    Some of the plants needing buzz pollination include aubergines, tomatoes, peppers, blueberries and cranberries… we need our bumbles and solitary bees just as much as the honeybees.


    1. kylbeebee says:

      Thanks Emily – that makes sense! Great to know! I had no idea there were different methods of pollination by different bees.


      1. Emily Heath says:

        No probs. The honeybee is a generalist, able to visit most flowers. However some deeper shaped flowers can only be accessed by bees with long proboscises, for instance certain species of bumblebees. To get around this, sometimes honeybees will bite holes in the side of flowers to get access to the nectar – good for the bee but not for the flower, as it misses out on the pollination!


      2. kylbeebee says:

        its really cool you took trouble to tell me that, i find it really interesting!


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