Good news allotment holders! Powerstown are to welcome some new and very helpful plot holders in the near future. Powerstown committee has been working on this for some time, and we are really excited about it. You may have noticed the new fencing beside the pump house? This is Plot Bee in the making. We look forward to bigger and better harvests under the influence of our new neighbours.
Bees are the queens of pollination, the most important pollinators on the planet. As gardeners, you probably also know, that the honey bee is in trouble world wide. Bee colonies have been collapsing, wiped out by varroa mite and other diseases, and quite importantly, blanket use of insecticides and weed killers. Alarm bells were rung when food producers began to notice falling yields as bee colonies died out. Many large scale bee keepers in California went out of business with the loss of all their colonies, to the consternation of the Californian fruit producers. Irish bees have suffered the same fate.
Since then, researchers have been working on how to save the bees, and our food supplies! There are still more questions than answers, but in the meantime, small beekeepers like ourselves, have grown in numbers, shoring up the declining bee numbers and keeping small numbers of diverse colonies alive. Powerstown hopes to do it’s bit. Good hive hygiene is important, and we will have the support of Fingal Beekeepers Association to help us look after our bees. There is a sub-group to look after the bees, and if you would like to join us, please get in touch by email, email@example.com and come along to our next meeting.
It feels good to do something positive for the environment, and the nice thing about it is that it brings instant gratification along with it. After all, the bees are bringing the benefits directly to us – more strawberries and blackcurrants, more tomatoes, pumpkins and squashes. This is not to mention the sweet rewards of honey and beeswax! And, this is not to mention the fascination of seeing honey bees at work. I love to watch the wild bumble bees at work on my comfrey flowers, pollen pouches bulging with pale creamy pollen. I can’t wait to see our very own bees, gathering that same pollen, and hurrying back to the hive to unload. I often see bees with bright orange pollen loads, and I wondered where that came from. I looked it up in my bee book and it’s – dandelion! No shortage of that. Maybe the unavoidable dandelion is not to be despised after all.
Honey bees forage over an area of 3 miles, so our bees are not totally dependent on what we grow. Street trees, garden flowers, crops such as rape, mustard and kale are important sources of pollen and nectar. Pollen is what the bees themselves feed on during the summer. Nectar is stored in the bees honey stomach, before being made into honey in the hive. This what the bees feed on during the winter. Different crops produce different colours of honey, from palest pale, to dark amber and even green. Honey from the flowers of the ivy is reputed to have medicinal properties. Unfortunately, it tastes medicinal as well.
We can support our bees by planting bee friendly flowers, such as lavender, comfrey, daisies, and loads more. Seed packets usually state if flowers are good for bees. As a rule of thumb, open centred flowers are best, where you can see the (usually) yellow, pollen bearing stamens. Those with double petals, while beautiful, prevent the bees from getting to the nectar and pollen. Bees really like most herbs too. My lavender plants at home are alive with bees all summer, and they also love lemon balm, – it’s catmint for bees. Incidentally, B & Q sell a six pack of small lavender plants very reasonably.
The most important thing we can do for the bees is practice organic growing!
Weed killers and pesticides are deadly to bees. These chemicals are not so great for us either, and as Government catches up with scientific research, more chemicals are coming off the shelves. We grow fruit and vegetables to give ourselves and our families healthier food, so why use the same chemicals we are trying to avoid in Supermarket foods? It kind of defeats the purpose. I think I’d rather have cabbages with a few holes, and know they are pure and clean.
Our bees will be your hardest working neighbours on the site – even if they are a bit flighty! Best of all, they work hardest of all on your plot, swapping nectar and pollen for increased fruit and vegetable yields.
There are so many lovely relaxing distractions at Powerstown. The buzzards, the pheasants, the pig next door. All the great neighbours to chat to, the robin who appears anytime you produce a spade, and this summer, the lazy buzzing of bees in the lavender as you sit down to enjoy your lunch. Where to find the time to do any work? Let’s hear it for Plot Bee.
By Ritamary, Plot 21