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Bees as pollinators and how to keep a healthy colony

Updated: Jul 18

Rearing bees is a great way to enjoy your honey, while helping out with pollination and the local food production economy. Many crops, including fruits, vegetables, and nuts, rely on bees for pollination. Without bees, these crops would produce fewer or no fruits or seeds, which could have a significant impact on our food supply. In addition, bees play an important role in maintaining biodiversity in ecosystems by pollinating wild plants and flowers.

Bees are important pollinators because they transfer pollen from the male parts of a flower to the female parts, which allows the flower to produce seeds and fruit. When a bee lands on a flower to collect nectar and pollen, some of the pollen from the flower sticks to the bee's body (like tiny iron particles lured to a magnet). As the bee moves from flower to flower, it transfers this pollen to the female parts of the flowers it lands on, and this fertilizes the flower. This is one of the amazing things in nature and explains the important role that bees play in the food ecosystem.

If you a bee enthusiast like me, one of the biggest tips to maximize the production of honey is to keep your bees healthy. The simplest way to see if your bees are doing well is to inspect them on a regular basis (once a month is recommended). It is important to grow perennial flowers on your garden or farm and mainly the purples, blues, violet and yellow flowers with some white varieties that have a scent which attracts bees.

Water is also important and a requirement to keep the swarms healthy. Bees can normally travel for up to five kilometers away from the hives to look for favorable forage and water.

A healthy hive should be three-fourths full of wax combs (the strips of hexagonal cells that make up the comb) and brood (the eggs, larvae, and pupae that grow into adult bees).

A queen bee is the one who lays all the eggs in a hive, so it's important that she's healthy.

If you don't see her, which can be difficult as she's about twice as long as a worker bee and looks like one, check for eggs.

If there are eggs then there is definitely a queen.

Here are some ways to keep a bee colony healthy:

1. Provide a diverse and abundant food source: Bees need a variety of nectar and pollen sources to maintain a healthy diet. Planting a diverse range of flowers in the area surrounding the hive can help provide a good food source for the bees.

2. Manage pests and diseases: Bee colonies can be vulnerable to pests and diseases, such as Varroa mites, Nosema, and American foulbrood. Regular monitoring and treatment of these pests and diseases can help keep the colony healthy.

3. Maintain a clean hive: Regular cleaning of the hive can help prevent the buildup of debris and pests that can harm the colony. This includes removing old comb and replacing it with new comb.

4. Provide adequate ventilation: Proper ventilation in the hive can help prevent the buildup of excess moisture, which can lead to mold and other issues.

5. Monitor and manage hive populations: Bee colonies can become overcrowded, which can lead to swarming and other issues. Regular monitoring of the hive population can help prevent overcrowding and maintain a healthy colony.

6. Avoid the use of pesticides: Pesticides can be harmful to bees, and their use should be avoided near the hive.

7. Provide a suitable habitat: Bees require a suitable habitat with access to food, water, and shelter. Providing a suitable habitat, such as a hive with an appropriate design and location, can help maintain a healthy bee colony.

Takeaway: Keeping bees is fun and they will help you with your garden too!

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