Jun 7, 2021

Outdoor Living

The Buzz About Bees

Bees play a role in wild-plant growth, biodiversity and making delicious honey, of course! Learn how to make our buzzy fuzzy friends happy.

Well folks, summer has finally arrived! And with this sought-after season comes longer days, brighter blooms and busier… bees! 

In Alberta alone, you can expect to see around 200 different species of native bees! The most common are bumblebees, leaf cutter bees, masked bees, mason bees and sweat bees (none of which produce honey, darn). Though honeybees aren’t native to Alberta, they’re commonly imported from Europe for the production of honey. 

Bees are a pivotal part of the environment as they promote wild-plant growth, biodiversity, and in the case of honeybees, produce a tasty food source for humans and other critters. Unfortunately, the bee population has been significantly impacted by pesticides and habitat loss. Want to support your local bee population and benefit from their pollinating practices? We’re buzzing to tell you how… 

Happy bees

If you didn’t plan or plant for your buzzin’ buddies, it’s not too late! There are a couple of things you can do to make your garden more friendly for the bee and native pollinating community. 

Bees + blooms = love

If you’re tending your garden this year, consider it an opportunity to plant some bee friendly flowers, maybe even some perennials. In addition to bees, hummingbirds, butterflies, moths, beetles, and bats are also pollinators. For a pollinator friendly garden, consider planting Queen Anne’s lace, zinnias, daisies, asters, monarda, larkspur, lavender, salvia, mint, or oregano... to name a few. To keep bees coming back all summer long, it’s best to plant flowers with varied blooming periods — but be sure to consider the weather and planting conditions of your area to encourage proper growth. 

By increasing plant diversity, watering frequently, and avoiding pesticides you’ll be on your way to a bee friendly garden. If you’re passionate about bringing bees to your community, look into a community beekeeping club or association (psst. Calgary and District Beekeepers Association).

Sometimes it's best to buzz off

A final friendly reminder to give bees their space. In Alberta, 70% of our bee species nest in the ground, and some species of female bees do have the ability to sting humans. Even so, wasps and hornets are likely to cause more harm. If you get stung by a bee, here is the best way to treat it:

  1. Put some ice or a cold compress on it.
  2. Anti-inflammatories such as ibuprofen can work great to reduce pain and swelling.
  3. Calamine lotion can assist in itching, but if itching and swelling is more severe, try an antihistamine.
  4. If you have severe swelling or a lasting allergic reaction, do not hesitate to contact a medical professional.

Sweet honey

Good news, you made it to the sweet part - honey! 

Did you know that honeybees are the only insect that can produce food eaten by humans? And most would agree that they do a mighty fine job. Raw honey is a great source of antioxidants in addition to having antibacterial and antifungal properties.

How to make the sweet stuff last

Although delicious, honey can be tricky, especially when it comes to texture. You know what we’re talking about: crystals. If you leave it out on the counter for a little too long it turns into a lumpy crystallized mass. But don’t fear, we have a trick to help, and it’s pretty dang easy! You'll be back adding honey to your recipes in no time (more on that later).

Another great way to avoid crystallized honey is to purchase it in smaller batches, and there are some great local honey producers who sell that liquid gold in smaller volumes. It always tastes sweeter when you can source honey from nearby bee farms and support local organizations. 

Cooking with honey

Honey is one of the best natural sweeteners to cook and bake with. From grilled nectarines with honey cream to crispy honey lime chicken, honey adds a super, naturally sweet flavour to any dish!  

Whether you’re an avid chef on the hunt for your favourite ingredient or a green thumb looking to be popular with the pollinators, bees produce delicious results. Making a few changes in your garden can have a big impact on your local ecosystem.

“Bees do have a smell, you know, and if they don’t they should, for their feet are dusted with spices from a million flowers.” — Ray Bradbury

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