How I Got Started

I started Butterfly gardening many years ago. My yard has been a progression over the years, and has made many transformations. Twenty years ago I experienced Hurricane Andrew. My yard and house were destroyed. We decided not to replace the pool screening and open up the backyard and put in some landscaping. That was the official beginning of my love for gardening in South Florida. I added a beautiful water garden years ago, and have been adding host and larvae plants for pollinators, mostly for the butterfly, for as many years as I can remember. I had my yard certified as a Natural Habitat, through the National Wildlife Foundation. To have a natural habitat you need to provide and meet certain requirements: 1. Provide a food source, 2. Provide a water source, 3. Cover, 4. A place to raise young. I try not to use any pesticides in my yard. I vermicompost and recycle as many of my food scraps as possible. If I had more land I would have a huge compost bin to recycle all my yard cuttings. Basically, I try to lessen my carbon footprint on this earth. In my own little world or backyard I try to provide an ecosystem in my water garden, provide birdbaths, birdfeeders, hummingbird nectar sources, feeders, puddling areas, host plants and nectar plants for butterflies and other pollinators. I am hoping to raise everyone’s awareness of the importance of saving our Butterflies, Blooms & Bees. Without them our world and food source will be in trouble. I hope you all enjoy my journey. I am not a Master Gardener, or Master Beekeeper, an Entomologist, or Journalists. I am simply a Backyard Gardener who is trying to lessen her Carbon Footprint of this Earth.

I hope you enjoy my blogs.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Happy National Honey Bee Day!

Today we celebrate National Honey Bee Day and the many contributions of our favorite pollinators. Thanks to them we have almonds, apples, cherries, peaches, cucumbers, and so much more.

Our bees continue to be in trouble. They continue to disappear at alarming rates, with beekeepers reporting astonishing losses this spring from New York to Ohio, and Minnesota.

The National Honey Bee Day program is held one day each year. That does not mean that you can’t get involved the rest of the year. Awareness of the environment around you is a yearlong effort.

Here are a few ways non-beekeepers can support, help, and save the honey bee.

  • Consider beekeeping as a worthwhile hobby.
  • Support local beekeepers by buying local honey and other beehive products. Honey is the best “green” sweetener you can buy.
  • Attend and support beekeeper association events throughout the year in most communities such as environmental centers, schools, and state parks.
  • Educate yourself on the dangers and risks with homeowner pesticides and chemicals. Choose non-damaging and non-chemical treatments in and around the home. Most garden pests can be dealt with without harsh chemicals.
  • Get to know the honey bee. Unlike other stinging insects, honeybees are manageable, and are non-aggressive.
  • Plant a bee friendly garden with native and nectar producing flowers. Use plants that can grow without extra water and chemicals. Native plants are the best to grow in any region. Backyard gardens benefit from the neighborhood beehive.
  • Understand that backyard plants such as dandelions and clovers are pollen and nectar sources for a wide variety of beneficial insects, including the honey bee. Dandelions and clover are an unwarranted nuisance for many homeowners. The desire to rid yards of these unwanted plants and have the “perfect” yard are sources for chemical runoff and environmental damage from lawn treatments. A perfect lawn is not worth poisoning the earth.
  • Communities should not pass restrictive measure or ban beekeeping.

You can get involved with your community! We need to protect our bees! While policymakers remain resolutely stuck—and have yet to take swift action to address the known causes of bee die-offs—home gardeners, backyard beekeepers and ordinary people all over the country have been stepping up.

Whether you create a pesticide-free haven for bees in your yard, write a letter to the editor, or chat with your neighbors about the importance of protecting pollinators, your actions will make a difference.

Build the movement. Create a bee haven. Talk to neighbors. Spread the word. Visit the Honey Bee Haven site for simple tools to help you protect bees from harmful pesticides in your neighborhood. Let’s celebrate National Honey Bee Day by doing what we can to protect them. Every little bit counts.

Here are some links to help protect our Honey Bees!

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Getting Back Up on the Horse

Or so the saying goes…. I finally went back into my beehives. I have to admit I was pretty nervous about it, but I knew I had to get back up on the horse. I did have a friend with me and I am very grateful that she is helping me. It made me relax to know that she was there to help me in case I needed it. It was also good to have a pair of younger eyes, to see the eggs etc. I did wear my complete bee suit, three layers of gloves, and my new bee boots. The bees did not sting me at all through the gloves for which I’m glad. I think the triple layers worked well. I washed my gloves even though they were goatskin leather, to get the bee sting pheromone off. They seemed to wash ok. So the irony is that I am completely covered from head to toe and they still sting me through the bee suit on the shoulder. It is so funny but the bees had never stung me in the ankles, usually just through the gloves. So I protect myself from head to toe and they find a new place to sting me in the shoulder. It is almost like they are laughing at me saying, “Ok you think you are going to keep us away with three layers of gloves, we will just find an easier place to get you!” I did have a slight local reaction, but no systemic reaction. I do believe that the reason I did have the anaphylactic reaction is that I just got too many stings that day. I just bought a B/P machine so that if I get more than one or two stings while in the hives I can take my B/P. If it drops, I stop for the day. I also forgot to mention that I had my epinephrine pen attached to my hip. I will never go into the hives again without my epi pen, and without someone home.

The hives looked pretty good. Hive #1 had pretty good laying pattern, good population, and a few hive beetles towards the back. There is a lot of bearding on the front of this hive. We didn’t see any eggs so I will be watching this hive in case it swarms.

Hive #2 still didn’t have a new queen. The old queen cells were broken down. We did find a few queen cups with open larvae so we gave that hive 4 bars of brood to make a new queen just in case they need it. Hive #3 & #4 looked good. Hive #4 is my strongest hive with the best laying queen. Unfortunately hive #5 that I started the last time I was in the hives didn’t make it. Hive #5 was the mixed origin divide that I did on July 21st when the anaphylactic reaction occurred. Unfortunately I had a cover on the hive that really didn’t allow good sunlight to enter, and I think the rain water was also getting into the hive. When we inspected it, it was full of wax moths, and small hive beetles, and larvae. There were some bees left but not enough to salvage the hive. I actually threw all the wax away and the hive. I took the top bars and placed them in my freezer to kill any larvae that might be hiding. I felt badly but I did not want that larvae infesting my other hives. The most important way to keep pests out of your hives is to make sure they are strong. Hive #5 unfortunately was not strong and I totally ignored it for three weeks because of what happened. You cannot do that with a TBH. Lesson learned!

The good news is that I was able to harvest many jars of honey that is always so appreciated. I don’t think I will ever take getting honey for granted. It is just amazing what a wonderful gift bees give us. We need to not take our bees for granted!
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