Harvesting A Secret Life of Bees

It wasn’t so much the sound of the swarm, as I couldn’t hear the persistent buzz of bees in my closed-off, closed-out box of an apartment. It was the movement that caught my eye, a dark swarm of over 100 bees moving in a slow cyclone outside my window, fascinating and a little frightening. I had just read Sue Monk Kidd’s “The Secret Life of Bees,” so I knew I was to show them love. Easier to do from the safe haven inside my home.

“I hadn’t been out to the hives before, so to start off she gave me a lesson in what she called ‘bee yard etiquette’. She reminded me that the world was really one bee yard, and the same rules work fine in both places. Don’t be afraid, as no life-loving bee wants to sting you. Still, don’t be an idiot; wear long sleeves and pants. Don’t swat. Don’t even think about swatting. If you feel angry, whistle. Anger agitates while whistling melts a bee’s temper. Act like you know what you’re doing, even if you don’t. Above all, send the bees love. Every little thing wants to be loved.” – The Secret Life of Bees

It was recently Bee Week this past May, hosted by Whole Foods and Modern Farmer (MF). As MF noted, “almond groves, apple orchards, pumpkin fields – all require pollination from bees in order to bear fruit. Starting in 2006, beekeepers across North America and Europe began reporting that anywhere from 30 to 90 percent of their hives were dying off.”

If you’ve contemplated bringing the bees back by donning long sleeves and keeping your own hives, check out MF’s piece on which bee is right for you.   But if you simply want to show bees how much you love them by growing the green that attracts them to your hood, encouraging pollination and backyard bee life in general, take a look at The Daily Green’s list of bee-friendly plants. They recommend you choose as many native plants as possible.

My favorite bee-friendly flower? Sunflowers in a wild or tame garden: tall, rangy, happy looking plants, they seem to take on a life of their own, beaming and radiant.  Their colors are so bee-ish, it seems the perfect fit. Not surprisingly, sunflowers need full sun, and they like long, hot summers to flower best. According to the Farmer’s Almanac, “plant the large seeds no more than 1 inch deep and 4 to 6 inches apart in well-dug, loose soil after it has thoroughly warmed, from mid-April to late May. …Water plants deeply but infrequently to encourage deep rooting.”

Read more at the Farmer’s Almanac on how to harvest your seeds, and prevent critters from attacking your crop.  What plants best bring all the bees to your yard?  Leave a comment here, or tell us on Twitter: @RebeccaSnavely & @TheCityFarm.  And speaking of the benefits of bees, check out the City Farm’s Avocado Honey!  Happy Planting!


Photo credit: MarielHemingway.com