A Plea to Homeowners: Honeybees Need Homes, Too!

  • California’s almond growers generate more than $21 billion in revenue. Without bees there can be no almonds.
  • University of California, Davis is home to the Honey Bee Haven — part research station and part outdoor museum.
  • University of California, Berkeley operates an Urban Bee Lab, with welcome words on the dreaded “sting factor.”

You’ve read news reports about the dangerous drop in honeybee populations in recent years. Honeybees are essential to California’s agricultural economy, and each year, farmers in the Golden State import millions of them to pollinate their crops. The state’s almond industry alone generates more than $21 billion in revenue each year, and without bees there can be no almonds.

What does this have to do with Northern California homeowners? Plenty, it turns out.

Bees need flowers, and the University of Califorina Cooperative Extension, a division of the state agriculture department, is asking homeowners to add bee-friendly flowers, shrubs, and trees in yards and open spaces to promote honeybee colonies.

UC experts recommend that homeowners use a mix of plant families — good choices include the mint, sunflower, rose, buckthorn, figwort, and plantain families. And since bees vary in size, flower color preferences, and feeding styles, give them a choice by planting flowers of varying shapes, sizes, and colors. And place several of the same plant together rather than spreading them around the garden.

UC Berkeley operates an Urban Bee Lab, and the UC Davis campus is home to a one-of-a-kind Honey Bee Haven — part research station, part outdoor museum. Its website offers detailed information on the workings of the haven, a schedule of classes for both novices and experts, resources for homeowners and teachers, and more.

Here are some links to help you learn more about backyard beekeeping:

  • A one-page roundup of bee gardening basics.
  • A comprehensive “bee garden plant list” from UC Berkeley’s Urban Bee Lab.
  • A list of more than 200 bee-friendly flowers, shrubs, and trees planted at the haven, with watering guides and blooming schedules.
  • The Bee Gardener, an online newsletter with with news from the haven and gardening tips.
  • The Honey Been Haven’s Facebook page.
  • The haven’s Flickr page, with photos of flowers and, well, honeybees.
  • Lastly (and most importantly), check out the Urban Bee Lab’s “Sting Factor” page, full of information that may surprise you — and make you more amenable to keeping bees as outdoor neighbors.

(Photo: iStock/Ajma_pl)

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