A number of years ago something happened that changed me. Immediately. Profoundly. Permanently.
I was sitting with the bees, sipping my tea, being still, and watching the foragers return to the hive. As I focused on their activity I noticed something horrific. The bees were flying back to the outside of the hive - they could still fly - but they were having extreme difficulty walking into the hive. Upon closer inspection I could see that their legs were not working correctly. I knew in an instant that they had encountered poison. It was incredibly heart-breaking.
In that single moment in time I became a permaculturist... before I had ever even heard that word or knew what it meant. I immediately stopped using poisons of any kind on my property. No pesticides, no herbicides, no insecticides. Nothing.
Within just a couple of years I was amazed at how much more healthy, prolific, and productive my property became. It was as if the earth celebrated and thanked me. Just two summers after I stopped poisoning the earth, I witnessed more growth in my trees, enjoyed more blooms on all of my plants, and saw more volunteer flowers than I even knew was possible.
I also began studying the nutritional needs of honey bees, and began creating healthier pollinator habitat on that little portion of the earth over which I have influence.
I've learned that honey bees need a variety of nutrition (of course), from nutrient-dense sources (of course), over the entire length of their foraging season. Of course!
I've also learned that native plants have more nutrient-dense pollen than hybrids or cultivars. Did you know that?
So here's what I'm doing on my own property:
1) Continuing to eschew the use of poisons of any kind.
2) Planting only native flowering plants that are suited to the hardiness zone of my valley.
3) Planting flowering plants with a diversity of bloom times from April through October.
4) Planting as many different kinds of native flowering plants as possible that bloom in each of those months.
5) Purchasing plants that do not contain systemic pesticides.
6) Continuing to study permaculture and employing those kinds of holistic, sustainable practices.
7) Studying soil health. Oh my gosh, what a fascinating voyage of discovery that is!
And, in my community, I'm trying to raise awareness of the need for improved pollinator habitat. I've joined several groups that are working on those kinds of initiatives. Thankfully, there are many permaculturists, orchardists, and organic gardeners and farmers in my valley.
Of course, all of these efforts benefit native pollinators as well, and I've seen more native pollinators on my property this year than ever before.
In my opinion, improved pollinator habitat is a critical component of bee-centered beekeeping.
Darwinian Beekeeping, Dr. Thomas Seeley, March 2017 issue of American Bee Journal
HONEY-MAKER - How the Honey Bee Worker Does What She Does, Rosanna L. Mattingly