We’re covered in bees!

22 Jun
Box o' bees

Let us out! 3 lbs of bees in a box rounds out to about... errr... 10,000 bees?

Our bees arrived the day before our Biggest Event of the Year, but that wasn’t our trouble – our bees are docile sweeties and there was no chance the ladies would be interruptive to our big Spring fête – the trouble was that I forgot the marshmallow. The critical and all important marshmallow. And thus, dear readers, the Annie’s Annuals beekeeping adventure began with me making a mad dash in a funny white suit to the corner market, and inquiring of the clerk with some intensity where on the premises I could obtain a bag. The woman at the counter raised her eyebrows at me a little and pointed the way. There are no photos of this part of our installation process, so I’ll invite you to use your imagination. Lo, it was pretty hilarious.


I should have remembered the critically and all important marshmallow BEFORE the big install, but see, I was a bit busy being excited about the BEES, the many thousands of bees, that we (we being myself, Claire, and our accountant, Gina) were about to dislodge from their enmeshed box and let loose on the nursery.

Bee counter

Gina was eager for us to get the bee show on the road.

See, the packaged bees come with a queen, but the workers don’t know her – to allow for a gentle introduction, (and this is critical, because if they reject the queen you’re in trouble) you put her in a little cage, and this cage is corked. When you hustle the bees out of their package (by shaking them – with vigor!) into the empty waiting hive (and also into the surrounds – creating something of a bee-tornado) you also have to uncork your new queen, and stuff a marshmallow in the cavity of her little cage. Then you tuck her in between the frames and her workers set about chewing their way through to gain her freedom.

Her Highness!

Her majesty, all cooped up.

Insert marshmallow here

Insert marshmallow here.


Ready.... Steady.....

Bee blizzard


Over the last several years there’s been a marked decline in the number and varieties of pollinators at the nursery – we encounter fewer in person (honeybees especially) and sadly we’ve also been having a hard time getting some of our cherished mother plants to set seed, so having a hive of honeybees on the grounds seems like an excellent investment! Honeybees aren’t going to pollinate everything (NOTHING will pollinate Lotus jacobaeus – SIGH) but you’d better believe they’ve been busy, and I expect that it’ll make a big difference!

Bees love a party too

"Baby Blue Eyes" and fuzzy friend

Eriogonum 'The Hub' and yellow pollen bee

All Eriogonums get 6 bee thumbs up.

Aquilegia 'Krystal' and honeybee

Loverly Aquilegia 'Krystal' gets a visitor

For the last few months, we’ve been noticed them getting busy on the Nemophilas, and now that the Echiums are going full tilt they’re really going to town. I saw one little working gal obsessing over our blooming crop of Salvia carduacea last week – her pollen sacs were a gorgeous orangey RED. And I’ve actually seen some of the ladies come home with turquoise green pollen in tow – AMAZING! I suspect the Gilias are at cause.

Green pollen bee

Pollen comes in some crazy colors!

Busy busy busy

Bees work FAST! After just a week we could see baby bees a' brewin, pollen, & honey.

Besides our selfish aims (MORE SEEDS, PLEASE!) we just plain old LOVE bees, and want to make a safe space for them in our gardens and in yours. We’re not in it for the honey, and frankly, I don’t really care if we even get to harvest from the hive at all – I just hope they stick around. To that effect, help us help them! We participate in the terrific “Yellow Dot Project” – all of our plants that are honeybee-magnetizing and delicious bear a cute little yellow dot with a smiling bee on the sign. Plant more “Yellow Dotted” plants everywhere, and the bees that *are* around will have a more diverse buffet to harvest from (eating one thing all the time? NOT FUN) and give them more habitat in our developed world.

Our gentle Carniolan came from the Marin Bee Company (who’s had a hand in hive installations at Google, the SF Chronicle and many other places – follow them on Twitter @marinbeecompany!) and are a really mild tempered bunch. I’ve peeked in on them many times without smoke or a veil and I’ve never been stung or felt like the bees were angling towards harm.

We still have a bunch of marshmallows left in the break room. They’re going a bit stale, now, because they’ve been sitting around for a few weeks, but SOMETIMES stale marshmallows hit the spot. No, seriously.

More honeybee adoration and adulation can be found in a SLIDESHOW from our visit to the Melissa Garden last year – Kate Frey’s marvelous Healdsburg honeybee sanctuary!


Check out ALL of our BEE magnet plants HERE!

14 Responses to “We’re covered in bees!”

  1. Emily Heath June 22, 2011 at 7:42 pm #

    That turquoise green pollen is fantastic, I’ve never seen anything like it!

  2. Penny June 22, 2011 at 8:18 pm #

    Aren’t honey bees the best? You’ve got some pretty girls there 🙂 And I bet they are just tickled with all the nectar and pollen producing plants you provide. And the pollen is so colorful! Great job. You deserve a marshmallow 😉

  3. Scott Hokunson June 22, 2011 at 8:44 pm #

    What a fun project, and great photos! I hope to have bees here one day, but the to do list must be completed first.

    P.S. Couldn’t pass up on the title to your post. A tribute to our fave comedian Eddie Izzard, perhaps?

    • anniesannuals June 22, 2011 at 9:06 pm #

      BEEEEES! It absolutely is in reference to our pal Eddie! (This is why we love you Scott!).

  4. Kara June 24, 2011 at 7:36 pm #

    Love that you installed your own hive at the nursery. The bees must think they are in bee heaven! I started beekeeping a few years ago because, after all the help they’ve given me as a gardener, I wanted to help them back. As I learned about them, I found their world facinating!

  5. Lauren June 27, 2011 at 6:19 am #

    Love your bees, love your perceptiveness. My MeMa always said the stale marshmallows where the best. Same for the graham crackers!

  6. Candy Suter July 2, 2011 at 6:28 am #

    What an incredible post with amazing photos! Good for you for bring the bees in! That is so great! And the information about the marshmellow and the queen (sounds like a name for a book LOL) is very interesting!

  7. Lynn Guest July 17, 2011 at 5:16 am #

    We still have some honeybees here in Spokane, but there has been a large decline in the last 3 years. Even the wasps have dropped off. But whichever one did it, I got an amazing cross pollination from my Annie’s Annual pink poppy this year. They grew from 7th generation seeds from my original plant bought in Eureka, CA in 2004. Last year I planted my poppies by my pink double holly hocks. I harvested pods as I always do and replanted the seeds from the pods in the spring. I thought the first poppy was some kind of anomaly. But this plant is over three feet high and very strong, and has blossomed five or six times (with more to come). The flowers are the same color as always but the center has this double ruffle just like the hollyhocks, The center of the flower is still the same. I wanted to send you pictures, but I don’t know where to post them, So I will upload them to Flickr, Check them out (Gwenfey)

  8. Jan July 26, 2011 at 8:21 pm #

    Rapture for Native Bees, too!
    I purchased 2 Helianthus annuus ( Delta Sunflower) earlier this year.
    They are blooming now & last night at twilight, I was inspecting the flower heads to see if
    they were ready for deadheading.
    Inside each flowerhead, was a little slumber party of fuzzy small bees.
    Apparently, male solitary bees shelter in some types of flowers overnight.
    I am delighted … bees are buzzing the flowers nonstop during the day, and sheltering in them at night. What a treat!
    Thank you!

    • anniesannuals July 28, 2011 at 6:13 pm #

      How wonderful! Thanks for sharing Jan, we adore native bees!

  9. Evelyn October 28, 2011 at 2:24 pm #

    Absolutely wonderful that you’ve added bees. I commend you not only for that but for sharing great photos, insight and your beautiful flowers and info. Keep up the good work Annie and staff!!!!

  10. John of Los Osos August 20, 2012 at 9:41 pm #

    What I like most, here in Los Osos: guess who/what likes the Eriogonum (esp grande rubescens). The native bees! Gosh, you never see them, but sure enough, if you plant natives, they seem to come out of the woodwork.

    BTW, I had no luck with the Eriogonum vimineum. Too foggy and cool? A water kill? We live on just plain old sand, so I end up watering A LOT!

    • anniesannuals August 21, 2012 at 1:16 pm #

      Native bees are wild for Eriogonums here, too, John! So far as the E. vimineum – it’s not known as a difficult plant and has grown well for us in regular garden soil and unamended clay. It could be overwatering – when did you plant it? Sometimes heat plus too much water makes CA natives unhappy – best to plant this guy in early spring when the weather is still cool, giving it time to establish before it warms up.

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