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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
Check out ALL of our BEE magnet plants HERE!