Honeysuckle For Your Bees

Lonicera x italica 'Harlequin'

A Honeysuckle vine is perfect for an English cottage garden, and is a favorite of bees, butterflies and hummingbirds. My Gardening Guiding Spirit, Gertrude Jekyll, used Honeysuckle liberally.

Lonicera x italica ‘Harlequin’ is a splendid specimen with green leaves splashed with pink and cream, big clusters of rosy blooms edged in white to yellow, and splendid fall foliage changes.

This cultivar blooms all summer long and often into fall. It has a beautiful scent, which intensifies in the evening hours.

The foliage unfurls in Spring splashed with bright pink and cream, and this color lasts into the heat of summer. Then in fall the foliage turns again, giving you a third season of new color.

In the sunny to partly shaded garden, ‘Harlequin’ makes a nice companion to everything from Hydrangea to Ice Plant. It’s perfect to twine through an ugly chain-link fence, climb up a showy trellis or arbor, or even wend its way through the branches of open-habit shrubs and trees. It won’t overtake Clematis, and adds much-needed fragrance to all the summer bloomers that lack a scent of their own. Indifferent to heat and humidity, it’s the one you want for those dry, difficult spots.

‘Harlequin’ is a fascinating addition to an English bee garden. I ordered mine from Wayside Gardens.

Honey Garlic Vinaigrette

This is a simple yet delicious salad dressing. Also great as a marinade.

Ingredients

  • 1 cup vegetable oil
  • 1/3 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 3 tablespoons honey
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced

Directions

  1. In a container, combine oil, vinegar, honey, and garlic. Cover, and shake until blended. Set aside for 45 minutes, to allow flavors to combine. Shake again before serving.

My Totally Unscientific Theory

Bees in a wall give us a good picture of the hives bees will create if left to their own devices. When bees want to expand, they don’t go upwards. They go sideways and down.

Bees in a Wall

Bees in the Wall

I have been assured that bees in walls do in fact swarm.  However, it is indisputable that they create huge colonies and impressive comb structures notwithstanding.

The first axiom of my totally unscientific theory is that the nature of Langstroth hives causes bees to swarm before they would swarm in the wild.

The Langstroth hive is designed for the convenience of the beekeeper, not the bees.  Bees are forced to build comb in the size and shape of the frame, not the way they would build comb in nature.

Conventional wisdom dictates that the bees must draw out comb in most of the frames before the next box of frames is placed on top. Things are fine as long as the colony is relatively small. That may be the reason swarms are rarely a problem in the first year.

But there’s a point when the colony is poised to expand exponentially. This is usually in the Spring of the second or third year.

The second axiom of my totally unscientific theory is that bees know when their colony is going to explode long before we do. As far as the bees know, there’s not enough room in the hive to contain the new bees and never will be.  So swarm preparations begin.

If my theory is correct, what should we do? Start adding extra room now, when breeding is just beginning. I’m going to test my theory this Spring and report back on the results.

What We Can Learn From The Bees In The Wall

I’ve been thinking about swarms lately. Obsessing, really.

I know it’s because my Buckfast bees came through our mild winter exceptionally well. They are breeding and foraging at a record pace. I’m worried that some of them are going to pack their honey bags and leave the hive. And me. I couldn’t bear it.

I’ve been keeping bees for six years now, and I’ve never experienced a swarm.  (I did negligently instigate a fatal robbing situation. I’m still recovering…)

I know Buckies aren’t the swarming kind, but I’ve ordered a package of Italians, and they are notorious for their swarmitude.

So I’ve been reading a lot on the subject, and I’ve gotten myself into a lather. Should I checkerboard? How about splitting? How about just adding a few more supers on the top?

Then I started thinking about those stories of bees in the wall.  No, they’re not urban myths. Bees take up residence in the space between inner and outer walls of houses and just go to town.

Bees in a Wall

It doesn’t look like swarming is a problem for those unfortunate folks with bees in their walls. Why??

Tomorrow I will share my very unscientific theory about why bees in the wall don’t swarm…

The Bachelor

Bachelor’s buttons (Centaurea) and bees are a perfect match. Bees gather nectar and pollen enabling the plants to reproduce. In turn, pollen feeds baby bees, and nectar is turned into honey to be enjoyed by the bees and you. Everyone’s happy.

Annual and perennial selections of bachelor’s buttons are available. The annuals (Centaurea cyanus, C. imperialis), found in shades of white, pink, yellow, purple, and blue, also are referred to as cornflowers.

The perennial version is a shade of blue that blooms early in summer, and sometimes again in late fall. They’re sometimes referred to as mountain blue buttons. Annual and perennial varieties produce an ample supply of nectar.

Oh My Deer!

It’s a beautiful Ash Wednesday in Southern Ohio, and I was outside visiting my bees when I noticed that the neighborhood deer had been snacking on the tips of my rose bushes. They’re starting early this year!

They're Only Cute When It's Not Your Garden!

Time to brew up a batch of my never-fail deer repellent. Actually, I have several recipes.

Here they are:

FROM: http://www.farminfo.org/pests
3 raw eggs
3 tbls. of red hot sauce
3 tbls. of garlic juice or minced
Add enough water to a blender to process and mix well. Add this to a gallon of water and spray on plants. You can make the spray last longer by adding Wilt Proof to it.

FROM: A Minnesota Master Gardener at http://www.extension.umn.edu/yardandgarden/AAMG/wildlife
Blend 2 eggs and a cup or two or cold water at high speed. Add this mixture to a gallon of water and let it stand for 24 hours. After 24 hours, spray on foliage. The egg mixture does not wash off easily, but re-application 2-3 times a season may be needed. For a larger quantity, blend a dozen eggs into 5 gallons of water. This mix is also said to repel rabbits.

FROM: http://www.Rutherford County.org

6 eggs
4 hot peppers or enough to make it very hot
6-12 gloves of garlic, enough to make it stink
5 cups of warm water.
Put it all in a blender and liquify it. Put it in an old milk jug. Set it out for a couple of days in the sun to let it cook and get really stinky and hot. Strain it good if you want to use it in a sprayer. You can also pour it on and/or around the plants directly from the jug.

FROM: Backyard Magazine

1 egg
1/2 cup milk
1 Tablespoon of cooking oil
1 Tablespoon of dish soap
Add 1 gallon of water and shake well. Spray or sprinkle on plants every two weeks or after heavy rain.

FROM: Kreftmeyer Fine Gardens/Missouri Botanical Gardens
2 eggs
1 cup skim milk
1 cup water
2 Tablespoons liquid dish detergent
Put all in blender and spray.

I personally use a combination of all of the above ingredients. I don’t want to take any chances.

These really work, and I end up spraying all of my neighbors’ yards too. The only downside is that with all that hot sauce, our yards smell like barbecue for a day or so.

Good luck!

Honey Raspberry Balsamic Glazed Salmon

I think fish is nice, but then I think that rain is wet, so who am I to judge?
Douglas Adams

Bee on a Raspberry Flower

The Bees have provided a wonderful recipe for Lent!

Honey Raspberry Balsamic Glazed Salmon

Ingredients

  • 1 whole side of salmon, or 4 (6-ounce) salmon fillets
  • 1 tablespoon fine sea salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon dry mustard
  • 1/2 cup honey
  • 1/4 cup raspberry balsamic vinegar
  • Extra virgin olive oil, for brushing salmon

Directions

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

If using a side of salmon, cut about halfway through the flesh about every 5 to 6-inches so there are some spaces for the glaze to sink in. If using salmon fillets, slice about 8 to 10 sliced angles into flesh, to help flesh more completely soak in the glaze.

In a small bowl or cup, mix the salt, pepper, and dry mustard.

In a medium glass bowl, heat the honey in the microwave for 30 seconds to liquefy further. Remove from the microwave and mix in raspberry balsamic vinegar.

Brush the both sides of the salmon with olive oil. Season the flesh side with the spice mixture. Brush the flesh generously with the honey-balsamic mixture.

Bake or broil the salmon for 10 minutes or until done to taste.

Enjoy!

The Virtues of Goldenrod

“What is a weed? A plant whose virtues have not yet been discovered.”
― Ralph Waldo Emerson

When I was growing up, Goldenrod was a weed, pure and simple. My mother sent me to rip it out, along with Queen Anne’s Lace and Dandelions.

This morning I found myself ordering a packet of Goldenrod seeds, shaking my head all the while.

I tried to convince myself that this was a different kind of Goldenrod from the weeds of my youth.  It was probably specially cultivated in England or something.

But the picture on the seed package told a different story. This was plain old Goldenrod, the official flower of the Commonwealth of Kentucky, the place of my birth.

But apparently bees love it. I mean, really love it. Almost as much as Borage.

And it’s good for them too.  It blooms for almost a month at the end of the summer, when the bees are building up their stores of honey for the winter.

But could I really cultivate it in my classic English garden? What would Gertrude Jekyll do?

It turns out she used it in her borders for its brilliant yellow color!  All is well!

Now I can hardly wait for those seeds to arrive. It just took me a while to fully appreciate the virtues of Goldenrod. Oh, and it’s deer resistant too!

The Fortnumization Project – Progress!

I’m starting a new colony of Italian bees this year, and my plan is to create a beautiful beehive for them like the ones on the roof of Fortnum & Mason in London.

Fortnum & Mason Beehive

Avid beekeeper and woodcrafter extraordinaire Ryan Ferreri is making the facade for my hive. This week he’s made a lot of progress. Here are some pictures.

Meanwhile, I’m busy priming and painting my wooden ware a beautiful shade of eau de nil.  My hive has a cottage garden outer cover, so it will look more like the Fortnum hives.

More updates as work progresses!