The Honey Makers Book by Gail Gibbons

This charming children's book easily explains the role of bees in our ecosystems.

This charming children's book easily explains the role of bees in our ecosystems.

The Honey Makers Book by Gail Gibbons

If you are looking for a bee book for a child, the Honey Makers by Gail Gibbons is an excellent choice.

The colorful paperback book has charming illustrations of bees and beekeeping. The explanations are simply clear, and the concepts cover the basics from the role of bees in pollination to the various places they live.

One of the pages in Gail Gibbons "The Honey Makers" showing the various bee homes.

One of the pages in Gail Gibbons "The Honey Makers" showing the various bee homes.

Even if the gift recipient is young and can't read, the illustrations convey the relationship bees have to flowers.

When my brothers were growing up, they loved well-illustrated books and would make their own stories based on the drawings and pictures.

Our grandmother, who worked at a used book store in California, would send us wonderful books for Christmas gifts. After the furor of unwrapping presents, we would all settle down to leaf through books together, each one an invitation to a new place or adventure.

A forager bee visits a flower in Gail Gibbon's "The Honey Maker" color illustrations.

A forager bee visits a flower in Gail Gibbon's "The Honey Maker" color illustrations.

To further personalize, add a little jar of your honey and a gift card inviting the child to an apiary visit next spring. Children are the future of beekeeping. The earlier we can get them engaged, the better we will all "bee"!

Do you have a favorite children's beekeeping book?


Bee Friendly

These dark pink Bee Balm monardas on sale were barely out of my car before bumblee bees were all over them.

I now follow bees in garden nurseries and keep an eye out for plants they visit to get marked down. Although I have been gardening for several decades with an emphasis on native plants, I can always find more flowers on sale I think my bees will like.

On this National Pollinator Week June 15-21, 2015, celebrate by adding a group of bee-friendly plants to your garden.


Sugar Water Fly Through

There are a number of ways beekeepers "feed" their honeybees. Although its best honeybees find their own pollen, there are times when pollen is not available. For example, during extended rainy seasons, when honeybees are not able to fly because their wings don't work when they are wet. Another challenging time is when temperatures stay above 90˚F for any extended period of time; plants go into survival mode and stop producing flowers, and therefore pollen.
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To the Little Busy Bee

"How doth the little busy bee, improve each shining hour, and gather honey all the day from every opening flower!" — Isaac Watts 1674-1748

Scientists now know various pollinators have a preference for different-colored flowers. Honeybees, for example, are attracted to yellow and blue flowers; hummingbirds and butterflies to pink and purple ones.

Although honeybees have a preference, I have also found honeybees on pink, red, and purple flowers, especially mid-summer when little else was in bloom. Flowers will stop producing pollen when temperatures go above 90°F, leaving honeybees with limited pollen sources to take back to the hive.

Pink Clover Come Over

If there's one flower bees love, it's clover.

There are several varieties, including white clover and pink clover.

When pink clover is first in bloom, the little flower heads are brown with bees.

I've always loved having pink clover growing in my garden, even before I had bees. They are not the best cut flowers but they are one of the first flowers to turn green, signaling sspring has arrived.


Pollinating Pears

My honeybees are tiny so sometimes I see more details about how they work through close up photography.

Both honeybees and their cousins, wasps, pollinated my compact pear tree flowers spring 2010, the first time my pear tree produced fruit since it was planted in 1985. 

By brushing against favorite flowers like bluebells, honeybees pick up pollen in their leg pouches. As they move from flower to flower, honeybees move pollen that triggers fruit production. 

It's still amazing to me one third of all the food we eat is dependent on this little insect's travel schedule.


Be Back by Sun Down!

Bees have schedules. They are usually out foraging by 9 am and back to the hive by sun down.

Bees from the same hive visit about 225,000 flowers per day. One single bee usually visits between 50-1,000 flowers a day, flying an average of 13-15 miles per hour.

A hive entrance can look very much like an airport take off and landing strip!


Bees Visit Lots of Flowers

We think of honeybees visiting flowers but they also visit blooming bushes and trees like Missouri Redbuds. The variety of pollen gives honey its distinct, and varied flavor.

Professional beekeepers mix all the honey to make a homogeneous flavor.

I like to bottle different honeys to enjoy the variety of flavors bees produce. My bees have yet to produce two batchs of honey that taste the same!


Carpenter Bee on Bee Balm

One of Missouri's 400 bee species is the carpenter bee.

Although a solitary species, carpenter bees are important because they pollinate the rest of plants that honeybees don't pollinate.

You can distinguish a carpenter bee from an "impatient bumble bee" by their glossy backside. A bumble bee is hairy.

I seem to have a number of carpenter bees working their way through my garden flowers. In photo, a carpenter bee visits bee balm, a butterfly favorite.