Having grown up on farms, we love backyard farming. One of our favorite past times is to plan the future OLO farm where we hope to grow some of our ingredients as well as food for our families. Of course no farm is complete without a few animals, so we’ve discussed keeping chickens. How can you resist all those fresh, beautifully colored eggs? But our latest obsession? Bees! Honeybees are crucial to farms (and nature in general) in their role as pollinators. About 80 percent of United States crops rely on honeybees for pollination and some crops are solely dependent on them. Almonds, for instance, rely completely on honeybees for pollination—no honeybees, no almonds. Amazing!
We recently visited local Georgia bee keeper and former head of the Coastal Department of Natural Resources, Susan Shipman, to discuss the vital role that bees play in our agricultural system and what we can do to encourage their crucial work. Susan affectionately refers to her bees as “the girls.” Hives are comprised of mainly female “workers” and a single egg-laying queen. There are just a few male “drones,” whose only job is to mate with the queen—they don’t do much else.
After our conversation, Susan kindly invited us to go into the hives and meet “the girls”—about 60,000 of Susan’s closest bee friends. She assured us that bees are very gentle and will only sting if they feel the hive is threatened—a respectable animal instinct. When a bee is away from the hive foraging, it will rarely sting unless someone steps on it or handles it roughly. A bee will die shortly after stinging so a sting is definitely a defense of last resort.
After going into the hive, we quickly moved from feeling a bit of fear and apprehension to wonder and true love for these magnificent creatures. We were so moved by the experience, we decided to dedicate our Earth Day celebration this year to bees. We are donating 20% of the net proceeds from all sales of Brand New Day from April 19 through April 27 to Earthday.org. We suggest celebrating this year by pairing Brand New Day with your favorite local raw honey for a luxurious masque! It’s the bees knees!
But don’t stop there! Support your local bees (and in turn your local farm crops) by planting a bee-friendly garden. Some bee-favorite plants include: lavender, lemon verbena, anise hyssop, heather, clover, maple, poplar and lupines. They will fill your garden with a lovely scent too! For those of you in apartments, show bees a little love. No swatting, please. And spread the word about what an important role bees play in producing the world’s food supply.
All photos by Sarah DeShaw