Though it is still winter on the Palouse—at least, by the calendar’s reckoning—it’s never too early to start planning the garden. And where there’s a garden, there are bees, we hope. Our region is home to several native species of bees, all of which help pollinate the blossoms that become, in time, our food. Here are five ideas for making friends with bees, and the honey they so generously share with us, in the months to come.
- Langstroth’s Hive and the Honeybee: During the remaining cold months, as we warm toward spring, enjoy armchair traveling in the country of bees, beekeeping, and beekeeping lore. Langstroth’s is one of the classic texts on the subject, and a favorite of mine, with its chapters on the honeybee’s anatomy, physiology, behavior, social structure, and many a cautionary tale for the aspiring apiculturist.
- Join the Million Pollinator Garden Challenge, a nationwide call to action to create gardens that help revive the health of bees. For more information on this initiative, google MPGC. And locally, keep your eyes peeled when you visit the Co-op or Moscow & Pullman Building Supply: displays there will soon sprout packets of seeds, and these will include bee-attracting flower mixes. Avid gardeners among us pass many enjoyable hours diagramming our plans for our yards, and for this I like to break out my watercolors and get my art on.
- Honey—yum! We are lucky enough to be supplied by many local apiaries, including Woodlands, Muddy Springs Farm, and Caruso’s Honey Company, not to mention numerous small beekeepers’ operations… Thankfully, a few of these producers sell their honey at the Co-op year round, so no need to wait until the Farmers’ Market reopens. We cannot sing honey’s praises long or loudly enough: from its sweet and mellow taste, to its antibiotic properties, to its participation in mead or sweet honey wine—its gifts to us seem endless.
- Consider attending a meeting of the Palouse Beekeepers’ Association. The group meets on the 3rd Monday of each month, year round, at 7 p.m. at 314 E. Second Street, second floor. The local group is an affiliate of the Washington State Beekeepers’ Association. Check the WASBA website for its newsletter and information on beekeeping and current bee-related legislative challenges in our area.
- Beeswax makes lovely candles, crayons, salves, and modeling clay. Get a hunk of it at the Co-op or from Woodlands, and go online or to the library to find recipes and instructions for whatever beeswaxy things interest you.
May the light of candles and the sweetness of honey, and the inspiration to be found in learning about where they come from, illuminate the dark days of winter for you.
One caution: Infants under two years of age should not be given honey, as it may contain botulinum toxin, which older children and adults can eliminate but infants cannot.