Blue Beauties

As a beekeeper, I feel it is my duty to provide healthy forage for my bees. I’ve had a passion for flowers and bees for as long as I can remember. I love that my two favorite things complement one another so beautifully…

This week’s Feature Flower, the Siberian Squill (Scilla siberica) was a much needed addition to our early spring bee forage. (Ok, and maybe it had a little something to do with the fact that this beauty has stunning steel-blue pollen!)

Siberian Squill is extremely cold hardy, blooming as far north as USDA hardiness zone 2. These bulbs are planted 3-5 inches deep in mid to late fall, about one month before your last frost date. They make a wonderful addition to your lawn, due to their extremely early bloom time. They naturalize beautifully, so make sure you give them a permanent home!

Wait six weeks after the flowers have bloomed to cut back/mow down the foliage. These plants need time to store up energy before going dormant.

Height: 3-6 inches tall
Bloom Time: March-April
Light: full sun
Hardiness: zone 2-8

March is a very challenging time for our honeybees. As the temperatures rise, the bees are ready to begin foraging, yet the nectar and pollen sources are slim. Our maple and willow trees are extremely helpful, but I wanted more. Adding hundreds of Siberian Squill bulbs, as well as Glory of the Snow bulbs, to our lawn provided much needed nectar and pollen for not only our honey bees, but our native pollinators.

As you can see, my little ladies look fabulous in their blue jeans!

Our motto is simple…
“Plant a Flower, Save a Bee”

Roda

Pollinator Protection: How You Can Help

Happy 1st day of Spring!

Our pollinators are currently in decline, due to loss of habitat. The application of pesticides is another contributing factor. 1/3 of the food we eat is thanks to these amazing creatures…

It is our job to care for them!

To celebrate this beautiful season, here are some steps you can take to support your local pollinators…

  • Plant a flower, Save a bee! There are many native flowers, grasses, shrubs, and trees that will make safe havens for your local pollinators. Attracting pollinators to your garden is simple. By providing the right plants and trees, soon your backyard will be bursting with hummingbirds, bees and butterflies. By selecting flowers that will provide blooms throughout the changing seasons, you are assisting your local pollinators to flourish year round. Remember, even if you have a small space, potted plants work well, too. And, don’t forget to use organic methods when growing your plants. 
  • Please allow the dandelions to flourish! The dandelion is the perfect flower. No purchase required! All you have to do is let this little wildflower grow. Dandelions are one of the first spring food sources for the bees. Please, let them live…
  • Provide a shallow water source. The saucers used under garden pots work well for this. Submerge rocks half-way underwater to act as a landing pad, thus keeping your local pollinators happy and hydrated.
  • Avoid the use of pesticides. These harmful chemicals kill our beneficial insect population.
  • Buy local! Support pollinator friendly farmers and beekeepers buy purchasing organic produce and raw honey.
  • Leave dead stumps and tree trunks for wood nesting insects.
  • Allow an area of your backyard to go WILD! This natural space will provide a safe haven for many pollinators.

Just think of the amazing impact we could have if everyone took one little step towards pollinator protection.

Our motto is simple….Plant a Flower, Save a Bee!

💚 Roda


What Big Eyes You Have…

Honey bees are extraordinary creatures!  Their eye sight is just one of their many super powers. Honey bees see ultraviolet light, as well as color combinations of purples, blues and greens. They are unable to see the color red, although they are able to visualize orange and yellow tones.  Most would guess that a honey bee has only two eyes, but these amazing creatures actually have five eyes.  

The two main eyes of the honey bee are called compound eyes.  These very large eyes are located on each side of the bee’s head and are used for general-distance vision.  These eyes are made up of thousands of tiny lenses, called facets.  These lenses piece together a mosaic-like image of what the honey bee is able to visualize.

A fun fact that many people don’t know, is that bees have three small simple eyes, called ocelli, located on the top of her head, in a triangular position.  Ocelli are used to detect changes in light.  For example, these three eyes would allow a honey bee to sense if she is being approached by a predator.  Ocelli also help her to maintain stability and navigate in poor lighting conditions.

The next time you observe a honey bee on a flower, think about not only her amazing eye-sight, but the never-ending gift she gives us each day.

Let’s Bee Inspired!

Roda

Sunflowers for the Bees

We all need a little sunshine right about now, so this week’s Feature Flower is…the Sunflower!
Sunflowers are outstanding choices for honey bees and local pollinators. They are effortless to grow from seed and make a stunning late summer-fall feature in any garden. Although I have many favorite sunflower varieties, let’s focus on my top choice when planting for the pollinators… the Lemon Queen Sunflower (Helianthus annuus).

Lemon Queen Sunflowers are a must for any gardener wanting to help out the local pollinators. These bright yellow beauties have a rich brown center and bloom from summer to frost. Lemon Queen sunflowers kick off their bloom with one main 7” flower. The plant will then continue with numerous (smaller) secondary blooms.
Height: 5’-7’ tall
Bloom Color:bright yellow
Bloom Time: summer-frost
Light: full sun
Hardiness: annual

Due to root sensitivity, I always directly sow my sunflower seeds 2 weeks after my last frost date. (May 15). I continue to sow seeds weekly, until the end of June. This provides a much longer forage time for our sweet bees and local pollinators.

Some of my other favorite sunflower varieties are:
-Mammoth Russian
-Vanilla Ice
-Dwarf Sunspot
-Dwarf Elves Blend
-Dwarf Teddy Bear


Note: I order my sunflower varieties from Botanical Interests


Our motto is simple…
“Plant a Flower, Save a Bee”!

💚Roda

All photography belongs to Indigo Acres Apiary.

Let’s Hear it for the Boys!

Soon the boys will be back in town!

Although there were no signs of new drones upon my initial hive inspections of 2020, the ladies will begin the process of re-establishing the drone population very soon.

During our Michigan winters, the drones (male honey bees) are absent from the colony. Procreation is a drone’s primary purpose. When the colony prepares for winter, the female worker bees escort the drones out of the hive and prevent them from re-entering for their services are no longer needed. As of last fall, all of the drones were removed from the hive to perish in the cold…

I admit, I have a soft spot for the woeful drone (male honeybee). This big fellow does not forage for resources, build comb or produce wax. He cannot even defend the hive, for he has no stinger. He is just a drone, with procreation being his primary purpose. The ladies tolerate him, knowing his services might be needed.

Look at those eyes! Spring is just around the corner, which means if he is a lucky boy, he will mate with a lovely queen …and then die immediately after.

Maybe he is not so lucky after all!

Spring brings new beginnings and new drones. Although they are under appreciated by most, without drones, the honeybee colony would not exist.

For more about Indigo Acres Apiary, visit our About Us page!

*All photography is owned by Indigo Acres Apiary*

For the Love of Chives!

Chives are an outstanding choice for your local pollinators. They are effortless to grow from seed and make a beautiful border plant. Considering I have two favorites, I thought I would share both: Common Chives (Allium schoeonoprasum) and Garlic Chives (Allium tuberosum).

Common Chives are another a super choice for any ! This edible, perennial herb adds late spring/early summer color to your landscape or . These chives also make a thick and tidy boarder choice. Common chives are hardy in USDA zones 4-8.
Height: 12”
Bloom Color: pinkish-purple
Bloom Time: spring
Light: full sun/part shade.



Garlic Chives are worth the long wait! When the summer flowers are fading, these beauties are just getting started. What a perfect way to extent your garden blooms for your local pollinators! Garlic chives are hardy in USDA zones 3-9.
Height: 18”
Bloom Color: white
Bloom Time: late sum-fall
Light: full sun/part shade.

*I sow both chive varieties outside, about 6 weeks before my average last frost date.

Our motto is simple… “Plant a flower, save a bee”! 💚 Roda

Note: We order both chive varieties from Botanical Interests

All photos belong to Indigo Acres Apiary

Hyssop: A Must for Your Garden

Hyssop (Agastache foeniculum) is one of my favorite perennial herbs to grow from seed. These plants are loaded with purple, nectar-rich flowers, beginning mid-summer. Hyssop makes a beautiful feature in any garden and is stunning when mass planted. The hyssop plants in our gardens and meadows are always buzzing with bees, butterflies, and other beneficial insects.

This hardy perennial herb is native to the U.S. Hyssop is drought tolerant and grows on woody stems that are loaded with long leafy spikes and filled with tiny flowers.

Hyssop has a sweet scent, with leaves that have a warm, slightly bitter taste. Use the leaves and some honey from your local beekeeper to make tea.

I start my hyssop seeds indoors, 6 weeks before my average last frost date. (May 15 -zone 5b)

Height: 24”-48”
Bloom Color: Lavender-Blue
Bloom Time: Summer
Light: Full Sun to Part Shade

As garden catalogs continue to fill your mailbox, make sure you add hyssop to your wish list!


Note: All of my hyssop seeds come from Botanical Interests

Happy Seed Starting!

Roda

Beekeeper Roda’s Story

My name is Roda. I am the owner of Indigo Acres Apiary in Rockford, Michigan. I was born a nature girl. I spent my childhood exploring the woods, catching critters, and gardening with my dad. Even then, I was easily distracted by bees, butterflies, and blooms. I would spend hours with my little Kodak camera trying to capture nature from behind the lens.

As an adult, I knew I wanted to make a difference. I became a teacher and spent over 20 years in the world of elementary education. But, I still had a dream. I closed the door on my career and opened a new door. I was determined to spend my days outside, in my gardens, chasing bees with my camera.

Indigo Acres was established in 2014. We began to transform our 13 acres into what we like to call our “staycation”. We built a barn and expanded our gardens. Our family began to grow with lots of furry and feathered friends. But, there was one very special edition that still needed to happen… My sweet bees. After years of research, I finally felt prepared to begin my beekeeping adventure!

For the past 6 years, I have spent my days living my dreams. I talk to the animals, dig in the dirt, and dance with the bees. Our apiary continues to grow each year, as our gardens and meadows expand. I feel it is my duty, as a beekeeper, to provide chemical free forage and soil for all pollinators.

As of spring 2020, I will be the proud mama of 25+ colonies, and our apiary is still growing! When I am not tending to the bees and gardens, I enjoy inspiring others through our summer Hive Tours and Bee Camp for Kids.

My advice…Live your best life! Follow your heart and make your dream a reality. 💚 Roda


The Beauty of Borage

Planting a pollinator garden is a wonderful gift for the bees. Considering they pollinate 1/3 of the food we eat, planting bee friendly flowers is the least we can do to give back. If you are wondering where to start and what to plant, borage is always on the top of my list!

Borage (Borago officinalis) is an annual herb that is loved by bees and other beneficial insects for its pale, runny nectar. These beautiful flowers are abundant from late spring to late fall, making it a perfect choice to support the bees during a late summer nectar dearth. Borage is one of the last flowers blooming in our pollinator gardens, when the fall frost begins to arrive.

This annual herb grows easily from seed. There is no need to start borage indoors. Sow it directly outdoors, 1-2 weeks before your average last frost date. Borage self-seeds prolifically, so make sure you plant it where you really want it!

Borage has many human benefits as well:
•The edible flowers can be used to decorate cakes, candies and summer salads.
•Freeze the flowers in ice cubes to add to summer drinks.
•Cook young borage leaves and stems to add to soups and salads. (Borage has a cucumber-like taste.)
•Use the leaves for an herbal tea.

Height: 2-3ft
Bloom Color: Mainly blue, but pink may be observed.
Bloom Time: June-September
Light: Full sun to part shade


Note: I purchase all of my borage seeds from Botanical Interests.


Our motto is simple: “Plant a Flower, Save a Bee!”

Happy planting! Roda

Inspect with a Purpose

As spring arrives, I become more and more excited to begin hive inspections. As much as I enjoy inspections, I want to make sure I am not opening a hive just to say “hello” to my sweet ladies. Before I inspect a hive, I make sure I have a purpose for the inspection.

Beekeeper Roda


For example:
•Is the colony showing signs of swarming?
•Does the colony have enough honey and pollen stores?
•Is there a queen present?
•Is it time for their monthly mite check?

Note: My goal is to have each hive open no longer than 10-15 minutes. As long as I see eggs, I know the queen has been present over the past few days.

Queen Thelma


Keeping detailed notes during each hive inspection, allows me to have a plan of action for future inspections. If I am just checking for pollen and honey stores, there is no reason to disrupt the entire brood nest. On the other hand, if I am checking on the status of my queen, once I find a frame filled with eggs, I am set.

Capped honey (white) & capped brood (yellow)

Before I begin my inspections, I check my previous notes and make sure I have a purpose for opening the hive. Through consistent observation and detailed record keeping, many colony issues can be avoided.

Think ahead and expect the unexpected! ~Roda

For more about Indigo Acres Apiary, visit our About Us page!