My Earth Day Wish…

Every dream begins with a wish…

These photos might not capture a sweet bee, but they represent the importance of the dandelion. This magical wildflower is a vital spring food source for not only our honey bees, but the local pollinators.

On this Earth Day, my wish is for the dandelions to be allowed to flourish in all backyards. The next time you see a dandelion loaded with seeds, don’t forget to make a wish and blow.

Who knows…maybe your wish will come true!

Remember, when we take care of our Earth, our pollinators thrive and keep our food supply plentiful.

What is your Earth Day wish?

Bee Well, Roda

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

Cutleaf Coneflower: A Gift for the Pollinators


This towering beauty is loved by not only our honey bees, due to its rich nectar and pollen, but our native pollinators as well. Commonly called the cutleaf coneflower “autumn sun” (Rudbeckia laciniata), this stunning perennial is visited by both long and short-tongued bees, wasps, butterflies, skippers, and moths.

The cutleaf coneflower is a wonderful choice if you like a large statement in your garden. (Who doesn’t?) These towering beauties reach 8’-10’ and create a beautiful summer-fall feature.

Cut leaf coneflowers are native to the majority of the U.S., except for the far west, thriving in moist, well drained soil.

These bright yellow flowers have a lime green central cone and bloom from July-September.

Height: 8’-10’ tall
Bloom Color: yellow
Bloom Time: summer- fall
Light: sun to part shade
Hardiness: zones 4-8

It is important to keep the cutleaf coneflower watered well to avoid providing support. I recommend growing along a fence if possible. This will make supporting this huge beauty much easier, if necessary. Out of all the plants we grow, the cut leaf coneflower seems to be a bumble bee favorite. Its rich nectar just keeps on giving when the other blooms are winding down in late summer.

Last year, I harvested seeds from one of our plants. This will be my first season growing this variety from seed. I will let you know how it goes!

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

Bee Well! Roda

My Wish: Let the Dandelions Live!

As a beekeeper and avid gardener, I feel it is my duty to provide healthy forage for my bees and local pollinators. Considering the world’s current situation, purchasing spring plants is going to be nearly impossible for most. But, I have an effortless way you can help your local pollinators without spending a cent…

Let the dandelions live!

I consider this “so-called” weed a perennial wildflower, for she is a member of the aster family. This beauty is coveted as an herb, for the leaves, flowers and roots are all edible. This powerhouse plant is also rich in vitamins A, B, C and D, as well as minerals such as iron, potassium and zinc.

More importantly, these whimsical flowers are one of the first food sources for the bees. The pollen is moderately nutritious and the nectar is abundant!

This spring, please think twice before you spray harsh chemicals on these beauties. Allowing dandelions to thrive is a wonderful spring gift for your local bees and other beneficial insects. Remember, when we help our pollinators thrive, they keep our food supply plentiful!

Bee well! 💚Roda

Thinking About Becoming a Beekeeper?

Beekeeping is an exciting and rewarding adventure!  Beekeeping is also challenging and even heartbreaking, at times.  Before purchasing bees, take some time to prepare for a successful journey as a backyard beekeeper.  Consider these 5 recommendations:

  1. Research, research, research! There are many wonderful beekeeping books available.  Learn the basics of beekeeping, as you would before purchasing any other pet or livestock.  Focus topics, such as equipment needs, pest management, pollinator friendly plants, and cost are great places to start your research.
  1. Signup for a beginning beekeeping class in your hometown or online.  Gather a variety of knowledge from as many reputable sources as possible. Knowledge is power!
  1. Find a local mentor.  There is nothing more essential than hands-on learning from an experienced beekeeper. Beekeeping management varies, depending on where you live.  Becoming familiar with beekeeping practices in your area is very important for the survival of your colony.
  1. Learn about backyard beekeeping rules and regulations for your city, county and state. These vary significantly from one location to another.
  1. Bees need flowers! Learn about the types of flowers that will provide resources for your bees.  By planting a pollinator garden in your backyard, you will provide much needed pollen and nectar for not only your bees, but your local pollinators.  If you are committing to raising healthy bees, it is your responsibility to provide chemical free forage for them.

It is my hope that as individuals begin their backyard beekeeping adventures, they will always remember to put their bees first. Although we all enjoy the sweet taste of honey, making sure the bees are always our top priority is most important. 

Bee Well! Roda

To learn more about becoming a beekeeper, visit our Mentorship and Hive Tour Pages!

Spring Has Sprung

It is difficult to believe that I discovered the first dandelion of the season yesterday…one month earlier than last year! With temperatures between 50-60 degrees F, here in West Michigan, I have been able to thoroughly inspect all of my hives. There is nothing more joyful than overwintering 100% of my colonies, once again. I spent years researching honey bees and beekeeping before I ever purchased my first package of bees. I was determined to not be the reason my bees died. Successful beekeeping is time consuming, challenging and expensive, yet I can’t imagine doing anything else.

Spring not only brings sunshine and blooms, but more bees. As numbers build, I am able to split colonies and creature new ones. My apiary expansion is moving to the back of our property this season. With mature trees that surround a wildflower meadow, this space has been perfectly named the “Woodland Expansion”. I am so excited to fill these happy hives with buzzing little ladies!

And of course, life would never be the same without matching nucs for queen rearing!

Many ask, “How many colonies would you ultimately like to have?”

My response is always the same… “As many as I can care for appropriately. ”

There is a huge misconception that one can purchase a hive, fill it with bees and it will effortlessly make loads of magical honey. This is so not the case. In this situation, the only thing that will happen is a beautiful colony of bees will perish unnecessarily, due to lack of human knowledge. I care for my sweet bees just like I care for my furry and feathered critters on our farm. For example, making sure animals are given the appropriate feed is a necessity. For honey bees, this means planting a wide variety of bee friendly plants that provide chemical free pollen and nectar. This also means leaving 80lbs of honey in each hive to overwinter. Bees should never die due to starvation.

I choose to grow my apiary slowly. If I add new colonies, I am committed to add additional gardens and meadows to not only sustain my honey bees, but the local pollinators. Our family starts approximately 1000 seedling each year for our bees and local pollinators. We also directly sow hundreds of pounds of pollinator friendly seed on our property. We would never want the local pollinators to have to compete for resources with our honey bees.

For me, being a responsible beekeeper means providing responsibly for my bees. I could never expect my horse to flourish, let alone survive, if I only checked on her a few times each year. The same approach must be embraced with honey bees. As many individuals begin their beekeeping journey this spring, I beg you to research, research, research! Ideally, do the research BEFORE purchasing bees. Finding a local mentor or participating in an online beekeeping class is also extremely helpful. Please don’t be the reason that these amazing creatures die unnecessarily…

Here’s to another beautiful season filled with bees and blooms. Remember our motto, “Plant a Flower, Save a Bee!”

Bee well everyone! Roda

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*