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
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”
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…
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!
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!
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
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:
-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”!
All photography belongs to Indigo Acres Apiary.
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*
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.
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.
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 (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)
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!
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
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.
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