I'm I bee feeder. I don't keep the bees, but I feed them. It's something we all can do, and it's something we should do.
I live on an organic farm in GMO free Mendocino County, California, and have watched the little critters for years, as they are critical to so much of our food pollination, and we wouldn't have fruit at all without them. I love the soporific sounds of their humming, and love to see them buried in the flowers, or packing fat pollen sacks around. I know the garden is being well served then.
There has been much info in the news lately about sudden colony death, and much speculation (and few facts) as to the cause and treatment. One thing we know for sure is that without the bees to pollinate the food, we will all be much hungrier. There have been few (if any) reports of colony collapse in Mendocino. It may be because we have no GMO food here, and most of us aren't really big on pesticide, either. We may have the most organic farms per capita, but I haven't seen any numbers. What we do have is fat healthy bees.
Most of our farms are interspersed with wild woods, and this helps to create a beneficial environment. I know the bees need food from when they emerge in the hive in the early spring, and they must keep eating until they go back for winter hibernation. I've made an 'unofficial' study of the bees habits, and have noted what they like to eat. As I heard the bees were endangered, I took to letting my more of my veggies grow through their entire cycle, all the way to setting seed, so the bees could get more food.
An old herbalist told me that she planted mints around her hives, which kept them free from mites and other diseases. From what I can see, the bees sure love them. I've been feeding the bees for a couple of years now. It's easy to do, and, I think, the more of us that do these things, the more fat bees we'll have.
First of all, avoid insectiside like the plague it is. There are essential oils that can be used in the garden that will take the place of most of them. Peppermint oil is a great general repellant, plus the bees love the flowers.
Let some of your open pollinated vegetables (you do have some of those in your garden, yes?) go to the seed cycle, and let the flowers bloom. The first flowers that come in our garden are from the over-wintered brassicas, the kales, particularly. The bees suck that up first thing in the spring. They like the lilacs, the roses, the crocus, the spring flowers, but they really love that kale.
Plant mints: Peppermint. Oregano (great miticide), Thyme, Rosemary, Melissa. The bees will feast on these throughout the year, and they will get the added health benefits, too. They love clovers, calendulas, sunflowers, borage, milk thistle, mullein, and whitethorne. Don't forget the dandelion!
I have a new cultivar, thanks to my little furry flying friends. They managed to cross-pollinate my sphaghett-squash with zuccini and sweet pumpkins. I'm not sure exactly what it is, but it grows really, really large, (six feet up and then six feet over my clothesline) and has huge fruit that is tender, sweet at any size, and prolific. I'm gonna call it spunkchini. Thanks, bees!
I'm going to have to put up boxes for them pretty soon, there's hundreds of them now, and more every day. It seems like they're bringing their friends for lunch now.
It's quite simple. Overwinter some of your kales for spring. The more flowers and herbs you intercrop your garden with, the more bee food you have. The more bee food you have, the more bees. The more bees you have, the better rate of pollination you have, and the better pollination brings more food.
We can all do our little bit, to feed the bees that feed the world. Won't you plant some flowers and herbs today, and join our gentle revolution?