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The Bee's Knees - by Ron Skaar


The Bee's Knees - March 2016 

by Ron Skaar

Since the dinosaur era, insects have been intricately involved in pollination. The first fossil record of bees dates back to 50 million years ago, with their socialization occurring half way thru that time. 

Nearly all fruits and seed plants are part of the wide variety, including cone-bearing fauna like pine trees, which need to be pollinated. Flowering plants produce breathable oxygen by using the carbon dioxide formed when plants and animals respire. Pollination is key to these plants reproduction which in turn helps clean the “earth’s lungs”. Most of the 200,000 varieties of animals responsible for cross-fertilization are insects.

Butterflies, moths, flies, ants, beetles, wasps and especially bees are attracted to those plants which have developed colored petals and strong scents. Most fruit crops require pollination, including citrus, apples, pears, plums, cherry’s, cranberries, raspberries, blackberries, blueberries and strawberries. Proper pollination increases the size, quantity and quality of these fruits.

The bees native to the Western Hemisphere were exclusively tropical. In 1625, European colonization changed that dramatically, by introducing the honey bee. Native Americans believed this insect was a premonition of the white settlers. Common honey bees were the only bees whose colonies could readily be moved about from farm yard to farm yard.

For several thousands of years, humans have kept bees for their honey production. The bee is far more important for carrying pollen from one flower to another and is the world’s most prolific pollinator.  It would be a very different place if plants had not been shaped thru the bees cross pollination.

According to the American Institute of Biological Sciences, pollination produces $40 billion worth of products annually and is responsible for 1/3 of all the food we eat! The  largest managed pollination event takes place in the California almond orchards. Each spring nearly one million hives of honey bees are trucked into those fields. The Maine blueberry crop requires 50,000 hives, the New York apple crop needs 30,000 hives. 

Native bees fly in a lower temperature and under cloudy weather unlike the honey bee.

The blue orchard bee and bumblebee are extraordinarily efficient. Their devotion to one type of flower and their long hair keep the sticky masses of pollen secure. Only three hundred of these bees are needed per acre, compared to thousands of honey bees.

Closeness to forest or wild grasslands with native pollinators can improve a crops yield by 20 %. Create habitats for native bees in wood lands, overgrown ditches, grasslands around crops and with underground nesting boxes. They’ll need access to clean water, mud and waxy leaves for nesting material plus flowers with a quality nectar and pollen source. Try planting willow or elderberry in spring and aster or goldenrod in the fall. In essence, native bees need a plot of land that has been left un-manipulated. 

Honey is one of those almost perfect foods. This recipe combines the bee nectar paired with one of the fruit flowers it likes to buzz, oranges. It’s simple yet sumptuous with the additional honey alongside. 10 servings


Oranges with Rosemary-Infused Honey

1 rosemary sprig, needles striped, stem discarded

½ cup plus 2 tablespoons honey

¼ cup water

10 mixed oranges, such as naval, blood and Cara Cara


Using a pestle, lightly bruise the rosemary needles. In saucepan, warm the honey, water and rosemary over moderately low heat for 5 minutes. Remove from heat and let stand 30 minutes. Meanwhile, using a sharp knife, peel the oranges, removing all the bitter white pith. Cut oranges crosswise into 1/4 –inch slices. Season them with salt and toss with some of the infused honey. Serve additional honey alongside. 10 servings.