Bees bring a buzz to Milan

Jim Farmer, Southeastern Indiana Beekeepers Association, pictured right, discusses the benefits of beekeeping with Anita Chandler and Jean Oelker, left. Chandler, a beekeeper for three years in Cross Plains, explained that she attended the seminar for more information on beekeeping. Oelker, a Master Gardner from Lawrenceburg, wanted to know what she could do to increase the bee population.

Beth Rumsey
Staff Writer

Milan was buzzing with activity on Saturday, February 19 due to the 2011 Honeybee Fair held at the Milan VFW and sponsored by the Southeastern Indiana Beekeepers Association.

Those attending the fair had the opportunity to receive first hand information about beekeeping, landscaping for bees and creating products that use honey or beeswax from vendors and special speakers Kathleen Prough, Indiana DNR Chief Apiary Inspector, and Roy Ballard, Hancock County Purdue University Extension Educator.

The focus of the seminar was gardening to attract honeybees. Kathleen Prough explained that a large space is not needed for a bee-friendly garden. Choose a space that gets about six hours of sunlight a day and start with a few plants then adding a few each year.

When choosing plants for the garden, one should strive for abundance, sequence, and diversity. Prough explained that plants should be clumped together so that the bees can visit many flowers in one location.

Plant for bloom succession so that there are blooms from spring through fall. Bees need both pollen for protein and nectar for carbohydrates for energy. Select plants that provide both of these. And, don’t forget, trees and shrubs can provide pollen and nectar.

Consider a flower shape and color when choosing a plant for the bee garden. For example, bees favor yellow, bright white and blue flowers. According to Prough, bees do not see the color red. Ultraviolet, seen by bees but not by humans, is used as a nectar guide that draws a bee to the flower.

The shape of the flower is also important for a bee. Bees prefer a shallow flower with a platform landing and a single flower top. Good examples are lavender and coneflowers.

When choosing pesticides, opt for one in liquid form that will dry on the leaves. According to Prough, dry pesticides, such as powders and dust, are bad for bees as it sits on the leaves and sticks to the bees’ legs and body and is then ingested as the bee cleans itself.

Prough noted that native plants may attract native bees but may not attract honeybees. She explained that honeybees are native to the United States.

Roy Ballard, Hancock County Purdue Extension Educator, explained how creating a bee pasture in normally waste areas can help improve production in one’s hive. These pastures could be on your own property or neighboring property within a three mile radius of your hives.

The pasture can include trees and shrubs, vines, and flowers. Some good plants for honeybees include alfalfa, clover, black locust trees, dandelions or honeysuckle. Those blackberry vines growing in a fence row are also great food sources for honeybees.

It is important to provide a water source for the bees to be used for bodily functions and to cool the hive. Ballard advises to provide a water source that will not contribute to bees drowning and to keep away from pets, swimming pools or pedestrian walkways.

When using pesticides, Ballard advises using only when needed and the least toxic pesticide possible. Apply the pesticide when the plant is not in bloom or late in the day when the bees are not out.

As the 2011 Indiana State Bee Association Honey Bee Queen, Lacy Dooly’s job is to bring honeybee awareness to as many people as possible. She visits schools, 4-H clubs and other organizations across Indiana to give presentations about how bees are important to humans by pollinating plants and providing honey and beeswax.

Dooly became involved in beekeeping through 4-H and soon her family became interested in the hobby that has lasted for many years. Honey is often used in many of the recipes she uses in the family catering business.

Below are some interesting facts about bees:

• One in three bites of our food is a result of pollination by honeybees.

• The average honeybee flies about 15 miles per hour and visits 50-100 flowers during each foraging trip.

• A colony of honeybees collectively flies over 55,000 miles and visits about two million flowers to produce one pound of honey.

• In her lifetime, each individual worker bee produces about 1/12 of one teaspoon of honey. This means one pound of honey (12 fl. oz.) represents the life’s work of 720 bees.

• Honeybees have one stinger, two stomachs, three body segments, four wings, five eyes and six legs.

• A queen can lay up to 3,000 eggs per day. A healthy bee hive can contain a population of 40,000-80,000 bees.

• Honeybees communicate by using the waggle dance where a returning forager uses body movements to indicate to the others where a food source is located.

• The majority of worker bees die in the field after wearing their wings out, literally working themselves to death.

More information on beekeeping, how to get started or to connect with fellow beekeepers can be found on the Southeastern Indiana Beekeepers Association website at