Wednesday, August 12, 2020

Guest Post from Nikki Naylor Schmidt: Backyard Bees


Today is National Honey Bee Day. According to its founders, this is “a day when beekeepers, beekeeping clubs and associations, and honey bee enthusiasts from across the United States celebrate honey bees and recognize their contribution to humans' everyday lives as a means of protecting this critical species. National Honey Bee Day also pays homage to beekeepers, whose labors ensurewell-managed, healthy bees…”

Why are you reading about honey bees in Julia Jackson McCready’s blog? Beekeepers are all around you. We’re part of your village, part of the fabric of community that Julia works to weave. Howard County has a thriving backyard beekeeping population, with over a hundred people taking classes from the Howard County Beekeepers Association every year. Maryland has over 14,000 registered beehives and many of them are in places you drive past every day. Places like the Robinson Nature Center, the Howard County Conservancy, Howard Community College, Ace Hardware, Christ Episcopal Church, and neighborhoods throughout the county. All of us beekeepers are trying to do our part to help these amazing insects survive and thrive in a region that becomes increasingly difficult with each passing year.

You’ve read the statistics about Honey Bees and how they benefit our world. What you might not know is how to help. Here are some things you can do to make your part of the world a little bit better for honey bees and other beneficial pollinators:

1. Plant pollinator friendly plants – especially those that bloom in the fall. Our mono-culture green lawns are a desert for pollinators. Here’s a great list:
2. Stop using pesticides. Companies like Mosquito Joe will claim to be safe for pollinators, but it’s simply not true. You can’t selectively kill one type of bug without killing moreThere are alternatives – but the best way to prevent mosquitos is a walk around your community with an eye towards standing water. Report poorly draining culverts, keep your gutters clean and free flowing and pick up empty bottles and cans (mosquitos can breed in a teaspoon of water).
3. Teach your kids that bees and wasps are just like people. If they are left alone, they’ll go about their business. If someone takes a swing at them, breaks into their home or steps on them, they will defend themselves with the only weapon they have – a sharp stinger. The best defense against a bee or wasp it to just leave them alone. 
4. Provide water! Honey bees get thirsty and also use water to regulate the temperature in their colonies. Because bees can’t swim, a dish of water filled with rocks, corks, sponges or pieces of pool noodles makes a great bee waterer. 
5. Support your local beekeeper! ‘Honey Laundering’ is a thing. A Texas A&M study found more than 75% of grocery story honey has been ‘ultra-filtered’ – a process that removes every trace of natural pollen (and in many cases, was also adulterated with corn syrup). Your local beekeepers work incredibly hard, wearing heavy gear in Mid-Atlantic summer heat to bring you fresh, hyper-local honey loaded with health benefits. If you know your neighborhood beekeeper – ask to buy their honey. Many local beekeepers relied on the recently cancelled Howard County Fair to sell their honey, so it’s extra important to buy local this year! If you don’t know your neighborhood beekeeper, check out the list of sellers on the Howard County Beekeepers Association website:


Beekeepers in Howard County are enthusiastic about the Bee City USA partnership that County Executive Dr. Calvin Ball entered into, but we need everyone in the county to help. As with all things, if everyone in a community makes a few small changes – it makes a big difference.

Nikki Schmidt is Howard County beekeeper and a member of the Howard County Beekeepers Association. She is parent to two boys and approximately 320,000 bees.

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