Cambodia's Honey Harvest Traditions...in Action November 18 2016
Photo courtesy of thousandwonders.net
The epicenter for honeybees in Cambodia overlaps with its historical center.
Angkor Wat, the region’s iconic temple complex reminds us of the sophistication of a society that was. From roughly 800 to 1400 A.D., the region thrived (before a devastating invasion by Thai warriors) and residents of this ancient metropolis relied on honey from the forest. “In 2007, satellite photographs of the area showed that it may have been the largest pre-industrial city in the world. It had an elaborate infrastructure system connecting an urban sprawl of 1,000+ kilometers, and a complicated water management network. It is estimated that it could have supported up to a million people.” - reported by honeyarchives.com
Photo courtesy of livescience.com
Photo courtesy of uniprot.org
The native honeybees of SE Asian jungles are the Giant Asian Honeybee, or Apis dorsata.
Unlike many other species that seek out protected cavities to form a hive, these bees create otherworldly curtains of wax that droop attractively high on canopy limbs. Containing 50,000-100,000 bees and weighing up to 115 pounds, these oversized blades of buzzing cooperation appear like giant droplets of golden honey oozing with anticipation, clinging atop airy titans of the rainforest.
Photos courtesy of zoochat.com & indnaturewatch.com
Apis dorsata are a good choice to harvest and cultivate as they’re not overly aggressive or reactive and can safely be approached within a few meters. These bees build homes high in the canopy to avoid honey-scavenging attackers and monitor the mild tropical breezes for any hint of blooming nectar. Since these bees cling to the hive’s exterior, they famously utilize a mesmerizing proactive defense technique known as “The Wave”, shown here by David Attenborough.
Honey-harvesting traditions in Cambodia are twofold:
Honey Hunters: “Early in the season honey hunters search the forest for bee colonies and mark occupied trees, so that other honey collectors can see that the colony is already ‘taken’. Later they return to harvest the honey. The harvesting season varies across the country. For example, on the Tonle Sap Great Lake honey is harvested during the rainy season when the floodwaters allow access to the flooded forests. Honey hunters are adept at climbing and can reach even the seemingly most inaccessible colonies high up in the outer branches of tall trees.” - as described by the Angkor Centre for Conservation of Biodiversity, ACCB
Photos courtesy of lakadpilipinas.com & iaszoology.com
For millennia (no one knows how long) Cambodians intrepidly discovered, then bravely scaled up to 15 stories from the forest floor to win a sweet harvest. Either free-climbing barefoot or with only plant-fiber cords, they ascended with a bundled tuft of grass to smoke the honey bees into a less angry swarm. Marvel at this must-see clip of the courage and fortitude this requires.
Rafter Beekeepers: The bravery of tree-climbing foragers evolved into the practice of rafter beekeeping, basically clever placement of poles that mimic the diameter and angle (roughly 30 degrees upward) of high tree limbs. Beekeepers carry familial knowledge about locating their rafters carefully for habitation by a swarming colony. Adjacency to water and good nectar forage are clearly important, but read these more subtle details that guide rafter placement. “The absence of weaver ants is of paramount importance when determining the location for rafters…. Rafters are usually well-protected by the surrounding vegetation on all but one side. The resulting opening at the upper end of the rafter serves as flight path for the bees. Once a swarm settles on a rafter, this rafter tends to get occupied year after year. Therefore, the rafters are not removed at the end of harvest season, but simply replaced every three years.” - ACCB
Photo courtesy of beekeepingstuff.com
As human beings we are hard-wired to care for whom we love and what we need.
We’re social creatures that tend to and improve conditions for our beloved. Since our emergence from Ice Age wilderness, ancestral family, clan and tribal bonds bolstered our ability to survive in groups. Our survival and progress has always depended on this.
Yet, what truly unlocked the growth for human societies was the extension of care to other species. For humanity to thrive, we cared for crops in cultivation and creatures in our stables. In exchange, a consistent source of grain, vitamins, furs, milk, meat and power was available for us. Due to love and care for other species; by setting the stage for them to thrive, we radically augmented our ability to survive.
In Cambodia, the status of the Giant Asian Honeybee and its home forest is in question. Once, when humans were fewer, simply scraping off the bounty of the forest by harvesting the whole hive was feasible. But, as human population and forest clearing for cultivation swelled, the wild swarms that would’ve re-stocked any patch of habitat have dwindled.
As the dominant species on earth, we must continually adapt our techniques of care to steward all species. Adaptation is underway in the Angkor Wat region: Humans Grow Kinder to Honeybees.
A window flower box, a backyard wildflower patch, a few Seedles and some water... it's all care. And your care matters.
Courtesy of Graham Owen
Humans Grow Kinder to Honeybeees - Traditions Transform in Cambodia November 18 2016
Traditional honey harvesting techniques evolved to meet the preferences of the Giant Asian honeybee and the desires of humans.
Dani Jump, founder of Bees Unlimited, believes that human desire goes too far and shares this story to illustrate:
"I was out in a village one day with a friend when I heard the villagers explaining, in Khmer, what sounded like ‘rafter beekeeping’; a tradition, they said, that was being practiced in a community some distance away. I was privileged one day to join a team of community foresters working for the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), in this very village, where residents manage a community forest. One of them just happened to be the most respected honey-hunter/rafter beekeeper in the region. He showed me some of his Apis dorsata colonies, and how he harvested them. I was shocked! He was cutting away the entire comb. That’s when I realized the rafter beekeepers here needed help. Cutting off the hand that fed him—and his family—made no sense to me at all. This one-cut-take-all traditional method of harvesting Apis dorsata colonies just had to go. I would make sure of that."
Dani Jump, founder of Bees Unlimited, at Cambodian street market. Photo courtesy of Damian Magista
Dani’s story isn’t isolated either. “Traditionally, the honey is harvested in a non-sustainable way, on a one-cut-take-all basis, where the entire comb is cut off, the honey is squeezed out and the larvae are sold to be cooked and consumed. The bees lose their offspring and if the colonies survive, they subsequently leave the area.”
- per the Angkor Center for Conservation of Biodiversity (ACCB)
For both honey hunters and rafter beekeepers, old approaches have proven too destructive. Across Cambodia, honey hunting provides household calories and income, but bee populations are dwindling due to deforestation, destructive harvest practices and cultural desire for a certain delicacy from the hives.
Photo courtesy of Damian Magista
Bee brood is the name for the grilled delicacy of bee larvae encased in the hive's comb. Local people enthusiastically flock to enjoy it, which pressures hive viability in the region. Wild honey harvesters push further into forest habitat, hunting hives and cashing in on bee brood demand to support their families. “Deforestation is just one of the problems facing Apis dorsata. Cambodia’s burgeoning population, with an insatiable appetite for bee brood, is equally responsible for the decline; and, ‘one-cut-take-all’ harvesting has, over the years, had a negative impact on the bees. Deforestation and bee brood consumption must stop, if the bees are to stand a chance of recovering.” - Dani Jump
Positive change is now underway, led by efforts from Angkor Center for Conservation of Biodiversity, World Wildlife Fund, the Non-timber Forest Products Exchange Programme, and Bees Unlimited. These organizations value intact rainforest that's utilized for sustainable harvest and valued as a complete ecosystem that’s crucially pollinated by native bees.
Bees Unlimited trains local people for sustainable rafter beekeeping. There are three main principles:
Placement - Finding a strategic, attractive spot for the rafter to attract a colony. Think of this like a bird house or osprey platform that enhances nesting habitat.
Protection - Raising awareness and organizing villagers and land owners to spare swaths of forest from clearing.
Harvest - The sustainable choice to cut out only the “honey head” from the hive. This is the most honey-rich portion of a rafter hive and spares the larvae (brood) and queen. Below is a summary from ACCB, and here’s an up-close video of the technique.
Photo courtesy of ACCB
“During a sustainable harvest only the so-called ‘honey head’ is removed, an area at the upper end of the comb that contains almost all the honey. The rest of the comb is left intact, and the bees soon replace the honey head. This technique allows for earlier and multiple harvests, and also helps to protect the bees and restore their population in a given area. Having been deterred by smoke, within minutes after the sustainable harvest the bees are back on their comb. Once the bees start to migrate, the empty and abandoned comb is removed and processed to wax for sale. The bees return to the same place in the next season.”
In Cambodia, we are lucky to witness a full arc of techniques from tree-scaling wild honey harvest alongside careful arrangement of rafters in bee-friendly habitat, to ever kinder and wiser methods that spare the hive’s honey head. With the guidance of trainers like Pieng Chhoin and Soeun Bun Som, local practices are adapting toward a sustainable honey harvest and beekeeping that promotes healthier forests with adequate hive densities.
Over time, Cambodians adapted to accommodate bees’ needs by mimicking the limbs of the canopy trees. Can they now adapt to the needs of the forest, caring for its pollinators? The reach of wiser techniques, from Bees Unlimited, is surely part of the answer.
In our communities, the challenge to care is similar. Can we adapt to provide our bees and key pollinators the habitat they need? Let us bee the answer and grow the wildflower habitat of tomorrow!
Courtesy of pinterest.com
A Deadly Sting: Study finds queen bees' egg-laying abilities crippled by insecticide September 09 2016
A recent study has found neonicotinoids, the world’s most commonly used insecticide, when fed to queen bees, caused them to lay two-thirds fewer eggs when compared to queen bees in unexposed colonies. Because the queen bee is the only individual in the colony that can reproduce, a reduction in its fertility can be detrimental to the whole colony. Moreover, the study found that exposed colonies were less productive (i.e. collected and stored less pollen; removed less infested or diseased pupae).
"One queen can lay up to 1,000 eggs a day. If her ability to lay eggs is reduced, that is a subtle effect that isn't (immediately) noticeable but translates to really dramatic consequences for the colony." - Judy Wu-Smart, lead study author
The scientists also found colonies exposed to imidacloprid, a type of neonicotinoids, collected and stored less pollen than insecticide-free colonies, and removed just 74 percent of mite-infested or diseased pupae that can infect the entire hive, compared to 95 percent removal by unexposed bees.
The results from this study indicate that risk-mitigation efforts should focus on reducing neonicotinoid exposure during the early spring when colonies are smallest in size and queens are most vulnerable to exposure.
Given the value of honey bee populations to the US economy is estimated to be $29 Billion dollars annually , the bigger question remains as to how industrial agriculture will continue utilizing honey bee pollination to achieve desired results while managing their competing need to apply these common insecticides.
We're happy to share we've been selected to participate in the first Burt’s Bees Natural Launchpad program! This annual grant program is for creators energized by an opportunity to improve the health and well-being of our planet and everyone on it.
Our connection with Burt's Bees starts even before the founding of our organization. It begins with a dear family friend of ours, in fact ... she was one of of the first team members at Burt's Bees. Her and her husband both overwhelmingly supported Seedles when it was just a far-flung idea being shared amongst our closest friends. With their enthusiastic vote of confidence we set on the journey to build Seedles, and they've been cheering us along each step of the way. It's serendipitous to be involved with Burt's Bees at this stage in our growth. They represent a company just like ours, started from humble beginnings with a deep commitment to creating natural and environmentally sound products. This is why we have continued to power our business operations with sun-power and have designed a product Seedles which sprouts into wildflowers to leave the world a more beautiful and colorful place. We're not just interested in doing less bad, but in doing much more good. Leaving a positive trace is possible ... we believe this partnership will help us advance those goals and much more.
As one of the grant program recipients, we will receive a $10,000 grant, a day of company mentorship, continued professional guidance and community support from other award winners.
Thank you, thank you, thank you ...
Chris, Ei Ei, Orion, Peter, Martín, Andrea, and Bryan
Sow it forward for future generations ...
Hiya beautiful! It's Earth Week, and we're aiming to create a buzz. 100,000 of them.
At Seedles, one of our goals is to sprout a future generation of curious and creative kiddos. This week only, we are giving away 100 classroom kits to teachers all over the US. Each kit has everything a class of giggling and adorable kids would need to grow wildflowers while learning about biology and bees.
Why? ... Bees across the globe are experiencing a cocktail of obstacles causing their health to be jeopardized with each flower they smooch. Whether it be pesticides, herbicides, fungicides or genetically modified crops ... they need our help to enjoy more clean food. They pollinate one in every three bites of our food, why not give back a little? By planting native wildflowers we're given them a fresh buffet of bee food, an action that feels good to do and supports their health too!
Apply by this Friday April 22nd to be entered to win one of our 100 Classroom Superhero Kits.
If you are a teacher and would like to be entered into our recipient pool to receive your very own classroom supero kit, please fill out the following Google Form - http://bit.ly/seedles-classroom-kit-request
Our Kit Includes
- 33 Wildflower Seedles - Some people call them "Nature's gumballs" ... we call them play with an impact. Enough for each student to have 1-2 seed balls to sprout and grow. What are seed balls?
- 30 Eco-Friendly Pots - They'll need something to grow their wildflower in, we help provide that too.
- Compost - A yummy mixture of three types of compost perfect for sprouting the Seedles. (Did he just say yummy about dirt? Yes!)
- Classroom Instructions & Activities - Fun, playful, and educational activities that engage the students hearts and minds about the plight of the bee, what kids can do about it, and how to become a bee superhero.
If you are a teacher and would like to be entered into our recipient pool to receive your very own classroom supero kit, please fill out the following Google Form - http://bit.ly/seedles-classroom-kit-request
Team Seedles - Chris, Ei Ei, Peter, Martín, Andrea & Orion
Seedles and Cascadian Farm partner to Bring Back The Bees February 08 2016
Seedles Flower Bombing Video
11 Dogs Who Learned The Hard Way Not To Eat Bees July 24 2015
imgur.com / Via reddit.com
Dogs and bees have a love hate relationship. Well, more accurately described as a I'll bite you if you try to munch me relationship. Despite many a failed attempt at "getting back" we're pretty sure the bees win everytime.
10 photos perfectly illustrate the hilarity that ensues when dogs go after bees, and bees fight back.
The full article show complete dog humiliation can be found here ...
Why Honey Bees Need Water July 07 2015
Photo by: Luke Cada (mrcada)
Succinctly put, bees need bee food and water to survive. Bees rarely store water, but bring it in as needed, so it is vital to provide fresh water to them continuously. Below you'll learn what bees use water for, why honey bees need water, and how you can provide water easily.
A red tailed hawk swooped down into my father-in-law's backyard and quickly landed. The two rock pigeons quickly dove for cover into nearby green hedges, and the tiny sparrow took flight as well. It wasn't meal time, it was water time. The bird bath although degraded and leaky after 20+ years outdoors still held some water in the dead of summer. It was a place of congregation in their dry, drought-laden California suburb of San Francisco.
What was most common there though was honey bees, 10-15 of them lined up regularly sipping up water like thirsty dogs. The neighbors hives enjoyed a regular supply of water without the risk of drowning considering there were plenty of cement edges for the bees to hang out on.
I've seen small native bees, honey bees, bumble bees, carpenter bees, and a black/blue bee once that I'm still not quite sure what it was.
Bees Use Water For
- Cooling - In the heat of summer it is used for evaporative cooling. Similar to human-designed air conditions, the bees spread a thin film of water atop sealed brood(baby bee cells) or on the rims of cells containing larvae and eggs. The workers inside the hive then fan vigorously, setting up air flow which evaporated the water and cools the interior of the hive.
- Humidity - Worker bees use water to control the humidity of the colony, not just the temperature.
- Utilize Stored Food - Bees need water to dilute stored honey that has crystallized (become too high in glucose) or in the case where beekeeper feeds them dried sugar crystals, they need water to dissolve the sugar. Without water, they can't access these food sources.
- Larvae Food - Another type of bee in the hive is the nurse bee, who feeds the developing larvae. They consume large amounts of pollen, nectar, and water so that their hypopharyngeal glands can produce the jelly that is used to feed the larvae. A larvae diet can consist of water up to 80 percent the first day of larval growth and about 55 percent on the sixth day. 
- Digestion - They need it in the digestion and metabolization of their food, as do most organisms.
Kim Flottum, editor of the Bee Culture magazine, writes in his book, The Backyard Beekeeper: An Absolute Beginner's Guide to Keeping Bees in Your Yard and Garden: "A summer colony needs at least a quart (liter) of water every day, and even more when it's warm."
"Foragers will mark unscented sources of water with their Nasonov pheromone so others can locate the source too," Flottum writes.
Why They Need Clean Water
- Chlorine - In a suburban environment, we recommend giving your bees fresh water to keep them out of your neighbor's swimming pool. Not only can the water contain chlorine and other contaminants, it may also bother your neighbor.
- Larvae Development - Hypopharyngeal glands are less developed in workers starved, poisoned with pesticides and other anaesthetics.  The nurse bees and other bees use these glands to feed the larvae. During 24 hours the queen is able to lay more than 2000 eggs (larvae). That's a lot of mouths to feed!
- Agricultural Contamination - Often water runoff in ditches, culverts, or other agriculturally related waterways contains insecticides, pesticides or fungicides which can disrupt brain function, bee learning and the ability to forage for food and so limit colony growth.
There are many ways you can help bees get some water during the summer heat, spring or fall. It's not as important how you do it, it's more important it gets done.
Easy Ways To Give Honey Bees Water
Key Tips For Watering Feature For Bees
- Shallow & Wide - Bees don't need a deep bucket, just a small amount where they can't drown.
- Corks, Rocks, or twigs - Always place floating wine corks, rocks, or glass pebbles so the bees have a place to get near but not drown in the water
- Fresh Water - It is important the water is refreshed every day or every other day, so under a leaky outdoor faucet is a good spot to place a watering feature.
Best Honey Bee Watering Ideas
- Frisbee With Rocks - Put a frisbee full of clean rocks (find them in your yard) underneath a faucet outside, turn the faucet on so it drips once per minute. Over the day it will fill up and provide fresh water for the bees.
- Glass Pebbles - Most art stores, dollar stores or Target like stores have those bags of glass pebbles you can buy. Buy 1-2 bags of these pebbles and put them in a large (6 or more inches) but shallow container. Fill this with fresh water daily and place it near your garden or outside in a natural area of your yard. Bonus if you put some water loving plants like horsetail, cattail, water loving ferns, etc
- Birdbath - Take over the bird bath and decorate with twigs, rocks, pebbles, and wine corks. Ad some green ferns or moss to add a bit of color.
- Other ideas? - Contact us and we'll add it here
 - http://apis.ifas.ufl.edu/apis88/apmar88.htm
 - http://honeybee.drawwing.org/book/hypopharyngeal-glands
"We can now be confident that at these levels, neonicotinoids disrupt brain function, bee learning and the ability to forage for food and so limit colony growth." - Dr Connolly, Dundee’s School of Medicine
It's been many years since pesticides have been suspected to be involved in bee colony collapse. Now the proof finally exists, in concrete, non-negotiable, definitive terms.
Research at the Universities of Dundee and St Andrews has confirmed that levels of neonicotinoid insecticides accepted to exist in agriculture cause both impairment of bumblebees’ brain cells and subsequent poor performance by bee colonies.
The contribution of the neonicotinoids to the global decline of insect pollinators is controversial and contested by many in the agriculture industry. However, the new research, published in the Journal of the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology, demonstrates for the first time that the low levels found in the nectar and pollen of plants is sufficient to deliver neuroactive levels to their site of action, the bee brain.
“Our research demonstrates beyond doubt that the level of neonicotinoids generally accepted as the average level present in the wild causes brain dysfunction and colonies to perform poorly when consumed by bumblebees,” he said. “In fact, our research showed that the ability to perturb brain cells can be found at 1/5 to 1/10 of the levels that people think are present in the wild.
“This is not surprising as pesticides are designed to affect brains of insects so it is doing what it is supposed to do but on a bumblebee as well as the pest species. The bumblebees don’t die due to exposure to neonicotinoids but their brains cells don’t perform well as a result and this causes adverse outcomes for individual bees and colonies.
“This is not proof that neonicotinoids are solely responsible for the decline in insect pollinators, but a clear linear relationship is now established. We can now be confident that at these levels, neonicotinoids disrupt brain function, bee learning and the ability to forage for food and so limit colony growth.
“It may be possible to help bees if more food (bee-friendly plants) were available to bees in the countryside and in our gardens. We suggest that the neonicotinoids are no longer used on any bee-friendly garden plants, or on land that is, or will be, used by crops visited by bees or other insect pollinators.”
Plant native wildflower seed balls in a fun an easy way with Seedles.
Top 10 Best Wildflowers For Native Bees May 07 2015
As we progress into the future, we are seeing an increasing pace at which we are developing unused land and unactivated spaces across the United States and in California, this is leading to the destruction of the habitat of the native bees that feed on the native wildflowers our ecosystem depends on. To rebuild this habitat, proper knowledge of the best wildflowers for native bees is required.
This particular flower is considered to be one of the most beautiful of all wildflowers and the wildflower seeds of this plant can easily be found. The scientific name of this plant is Lupinus succulentus and its origin is traced back to the Yolo County. It is commonly used for decoration too.
Known as Phacelia Californica in botanic terms, this perennial wildflower is mostly used to help native pollinators and native bees. It's a hearty, semi-drought tolerant wildflower, and can be grown easily in most soils. Apart from its gorgeous purple blooms, the plant is also admired for its medicinal properties. It is quite easy to grow and you can find its native wildflower seed balls quite easily. A vital food source for the Mission blue butterfly, an endangered species endemic to San Francisco, this wildflower is a must have for San Francisco Bay Area gardens.
This particular flower has very few competitors in terms of its practicality and the applications it has are almost endless. A powerhouse pollen producer, this plant gives native and non-native european honey bees the protein dense pollen they need to build a strong hive. Eschscholzia Californica is the scientific name of this wildflower and it is a particularly favorite flower for honey bees. The medical applications of this wildflower are quite diverse and amazing.
Common Madia (tarweed)
This particular flower, as the name suggests is actually quite easily available and can be grown by anyone under almost all types of soil. The botanical name of this wildflower is Madia elegans and you can easily find its seeds from anywhere. During the daytime the radial flower curl up, then opening in the late afternoon and staying open all night long until sunrise. The seeds were collected by some native american tribes such as Miwok and Pomo, dried, ground into a flower to be used as a staple food. (photo by Noah Elhardt in Santa Cruz, CA mountains)
Elegant Clarkia or Mountain Garland
This beautiful bright colored flower is particularly loved for its use in decoration and the scientific name of this native wildflower is Clarkia unguiculata. Sometimes found growing on a forest floor, particularly oak woodlands, it is shade tolerant. Furthermore, it often grows on dry, open slopes, but the shade tolerance makes it particularly useful in the garden. Additional growing instructions can be found on the Jepson Manual page for Clarkia Unguiculata. The native wildflower seed balls of this plant can also be acquired from anywhere. (photo credit goes to John J Kehoe)
Bright yellow in color, this particular wildflower is widely used for decoration purposes. It is particularly favored by the honey bees and you can also grow them quite easily on a wide range of soils. The scientific name of this particular wildflower is Oenothera elata.
This particular wildflower is also admired greatly for its use in decoration and its amazing color that also attracts native bees. The scientific name for this flower is Lupinus densiflorus and you can easily plant it in a number of different soils, preferably dry.
With its looks similar to that of a sunflower, this particular flower is used in a number of different ways. The most common use however is for decoration and you can also grow this easily by simply ordering its seeds. The scientific name for this flower is Lasthenia glabrata.
The countless applications of the gum plant are no secret and the bright yellow color of this particular plant attracts not only bees but is also very useful for decoration purposes. The scientific name of the plant is Grindelia camporum and it can easily be planted in most kinds of soils.
The scientific name of this particular wildflower is Helianthus bolanderi and it is also very beautiful. With its bright color, it can and is used very frequently for decoration purposes. The flower has fairly good growth in most conditions and the native wildflower seeds of this plant can be found quite easily.
Seeds Of Inspiration October 21 2014
Seedles policy is not to buy any seeds treated with neonicotinoids.
Guest post by Nora Wildgen of BeeSwell
Seeds are wondrous things. As metaphors they sprout hope in our hearts. They blossom as awareness in our consciousness. In the physical world they are miraculously engineered packages of DNA. They float. They fly. They transport life's diversity through time and space. They survive fire, drought, floods, and volcanic winter.
The seed of a date palm more than two thousand years old was dug from King Herod's palace and planted. It grew. They named it Methuselah.
Seeds are the love-child of pollinators and flowering plants. Entomophily; pollination by insects. Entomo; insect. Phile; love.
Picture the orchid; it's beautiful intricacies co-evolved with pollinators, matching form and function in a reproductive cross-species tango. A rapture of perfume and pollen, a petal stroked, nectar stoked love-fest that produces fruit and seed, butterflies and bees.
My mother in-law is on her way over with seeds for me. She is bringing cup plant and partridge pea seeds. Cup plants are stately North American perennials with a gleeful profusion of sunflower-like blooms adored by bees and butterflies. Their clasped leaves hold rainfall, hence their name. The great stalks are home to native bees, their seeds are feasted upon by finches. The partridge pea is a nectar rich native annual with bright yellow pea-like flowers, and feathery foliage.
In exchange, I have wild indigo seeds for her. These large pods rattle enticingly, and are often used in dried arrangements. Bumblebees find indigo irresistible. On one bumblebee survey I found bumbles of three different species, all in joyous oblivion deep inside indigo blossoms, ignoring every other flowering plant in the meadow.
Seed exchanges like this have gone on for as long as humanity has cultured plants. Saving seeds, or seed banking, is the practice of storing seeds, roots and tubers from year to year. For millennia, seed banking has been the traditional way of maintaining our farms and gardens.
That's the fun part of seeds. Here comes the worrisome part; in the past five decades we have shifted from seed banking to seed buying. Most people don't know that the majority of these plants and seeds they buy are now treated with pesticides; invisible, unlabeled, and toxic to our pollinators.
Meet the scary family of systemic pesticides called Neonicotinoids.
Neonicotinoids, or neonics, are a class of neural toxins based on nicotine. Their names float through my mind late at night, like a poison mantra. They are Acetamidprid, Clothianiadin, Dinotefuran, Imidacloprid, Thiamethoxam...Fipronil.
- Neonics are systemic. A treated seed or plant expresses the toxin in its roots, stem , leaves, flowers, nectar , pollen, seed, and fruit. It becomes a poison factory.
- Neonics are nerve toxins. In low doses they impair bees' reproduction, immune systems, ability to forage, and return to the hive. Lost Bees are soon dead bees.
- In higher doses they are simply lethal.
- They are persistent. They stay in plants tissues for multiple seasons. They persist in soil, some for as much as 19 years, and possibly longer.
- Most plants and seeds sold today are treated with neonicitinoids; it is the agricultural and nursery standard.
- 94% of our corn crop in 2012 was pre treated with neonicotinoids .
- 51% of plants sampled last summer from Lowes and Home Depot were contaminated with neonics . Many were toxic enough to kill a bee in one visit... And they were labeled "Bee Friendly".
- It's not just the bees; neonics affect soil and aquatic animals, small mammals, and birds. A single kernel of treated corn is enough to kill a songbird.
Neonicotinoids are now the world's most widely used pesticide. A recent meta analysis of over 800 scientific studies shows neonicotinoid pesticides to be 5000 to 10,000 times more toxic than DDT. Between 75 and 95% of the world's flowering plants need pollinators to produce seed or fruit. It's not just one third of our food, this critical situation affects virtually everything alive, the seeds of life.
"Every problem has in it the seeds of its own solution." - Norman Vincent Peale
What to do? Here are easy steps you can take to make a pollinator friendly environment in your own backyard, city, state, and beyond:
- Go wild, gather seeds from fields and meadows. Get neighborly, host seed swaps, share perennials.
- Scatter seed bombs, it's an easy way to plant with minimal soil preparation. Balls of clay, compost, and wildflower seeds, they are available through growtherainbow.com, which also has DIY instructions. Use organic or neonic free seeds, of course
- Plant lots of neonic free flowers and native plants.
- Ask before you buy; are they neonic free? If they don't know, don't buy! Your choices put pressure on nurseries to change their buying practices.
- Welcome diversity in your lawn; clover, dandelions, violets, and creeping charlie are bees' food.
- Don't forget our monarchs! Keep a stand of milkweed just for these threatened and iconic pollinators.
- Use nontoxic alternatives to pesticides and fungicides.
- Leave areas in your yard wild and untilled as nesting space for native bees.
- Don't cover every square inch of garden with mulch; some wild bees need exposed soil.
- Keep piles of undisturbed wood sticks and plant stalks in an out of the way corner; solitary bees use these to nest too.
- Add stones to a birdbath to save thirsty bees from drowning.
- Wild bee houses are fun projects for the whole family.
- Continue to educate yourself about our pollinators and the issues affecting them.
- Share your knowledge with friends, family, neighbors , and coworkers
- Go to city hall, write your council people, and legislators.
- Tell them you want a bee safe city, and a bee safe state, with lots of pollinator safe forage and protection from pesticides. Eugene OR, Spokane WA, Shorewood MN, and Seattle WA did it. We can too!
- Ask your candidate to support the Saving America's Pollinator act!
- Call toll free 1-855-686-6927 and ask for your representative. This bill would protect bees by requiring the EPA to suspend four of the pesticides belonging to the class of neonicotinoids until their safety can be determined.
- Organic practices support our pollinators year round. Organic apples are more expensive than conventional ones are now, but they're a whole lot cheaper than hand pollinated fruit will be in the future.
Be brave! It's urgent. It's late. But it's not too late. Plant hope. Grow the Rainbow!
Grow The Rainbow has begun a series of guest blogs. Our featured writer in " Seeds of Inspiration" is Nora Wildgen, an illustrator with a bee in her bonnet. Visit BeeSwell.org to find her free and downloadable art posters to save the bees.
Why Grow Wildflowers With Seed Balls September 25 2014
Are Flowers The Solution?
Opinions about what is causing the decline in the honey bee population are rampant. Almost every month there is new research showing a different perspective on the causes. The causes range from pesticide usage, to diseases, to mite or moth infestations, to decline in biodiversity.
One piece of research indicated the decline of honeybees seen in many countries may be caused by reduced plant diversity. Bees need a varied diet full of diverse foods just like human do. Imagine eating the same meal containing meat and potatoes for the rest of your life, you just might get sick. Research indicates the same is true for bees, they need a well-rounded food supply featuring a diverse set of plants and flowers to maintain a healthy immune system.
We advocate growing native perennial wildflowers for several reasons
Suggestions below are wonderful, but buying organic, growing organic, and petitioning local stores is much more time consuming than most people are willing to invest.
- Easy – Growing wildflowers is easy and fun.
- Increases Food Diversity – Wildflowers increase the diversity of food supply for pollinators (this includes honey bees).
- Sustainable – Wildflowers provide lasting, sustainable biodiversity to our homes, neighborhoods, and cities.
- Joy and Color – Wildflowers provide color, joy and inspiration where we live.
We found the easiest solution, and made it easier with Seedles. Help us grow wildflower seed balls and support the honey bees.
5 Things You Can Do To Help Honey Bees
- Plant organic bee friendly plants and grow wildflowers with Seedles seed balls.
- Don’t use toxic chemicals in your home or your garden.
- Support local sustainable agriculture, which promotes habitat for 50% more bees.
- Purchase raw organic honey from local sustainable bee keepers.
- Tell your local garden store to stop selling bee killing insecticides, pesticides, and chemicals.
- Luther Burbank
How To Make Seed Balls / Seed Bombs August 01 2014
How To Quickly Make Seed Balls
Fun Fact: Bees have 5 eyes – 3 simple eyes on top of the head, and 2 compound eyes, with numerous hexagonal facets.
- Seeds - Can be wildflowers, herbs, vegetables (lettuces do well), or native grasses
- Clay - Dig it from a creek bed, buy it in powdered form, or purchase wet clay. Any clay is fine, but powdered clay is easiest to work with.
- Compost - Either make your own or purchase a bag of good quality organic compost. Worm Castings also help, but don't use them more than 10% of your compost portion.
- Big Bowl - and Some Helper Hands
Instructions for How To Make Seed Balls
- Do a dance, this activity is fun, so celebrate and jump around for a minute!
- Mix 1 parts dry powdered clay with 7 parts compost by weight in a big bowl. Mix these together first. If using wet clay, you will want to mix the compost into it bit by bit using a heavy spoon or strong hands.
- Mix in 1 part seeds by weight into the clay and compost. If the seeds are very small (like california poppies, yarrow, tidy tips, etc) you can use less, because sometimes 1 cup of seeds can be 250,000 seeds, which would be overkill for a batch.
- Mix in 1-2 parts water slowly, usually the 1st part can be added quickly, but the second part needs to be added until you get a thick, dough like consistency.
- Break small pieces off and roll them between your two hands into seed balls or seed bombs, whichever you like to call them. The optimal size for making seed balls by hand is between the size of a dime and a nickel.
- Let them dry for 24-48 hours before tossing them. Putting them in direct sunlight speeds up the drying process
Ideas for Planting The Wildflower Seed Balls
- Toss them in your backyard!
- Go Hansel Gift them as party favors at your
- Go Hansel and drop them along your route to work then enjoy them everyday. You deserve it.
- Make a kitchen window garden by adding herb seeds and turning your seed bombs into Thyme Bombs.
- Reverse egg hunting - Truly celebrate spring by letting kids add color and life to your backyard.
- Make (Big) Kids Smile - Order a bunch for your wedding, school garden project baby shower, corporate event, birthday, or anniversary party.
Many people across the internet recommend a 5 parts clay to 3 parts compost ratio. I also used this for a short while until it became evident the seeds were having challenges in breaking out of the seed ball, and the seed ball was not disintegrating as quickly as I would have liked. I recommend making the mixture as high in compost as you can make it, while still using the clay to hold things together. My experiments have shown to produce success seed balls with 1:1 ratio of clay to compost and even higher ratios of 2 parts compost to 1 part clay. Some of the higher compost seed balls do not have as much strength though, so beware they might need to be stored or transported gently.
What are Seedles Seed Balls? May 17 2014
What are Seedles?
Seed balls are a method for distributing seeds by encasing them in nutrient rich mixture of clay and compost. This protects the seeds by preventing them from over drying, being blown away by wind or eaten by birds and rodents.
Seedballs don’t have to be started indoors. The added protection from the clay and nutrients allows for better germination and higher success rates when planting outside. Because they are encased in clay and soil, your seeds don’t get eaten by bugs, birds, or other creatures. Instead they are protected and supported as they grow up big and tall.
Why our Seedles rock … and roll.
- Red Clay – A special red clay that feeds the seeds minerals and protects the seeds from insects and birds.
- Compost – Three types of compost are used including worm castings, sifted compost, and beneficial bacteria infused compost.
- Seeds – Filled with regionally appropriate native wildflower seeds, they can grow up to 5-10 flowers. You will get high germination rate seeds, which ensures your Seedles will sprout without a doubt.
- Size – The seedballs you will get are about the size of a nickel. Many other seedballs are too big, and have too many seeds inside causing wasted seeds and too much competition between the young seedlings.
- Hot Peppers – We use hot pepper powder to prevent ants, slugs and other insects from trying to eat the seeds before they sprout. This isn’t in the coating so it’s safe for you to touch.