SOLUTIONS ARE EASY … PLANT LOCAL TREES FOR BEES IN YOUR OWN BACKYARD
We are all still buzzing after our ACCT screening of the documentary film, “Vanishing of the Bees” last week with it’s Co–Director Maryam Henein at Hotel Roca Verde in Dominical Costa Rica. Everyone has a special opportunity to be part of the solution for this critical contributor to our healthy food chain. We can all plant sweet blooming flowering trees and plants for the bees! And stop using chemicals. Are you wondering what to plant in your jungle backyard or what to leave alone to be symbiotic with our Costa Rican honeybees? No matter where you live, h ere are some useful tips to attract the maximum diversity of healthy pollinators!
Bees need trees to live well. No surprise really, no matter where you live. Bees living in the tropics build their hives in nooks and crannies of old trees, or high on tree trunks in the forest. The bees can thrive in these conditions when left alone. They seek spaces of protection in the trees to be able to build natural and strong honey colonies. Wild spaces for the bees are important to maintain nature’s natural, uninterrupted rythyms. If you have a hive around your house or business and the buzzing is making you nervous or a hive is otherwise in a spot that is subject to disturbance, a qualified bee rescue expert is always available to relocate unwanted hives.
In the southern Pacific coast of Costa Rica, Harold Ramirez is available to relocate any unwanted hives of Mariolas or Meliponias, medicinal bees (Tetragonista angosteras). Honey from these small creatures strengthens the human immune system, builds longevity and can heal diseases of the eye. Costa Rican honeybees produce delicious honey fragrant with hints of flowers. Delicious bee pollen and propolis are valuable nutritional contributions generously given by the local organic bees.
With so many gifts they give us, it is a natural response to want to help the bees in return. We can all plant a wealth of biodiverse native trees, herbs, and flowers depending on where we live to nourish the bees naturally. In Costa Rica, where we enjoy eternal summer temperatures but lots of rain, we try to plant a wide range of flowering trees that bloom at different times of the year. This way there are always abundant flowers for our fuzzy friends. We all thrive with a varied diet of ORGANIC fruits and vegetables to stay strong and fight off pathogens all around us in today’s growing fierce competition for resources and survival.
Guava Bella is one of the most resistant, sun tolerant, fast growing trees which give copious amounts of flowers for bees. This variety is most commonly sold at local fruit stands in their natural packaging in the form of a big boomerang shaped pod which cracks open to offer neat rows of white, cotton candy-like fruit covering large black seeds. More appropriate species for higher elevations is the Guava Guayinaquil. The bees also love its showy and sticky flowers. Both of these trees in the varied “Inga” family grow well even in poor soils and can provide shade in the early years of any reforestation project. Monkeys will sit in a guava tree and strip it bare. And the bees? Buzzin so loud you can hear them. They are drunk and happy in Guava flower season!
Papayas are also a big bee pleaser. While we humans rarely ingest the leaves of a papaya tree except when recovering from dengue or malaria, some of the larger birds like the wild turkeys will eat papaya leaves to nothing. I have seen up to four large Pahuillas in a single papaya tree balancing gingerly on the thin stalks so they can keep munching on the leaves. The bees buzz around the small white flowers all sticky and fragrant with pollen.
And what about those ubiquitous Guayaba trees dropping their luscious pink fruits all around? Have you ever noticed the bees hovering all drippy and drunk around these sweet pollen laden flowers? While this fruit is just perfect for making marmalade, again, you will have to compete with the lower part of the food chain to get your share, especially because worms are often hiding inside. Rich in vitamin C, many an unassuming human has bitten into a Guayaba fruit only to be grossed out by the worms. Don’t worry, nothing goes to waste in Nature, and the deer and other mammals will scarf down any worm laden fruits left over. The rest serves as great organic compost. We each take our share and leave something behind to decompose for completing the circle.
Any variety of Mango tree is a magnet for the sticky bees. They are a great way to feed the bees, the wildlife and yourself! The rose colored shower tree, known as Karao, is also a big bee pleaser. No bee banquet would be complete without a few special flowers from fruits like Caimito, Abiut, Javoticaba, Cascarilla, Guanabana, Carambola, Jackfruit and Breadfruit. The fruit offered by these trees is so valuable to us all. But we would not enjoy it without the bees. The bees come to the flowers and end up giving us fruit by their pollination. Sweet symbiosis. We have a tropical food forest that nourishes us and the bees and makes us all healthy and happy too.
What about flowering trees for bees? Aceituna is a tall, slender purple blooming tree that offers a hearty flower with extra long stigmas perfect for bees making landings with sticky hind legs hanging down. Flitting from flower to flower, the bees pollinate the tree. Several months later the tree makes a large olive like fruit coveted by all kinds of birds and animals of the rainforest.
Everyone loves the striking beauty of the Orgullo de la India tree, boasting bright hues of purple or pink flowers in October when few other trees are flowering. This is an important late rainy season food for bees. In late summer, activated by dry weather, the Corteza Amarilla explodes in short lived yellow neon flowers that are aglow with the buzz of the bees. It’s cousin in the Tabebuia family, Roble Sabana o “Pau de Arco” tree is another flashy bloomer that impresses in late summer. Its bark is ground into a tea that is taken internally for a range of health benefits including tumor shrinkage. How is that for successful bee tree symbiosis?
Planting trees creates shade and improves the fertility of soils by dropping biomass for nourishment. Planting a food forest creates a dappled light habitat perfect for growing a wide array of herbs and flowers, also good for bees and humans alike. These weeds in turn nourish the growing trees with their decomposing biomass and the regenerative cycle of life is intact and rolling without obstacles.
Plant the impressive and hardy Agave plants (“tequila plants”) and you will attract some incredible bees when they bloom. Other blooming shrubs like Rabo de leon or Butterfly Bush, Gardenia, Poinsiana, Castor Bean, plus the whole family of Heliconias and Gingers and Hibiscus will attract an ever abundant menagerie of flying pollinating insects, not to mention hummingbirds. Add in some medicinal shrubs like Saragundi or wild Senna (great antiseptic, cooling skin wash), Hombre grande (stops diarrhea and vomiting), Fruta milagrosa (Stevia) or Gavilan (Jackassbitters) for amoebas and parasites, Romero or Rosemary for skin conditions, or Dandelion for liver detox and you get a home medicine chest while also creating beauty and diverse habitat for bees and butterflies.
It’s true that a weed can be as precious as a rose. Let your grass grow wildly in the summer time, let it bloom. Don’t waste so much fossil fuel maintaining a manicured lawn. Chop manually, get some exercise or create a job for someone doing it. Instead of paying big corporations for the poisonous herbicide, pay a local farmer instead. Value the volunteering weeds like Lantanas and Verbenas, Begonias (kidneys), Tuetes, (nausea), Botoncillos (inflammation) and other secondary regenerating plants and shrubs. The cycle of life depositing organic material from blooming and decomposition will create richer soils in collaboration with your tree planting. Meanwhile, your local mix of native trees, shrubs, herbs and weeds will create a wonderfully colorful and active space thriving with pollinators from bees to lizards, to dragonflies, and butterflies.
Plant a beautiful mix of shrubs, herbs, trees and veggies will provide a cornucopia of delights. You will be entertained, fed, and nursed when you are sick. Oh sweet symbiosis of the bees and the trees.
A few final tips to remember no matter where you live. If you want to grow healthy plants, food and soils while attract wildlife, the first rule of thumb is do not apply herbicides or pesticides. They just kill the soil, accumulate and create a vicious circle of dependence on fossil fuels. Avoid the systemic pesticide coated commercial seeds widely available today. Save heirloom seeds and trade with your neighbor. Let some of your garden go to seed every year and always leaves some fruit on your trees for the animals too. This never goes without saying.
Healthy, alive soils mean prosperous trees and plants. No amount of store bought chemical fertilizer can compensate for dead dirt. The secret really is in the soil. Make compost. Buy compost. Love the dirt. Touch it. It will bring you happiness and remind you where real good food comes from.
Second, don’t manicure the jungle or over chop or overwork your immediate area. Don’t cut the grass down too short or scrape off ground cover all the way to the dirt. When we remove the cover crops, we over-expose the dirt to the ravages of the weather. We want to preserve and protect the thin tropical topsoil and beneficial soil carpet of connective fungus. This forest floor contains beneficial organisms, like fungus which work like pro-biotics to inoculate the soil and protect the plants against pathogens. We want to encourage soil building by leaving the rotting organic material and developing fungi, not “clean” it up.
Harsh sun and rain will destroy the topsoil if it is exposed. Ground covering plants of diverse types are critical to shade and build healthy soils, plus create thicket areas for animals to birth their young. Pioneering weeds and short lived trees are also important because they provide shade and protection for regenerating long term species which grow slower and only in cool, protected, shady and healthy soils.
Nature really is perfect in its chaos. It all goes together, like we do with mutually beneficial relationships stacking together seeking survival. Symbiosis works back and forth, forever seeking balance on a constant basis. Symbiosis is dynamically fulfilling cycles with no unnatural wastes, everything useful and beneficial to the system and its ongoing processes over future generations. Like the bees and the trees.
Our ACCT model of planting over 85 species of native trees on deforested farms owned by Costa Ricans with community collaboration is working! Our viveros are full and we are ready for rainy season 2015! We also produce a variety of nitrogen fixing cover crops and medicinal plants. Let us help you with your reforestation project this year for great results. Make a difference for the bees, and the trees. Make a difference for yourself. Make a difference for future generations. Sponsor a tree today for longterm bee tree symbiosis with CommunityCarbonTrees-CostaRica.com. We love to do the dirty work!
And don’t forget to check out Maryam Henein’s HONEYCOLONY.com, an educational magazine touching on a range of health and food purity topics inspired by her ward winning documentary Vanishing of the Bees. Honeycolony offers an online store for the highest quality and purest food and beauty products, friendly to bees of course. SUPPORT local beekeepers and activists working in your area today. We are all part of the change! As Maryam Henein says, “BEE the Change”! As Tree Jenny says, “ Sponsor a Tree for Future Generations”!