If bees are visiting your holly bushes you are blessed.

Press Release: I wrote this as an article for a local newspaper. Please feel free to use it in its entirety with attribution. No compensation is required; however, please notify me by email concerning where it was published. (queenbjan [at] msn [dot] com)

HEMINGWAY, SC – I love the spring when the flowers are popping out everywhere, the birds are singing, a few butterflies have already hatched out, and the bees are buzzing from flower to flower collecting pollen and nectar. This is as it should be.  Unfortunately, some are not happy with this picture.

Honeybee on Holly

Honeybee on Holly

Only yesterday I received a panic call from a lady who knew that my husband and I were (retired) beekeepers. She wanted to know what she could do, because the bees were all over her holly bushes. It wasn’t the first time we had received such a call, and it won’t be the last. Fortunately, this lady hadn’t already resorted to spraying them with Raid before she called – as some others had done.

I explained to the lady that the bees would only be in the holly bushes until they finished blooming. Holly blooms are pale green and so tiny that you have to look closely to notice them. These bees, I explained to the lady, are happy bees. After the long, lean winter season, they are so excited to be finding nectar and pollen that you would probably have to knock them around to get one to sting you. I also explained to the lady that without the bees in her holly, she wouldn’t have holly berries on her bushes in the fall. I hope I successfully put her mind to rest so that she would let the bees “bee” and not try to harm them.

Our declining honeybee population has received a lot of publicity in the past couple of years, so many people are discovering for the first time the importance of our bee population on our food supply. One third of the food we eat is dependant upon pollination by bees, and this has nothing to do with the honey they make.

Sadly, one of the major enemies of the bees, both honeybees and native bees, is man. Pesticides have been used without regard to the regulations written on the labels – and have killed the bees along with the pests they were trying to eradicate. Natural nesting areas are destroyed as homes, shopping malls and industries continue to use up the land. Then there are the totally uninformed who think anything with six or more legs is a pest and must be destroyed. Unfortunately these uninformed bug killers may be depleting the population of an otherwise healthy hive of honeybees owned by a local beekeeper, who is trying to make his garden (as well as his/her neighbors’ gardens) productive. Or even worse, they could be killing off one of the few feral colonies of honeybees still left in the wild, or the native bees and pollinators around them.

But back to the holly bushes and the bees—my husband and I have been enjoying watching not only the bees as they pollinate our holly bushes, but we have also seen how the holly bushes have provided food and protection to hundreds of birds throughout the winter season. We keep birdfeeders on our deck and in our back yard and have been continually entertained year round with the antics of the various birds vying for domination of the food supply. When we walk past the bushes in the yard there is a constant fluttering of wings as birds scurry from one branch to another to get away from us, who they still perceive as a potential enemy even though they regularly see us filling the feeders and fuss at us if we let them go empty.

There are many kinds of holly bushes, and all provide food and shelter for the birds, but our personal preference is for the Dahoon hollies. These bushes are quite dense and their leaves are slightly less prickly than other more decorative varieties. Their blooms provide abundant nectar for the bees and other pollinating insects, and are followed by green berries that turn red in the fall. The birds tend to prefer other fruits and berries over the holly berries, but when winter turns its coldest and other food supplies have become scarce, the holly berries are still there waiting for them, and by spring the birds will have picked them clean.

So if you should notice there are bees all over your holly bushes, or dandelions, or clover, or …, consider yourself blessed. Somewhere there is a hive of bees still carrying out the task it was created to perform—pollinating the food supply for both wildlife and man.

Copyright © 2008 by Janice Green

Note: This popular post is on my first blog, QueenBJan’s Weblog. I no longer post on this blog as I combined it with several of my other blogs. For more great posts see Honeycomb Adventures Press, LLC.