OTTUMWA — “Three out of every four bites of food depend on pollination,” said Vern Ramsey, local beekeeper. “And 80 percent of that is due to honeybees.”
Gov. Kim Reynolds signed March 14 as Iowa Honey Bee Day, and bee enthusiasts want to educate on the many ways to help local bees. To celebrate the first Iowa Honey Bee Day, there will be a reception with legislators at the capitol for any attending to ask questions and learn more from fellow beekeepers.
“We want to bring awareness in state of Iowa to the apiary program,” said Roy Kraft, Iowa Honey Producers Association past president. “Bring awareness to honeybees in the state. Not only for bringing honey to the table, but for pollinating our state crops.”
And getting a colony to begin beekeeping isn’t difficult.
“You can buy a three-pound package of bees with a queen,” said Vern Ramsey, local beekeeper. “I don’t do that. I make splits where I take broods (baby bees) and put them in a new box. This is called a nuclear colony, and I just buy a new queen. Those are mostly coming out of California.”
Ramsey said it’s about June before queens come around naturally because you need a good supply of drones, and if you want to start with bees, it’s best to take a class.
The idea of beekeeping can be daunting or scary to some people. Some even worry it’s just too much time they don’t have to spend. But many people understand the importance of bees and want to help, and there's no better time than spring.
Honeybees will forage up to two miles for pollen to bring back to the hive. Kraft and Ramsey said they understand if people don’t want to make big changes to their yards or homes. But there are some things people can do without planting anything.
“There are lots of flower packs out there today with wildflower mixes or pollinating packs, and those are extremely attractive to bees,” Kraft said. “Throw something down; if a little something grows, then that’s great. A little is better than we had last year.”
Flowers commonly thought of as weeds are just as good.
“Dandelions, the first crop in April or May, is critical for the bees,” said Kraft. “So, leaving the first few is good, and I encourage people to do that.”
White clovers and other wildflowers are great for bees in general as well, but a short green yard is a barren desert to bees.
“Clover produces the best honey in our area,” Ramsey said.
There are ways to keep a nice-looking yard or garden without disrupting regulations or looking messy. Kraft said it’s all in understanding the importance of bees, their positive impact on Iowa and the world, and doing what you can to help out.
“A small step is all it takes,” Kraft said. “If everyone does small steps, we get great strides.”
Aaryn Frazier can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter at CourierAaryn.