How to Save Pollinators with Beekeeper Jay Williams


June is Pollinator Month, and as the makers of honey-sweetened bars, we're pretty passionate about protecting the pollinators that support our ecosystems. One way we do that is by giving a portion of all profits to Pollinator Partnership, but we also want to highlight other ways we can all work to save our bees and other pollinators. We were lucky enough to get some pointers from Jay Williams, head beekeeper and educator at Williams Honey Farm in Franklin, TN.

The first question I always get when I tell people I’m a beekeeper is “How many times have you been stung?” With a sideways smile I respond, “More than a couple.” The second question that always follows is, “How many hives do you have?” Truth be told, I really don't know how many hives I currently have or how many stings I’ve gotten, because that number changes on a daily basis.

Beekeeping is kind of like playing with my son’s Lego set. If we’re not splitting or combining our pieces every week for the task at hand, we’re just not having any fun. It is an ever-changing art form, with multiple parts, multiple players, and mother nature to keep us all humble. This is precisely why so many people these days are addicted/enamored/fascinated by beekeeping. It keeps you on your toes and leaves you pondering "What can I do better next time for my bees? How can I apply all these lessons from the hive to my family, my job, and even this world?"

But what if you’re like the majority of the population and don’t have the desire or the time to tend to these tiny little social insects? What can you do to help? Just like the many different ways you can put together a beehive, there are many different ways you can easily support our pollinators without ever touching a frame of bees. Here’s a few:

1. Plant a pollinator-friendly garden.

I like to call them “pollinator pit-stops”.  Create an area in your backyard that can act like a recharging station for honeybees, butterflies, bumblebees or even hummingbirds (yes they pollinate too). It doesn’t have to be your entire yard and don’t think it has to be some overgrown eye sore!  There are tons of beautiful flowers and amazing accents you can plant that will not only feed your local population but will also make your house shine.

2. Start treating your backyard like your pet.

Take care of it. Avoid using unnecessary pesticides or chemicals unless absolutely necessary. It may sound basic, but read the label on your chemicals! You’d be amazed at how many people skip that step and apply something by accident at the wrong time of day. Consider mowing your lawn very low right before you apply to get rid of any flowering plants in your grass like clover.

3. When you plant, use the odd number rule.

Plant flowers in groups of 3 or 5 and bunch them together to lessen the travel time your bees have to fly to gather the nectar.  Not only that but odd number plantings is actually easier on the eyes!

4. Choose plants that are native to your area.

You want plants that are hearty, deer tolerant, and have long bloom times.  We’re big fans of perennials.  We love investing in things that you only have to plant once and keep paying back year after year.

5. Choose plants that have overlapping bloom times.

You want to have a garden that is blooming from the early spring to the late fall. Avoid going to your local big box store and buying something in a pot that is already blooming.  It may look great, but most of the time it will be done blooming within a couple weeks and has been pre-sprayed with chemicals to make it look perfect at the store. You mean well by buying it, but unfortunately the bees miss out.

6. Learn about native bees!

When people say the word “pollinator,” everyone thinks of one insect - the honeybee. Did you know there are over 4,500 different species of native bees in North America? Native bees are quiet, docile insects that rarely sting and are even more efficient pollinators than the honeybee! They also fly only 300’ away from their nests so you can place them in your backyard garden and they stay close to home. Due to their docile nature, they are great around kids and pets and require about 10% of the workload of regular honeybees. To speak to the experts on all things Native Bees visit www.crownbees.com.

7.  Support your local beekeeper!

We all need help (especially these days) and let’s face it, there is nothing better than a jar of fresh raw local honey.
Hopefully a couple of these points have sparked your interest in finding a way to help our struggling pollinators.  If you’re interested in keeping bees, want to learn more about our online offerings, purchase award winning honey, or just follow along with our daily pollinator antics, please visit www.williamshoneyfarm.com or follow us on Instagram @williamshoneytn


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