Keep a honey bee calendar

A bookstore I visited last night was selling all of its calendars for $1, and I might have been sorely tempted, if not for the fact that I already have three calendars going. One of them is marked up with the usual -- personal appointments and work-related deadlines. Another contains all of my vegetable gardening plans for the season, loaded up with such entries as "Plant Early Purple Sprouting broccoli by today" and "Plant Black Krim tomatoes now." And the last? It is my honey bee calendar, filled with average bloom times for all of the flowering bulbs and annual and perennial flowers I expect to see around my lot this year.

I started the habit because I happen to be a beekeeper with literally thousands of mouths to "feed." The trick is always having something in bloom, and the calendar helps me keep track of the diverse pollen and nectar sources in my area. Now, whether you also keep bees, or you simply want to give any pollinators in your area a leg up because times have been tough, anyone can start gardening for honey bees and keeping track of just what's on the menu and when. When I originally started keeping a honey bee calendar, I discovered that late spring and mid-summer in my yard brought an embarrassment of riches, but very early spring and late fall left a lot to be desired.

To better fill out my bloom time calendar, I planted flowering bulbs like crocus and alliums, and I sprang for some flowering annuals at the local farmers' market -- both little luxuries I never used to afford myself. Ah, but it's for the bees, so that justifies the expense. . . I'm also justified in leaving a patch or two of weeds growing, since honey bees do not distinguish between the Queen Anne's lace gone wild and, say, my carefully cultivated white yarrow.

If you do have an extra calendar lying around, you might give it a shot. Aside from improved pollination in your area, you'll likely also discover you've inadvertently attracted lots of other beneficial insects including parasitic wasps and feral bees. (Oh, and you'll see extra butterflies, too!)