June 3, 2024 2:57 pm

The bees are back, busy sipping nectar and accumulating pollen from flowers. By interacting with plants, I interact with all of nature; when I’m harvesting herbs, I can’t help but notice the vibrant insect life below my knees.

The byproduct of the bees’ hunger is pollination, the transfer of pollen from the male stamen, to the female pistil of a plant to create a seed. This process is crucial for the continuation of plant species. Plants and pollinators are mutually interdependent; without bees, and other pollinators, life on Earth would be very different – we might not even exist.

Animals depend on plants as a primary food source, and we also rely on an oxygen- rich atmosphere, which is largely a byproduct of photosynthesis in plants. Plants, in turn, depend on pollinators for fertilization. If a plant isn’t fertilized, the seed will not mature, leading to a reduction in plant populations, which spells trouble for all life forms.

There are hundreds of thousands of different pollinators, including bees, beetles, moths, butterflies, mosquitos, ants, flies, mice, bats, opossums, lizards, birds, monkeys, humans. Any given plant may have one or several pollinators.

Plants are clever and have evolved to attract pollinators by making themselves attractive. They create enticing nectars, colours, shapes, scent, and other volatile chemicals to attract these essential partners. They charm us as well – flowers certainly capture the interest of humans.

Have you noticed that your car windshield doesn’t get splattered with dead bugs the way it used to? Insect populations are in steep decline for a variety of reasons, which jeopardizes both plants and animals in the long run. According to the Nova Scotia Bee Keepers Association, “Honey bees and other pollinators are facing unprecedented challenges that pose serious threats to the sustainability of beekeeping operations and agriculture as well as the indigenous ecosystems that depend on them. Habitat destruction – destruction of areas populated with a diversity of indigenous wild flowers for forage – is one of these major issues.”

Home and business owners can promote pollinator-friendly habitats by parking the lawn mower and allowing wild flowers to flourish. When choosing flowers to decorate the deck and yard, select pollinator friendly varieties. Pollinator insects love herbs, so be sure to include them in the garden, for your benefit and theirs.

Some of my favourite bee friendly herbs include:

  • Angelica
  • Anise-hyssop
  • Borage
  • Catnip
  • Feverfew
  • Wood Betony
  • Lavender
  • Lemon balm
  • Motherwort
  • Sage
  • Thyme

I am grateful to the bees for providing several tools of my trade as a herbalist. Honey is a staple in the herbal kitchen, I use it to make herbal syrups, and oxymels which are honey/vinegar preparations. It helps make unpleasant tasting remedies more palatable. Bee’s wax is an essential ingredient when making herbal creams and salves, it melts into warm herbal oils, then gives them solid form when cooled.

Top of my reading list for the summer is The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd. I read this delightful novel many years ago, it feels like time for a re-read.

Praise the bees with me on June 23 at my home in Head of Jeddore, I am hosting a mini herb festival celebrating the theme of “Herbs & Bees” Visit my calendar for more information.