In the spring, bugs and creepy crawlers begin to come out. They sometimes appear on walls and in crevices, especially near plants. After all, trees, bushes, flowers, and other plant life are homes or pit-stops for these little creatures. Of course, this is the season we begin to see bees. Spring and summer are the primary bee seasons. When you see bees, think twice about swatting them — bees are critical to our ecosystem and our food supply.
Bees are pollinators, moving pollen from one plant to another. Without bees, we wouldn’t have flowers, fruits, veggies, or many other types of vegetation. Whether you grow your own garden or admire fresh produce at the supermarket, you can thank bees for making it happen. Bees are known for their sweet, syrupy honey. Not all bees can produce honey, but the commonly known Old World honeybees (which are not native to America) do produce honey.
Dr. Christopher Cramer, a plant and environmental science professor at New Mexico State University (NMSU), explains one difference between European honeybees and native bees.
“European honeybees are social insects that build hives in cavities and usually have a caste system among individuals in the hive,” he said. “For the most part, native bees tend to be solitary and build smaller nests in a variety of locations. Native bees come in a variety of sizes, colors, shapes, etc.”
Learn more about New Mexico’s native bees at aces.nmsu.edu/pubs/bees/welcome. html.
Health benefits of honey
Many health benefits can be attributed to honey. Honey contains a variety of nutrients and propolis, a resin-like material which
is thought to fight infections and help wounds heal. Honey contains antioxidants and has antibacterial, anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial, and anti-cancer properties. Many use it to treat burns, psoriasis, ulcers, throat infections, asthma, allergies, and more. It may also have properties that help prevent heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and premature aging.
Where to buy local honey
If you are in Las Cruces, you have plenty of options for locally produced honey. The Saturday Farmers and Crafts Market of Las Cruces is a great spot to purchase raw and unfiltered honey from producers like Topete Honey and Sun Mountain Honey. Another source for honey produced in the Mesilla Valley is M Linares Apiaries LLC. “Bees are the center of all agriculture. Everything that bees do promotes life,” says Eduardo Linares, son of owner Martin Linares. Martin’s apiary is made up of hundreds of hives throughout New Mexico that produce delicious honey. Their bees have also been used to pollinate watermelons in Deming and canola seed in Colorado.
In El Paso, you can purchase raw honey straight from the hive at Zumbido Farms through their website. At other farmers markets in the region, look for vendors selling honey local to their areas, as eating local honey is said to be a great way to fight seasonal allergies.
What to do if you have a swarm of bees or large beehive on your property
In spring, hives that have become too large for the queen to control may split, with the queen laying eggs that will hatch a future queen that will remain with the current hive (the first queen to emerge kills the remaining royal larvae). Once she has laid eggs to ensure a successor, the queen and about half of the bees leave in search of a new home. As a swarm, they find a place to wait while scouts search for potential new homes. You may see a swarm on the eave of a building, a tree branch, or other place where they can gather. Ideally, the scouts will find the new perfect spot within hours or a day, but occasionally there is an overnight stay.
Dr. Cramer shared safety tips for how to handle bees that may be swarming on your property if there is a reason you cannot wait for them to move on. The best thing to do, he says, is to call a local beekeeper to rescue the bees, noting “Any beekeeper would be happy to do this!” He cautioned not to disturb a swarm and to keep a close eye on them since swarms can move quickly.
“When bees are swarming and on the move, they will not harm anyone,” Dr. Cramer said. “They do not yet have a home to defend. If bees have established a residence, that’s when they can be problematic.” Dr. Cramer strongly cautions against spraying or harming the bees in any way.
Dr. Cramer is part of the “Beesters,” a group of local beekeepers that rescue and respond to calls regarding the removal of Old World honeybees. The Beesters relocate the honeybees into man-made hives in which they can reproduce and make honey. They also take the honeybees to NMSU to help pollinate the vegetation on campus. For help with a swarm on your property, reach Dr. Cramer at 575-646-2657 or [email protected].
FASCINATED BY BEES?
Learn more about these essential insects at xerces.org, the website of the Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation.
Story and photography by Melissa Luna, Neighbors intern
Additional photos by Olivia Belcher
Originally published in Neighbors magazine
Posted by LasCruces.com