Saturday, July 4, 2015

Honey bees

This is Mary Seton Corboy at Greensgrow Farms in Kensington, where among other amazing feats, they have bees that produce honey. Shortly after this photo was taken, a bunch of curious bees landed on Mary's shirt and jeans. Just checkin' her out. Then some flew on me. I love honey bees but this was the first time I'd served as hostess. Mary later offered a taste of leftover honeycomb. It was dripping with sweet, flavorful honey, probably white clover-derived, since the abandoned brownfields and green fields in Kensington and other (former) industrial neighborhoods in the city are loaded with white clover. This is a good thing, actually, and not just for bees seeking nectar to make honey with. White clover puts nitrogen back into your soil. It keeps the lawn green. It smell nice in flower. And it provides a little diversity to your grassy lawn community, which means it's friendlier to insects and other creatures that we need to round out our boring, monocultural, manmade landscapes.

Honey bees

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Rosa 'All Ablaze' blazes cherry red in Burke Brothers' Tuscany exhibit, accenting classic Italian elements with bright flowers. (Ron Tarver / Staff photographer)
Rosa 'All Ablaze' blazes cherry red in Burke Brothers' Tuscany exhibit, accenting classic Italian elements with bright flowers. (Ron Tarver / Staff photographer)

This is Mary Seton Corboy at Greensgrow Farms in Kensington, where among other amazing feats, they have bees that produce honey. Shortly after this photo was taken, a bunch of curious bees landed on Mary's shirt and jeans. Just checkin' her out. Then some flew on me. I love honey bees but this was the first time I'd served as hostess. Mary later offered a taste of leftover honeycomb. It was dripping with sweet, flavorful honey, probably white clover-derived, since the abandoned brownfields and green fields in Kensington and other (former) industrial neighborhoods in the city are loaded with white clover. This is a good thing, actually, and not just for bees seeking nectar to make honey with. White clover puts nitrogen back into your soil. It keeps the lawn green. It smell nice in flower. And it provides a little diversity to your grassy lawn community, which means it's friendlier to insects and other creatures that we need to round out our boring, monocultural, manmade landscapes.

Anyway. Honey bees are often mistaken for yellow jackets and other stingers, but actually, they're harmless unless you poke them in the eye (Mary was reluctant to brush them off). They're great little honey factories but they're mostly revered as pollinators. We'd be in a heap of trouble without their help with crops like apples, almonds, blueberries, strawberries, asparagus and a long list of others. There's a thriving business now - rent-a-hive. Bee hives are trucked all over the country, kind of like indentured servitude. Sounds exhausting. 

Bees are so fascinating. The Chester County Beekeepers Association is a great source of information: http://www.chescobees.org/. Meanwhile, if you're near a hive, no fast grabs.

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About this blog
Ginny Smith, a Philadelphia native, joined the Inquirer at 1985. After stints as both reporter and editor in the city and suburbs, she’s been happily writing – and learning - about gardening full time since 2006. She’s won two silver medals of achievement from the national Garden Writers Association and in 2011, Bartram’s Garden honored her with its Green Exemplar award for her stories about “the region’s deeply rooted horticultural history, cultural attractions and bountiful gardens.” She plays in her own – mostly - bountiful garden in East Falls. Reach Virginia A. at vsmith@phillynews.com .

Virginia A. Smith Inquirer Staff Writer
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