Give a quiet thanks to nature’s busiest workers

The best way to be sure is to buy from a local beekeeper, then you know you will be getting pure, raw honey that isn’t mixed with sugar syrup or imported blends. You may pay a little extra, but the taste difference will be worth it.

It takes a lot of effort to harvest honey, as my teenage beekeeping students will now tell you – nearly 200kg from four hives is a lot of sticky mess. Plus, imported honey has the potential to harbour diseases, and if you’re using honey outside to feed birds or animals you could unwittingly be spreading these.

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I would like to point out that I am not solely asking you to appreciate the European honey bee, either – our thousands of native bees are also important pollinators of both crops and other flowering plants, sometimes even performing better as they buzz at a higher frequency which makes certain plants release their pollen more effectively.

All of these insects have vital roles to play in the continuing health of our ecosystems and the food production industry. Choosing a range of flowering plants for your garden, such as herbs, lavender, salvias, Australian natives and even allowing brassicas to go to seed all help sustain thriving populations of bees of all types.

Even containers on balconies add to the diversity of their food source.

Do not feed any tired bees you find; by all means rescue them if they’re stuck in water, but let them revive by themselves and fly home. Leaving out sugar syrup is the equivalent of feeding foraging bees junk food – plus you’ll end up with hundreds of bees at your house as they go for the easy option. You can, however, leave out little dishes of water with pebbles in during hot weather, to prevent heat stress.

So find time today to look closely at a flowering plant to see if there is a bee hard at work there, marvel at her industry and quietly tell her thank you.

Nicola Philp is a regular columnist.

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