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Greek Honey Bee Garden

Honey Bee - Photo Credit: Chi Kin LaiIt’s no secret that world-wide, honey bees are in trouble.  I’ve written a good bit about honey bees elsewhere on the Internet in the past, mostly because saving the honeybee is important to me and should be to everyone else — unless you plan on starving. They are in danger and need our help.

One way to help them is for each of us to do our part in providing plants and a proper environment for honey bees, by planting a honey bee garden, no matter how small or space may be. Seventy percent of our food sources depend upon their survival.  I also think it’s very interesting that saving honey bees have been on the minds of Greek bee keepers for centuries.

The people of Greece have known for generations that bees are important.  They were the ones who taught mankind the main secret to having a Greek Honey Bee Garden is only one thing — full sun.

However, it has always been their custom that you also need to make sure that the herbs and other plants are planted in groups of four or more.

The Melissa Garden - One of the Finest Examples of a Greek Honey Bee Garden

Honey Bees photo courtesy Chi Kim Lai

Honey Bees photo courtesy Chi Kim Lai

One of the finest examples of a Greek Honeybee Garden is the Melissa Garden. It is a honey bee sanctuary in Healdsburg, California, on the west side of the Russian River Valley. There you’ll find a couple of acres of honeybee gardens smack in the middle of a forty acre ranch.

The Melissa Garden originated in 2007 with the idea that the owners would provide honeybees a place to live a natural life, protected from stress and in a beautiful natural setting — a sort of Bee Garden of Eden.

So you might ask who was Melissa? This bee sanctuary was cleverly named after a Greek nymph that fed Zeus honey when he was a baby. When Zeus’ father caught her, he changed her into a worm. However, when Zeus came into power, his fondness for her changed her into a queen bee. Melissa is the Greek word meaning “honeybee.”

So after reading this, I’m thinking the next time a bee is buzzing too close, I’m not going to announce “bee at twelve o’clock”— I’m going to alert people by saying … . “Psst … . There is a Melissa about to land on your head.” Maybe that will stop people from swatting at them or running away?

Another key to happy bees is to erect a trellis, or plant near some kind of natural windbreak, because if the area is not sheltered from wind, the bees will not stick around. One simple solution for this is to plant a hedge of holly. Other solutions include having some of the most important nectar plants that bees and those who love Greek food crave, such as:

  • Charlock  -Clovers  -Dandelion  -Fruit trees (especially Citrus)  -Lime trees  -Mint  -Mustard  -Oil-see rape  -Sainfoin  -Willow herb

Plants Greek Honey Bees Love

Melissa Garden Honeybee SanctuaryIt is best to choose herbs that will give nectar and pollen for the longest possible time during the flowering season.

Here is a list that if they were all planted (assuming you have that much space) that there would be a supply of nectar almost all year:  

  • Alkanet  -Allims  -Anise  -Basil  -Borage  -Calendula  -Catmint  -Catnip  -Chamomile  -Chicory  -Crocus  -Flax  -Forget-me-not  -Goldenrod  -Horehound  -Hyssop  -Jacob’s Ladder  -Lamiums  -Marjorams  -Melilot  -Mints  -Musk Mallow  -Rosemary  -Sage  -Smallage (wild celery)  -Summer and Winter Savory  -Sunflower  -Thymes  -Verbascum  -Viper’s bugloss  -Winter aconite

The Greek Honey Bee Garden Hive or Skep

Traditionally, when any one thinks of honey bees, we also tend to think of the bee hive or skep. Well, in most home herb gardens, it is unrealistic to keeping working bee hives around the garden boundary unless you have a lot of space.

Skep Bee HiveHere’s a simple truth that anyone desiring a Greek Honey Bee Garden needs to know — bees ignore plants within a radius of about fifty (50) feet from the hive. The reason has to do with the bees’ own natural cleansing flights and instinct having to do with contamination. Sort of like in the old days, when people were wise enough not to put their out-house too near the house for health reasons.  This is why honey bees require space.

New and More Natural Hives in Your Greek Honey Bee Garden

One of the things I found exciting about the Melissa Gardens endeavor was their experimentation in providing more natural hives. The video found here is a example of their:

Straw Hive

Log Hive at Melissa Gardens

Did You Know?

Other than fruit, honey is the only natural food that is made without destroying any kind of life!

If You’d Like To Know More About Honey Bees and Greek Honey Bee Gardens!

The Melissa Garden - A Honeybee Sanctuary

NPR - New Bee Keepers

 Gaiabees - A New Approach To Living With Bees