Our Friends, the Honey Bees

Did you know August 19th is National Honey Bee Day? Since 2009, one Saturday each August has been designated as such….and with good reason! By now, most people have heard of the decline in the honey bee population. But they may not know why it’s happening or what it really means. With that in mind, we’ve decided to dedicate this month’s blog post to our fair, fuzzy friends: the honey bees!

Which bees are honey bees?

We’re not gonna lie…we have trouble with this sometimes, too. While honey bees are probably most often confused with yellowjackets, they’re frequently mixed up with bumblebees, wasps, and hornets, as well. We get it—when anything with a stinger is flying around your face, you don’t typically stop to identify the culprit…. You run! But killing a honey bee or its hive could have drastic effects on our way of life, so it wouldn’t hurt to know which insect is which.

Honey bees are the guys most people think of when they think of a bee. They’re medium-sized and slender, with a pointed abdomen and lots of pretty yellow stripes. Bumble bees, on the other hand are typically much larger, rounder, and fuzzier, often with blocks of color, rather than stripes.

Wasps are typically much more aggressive than bees, and where honey bees have a bit of fluff around their head and thorax, wasps are shiny and smooth, with narrower waists and abdomens. Yellowjackets and hornets are actually types of wasps, and yellowjackets are often the villains that go after and sting humans. They look much like honey bees, with similar coloring and striping, so are often confused with their gentler cousins. When a honey bee stings, however, its barbed stinger is ripped out of its body, effectively killing it. Therefore, they tend to sting only as a last resort.

Why are honey bees important?

It’s estimated that 1 in every 3 bites of food you take has benefited directly or indirectly from honey bee pollination. We rely on honey bees to pollinate not only the fruits and vegetables we eat, but also the seeds and grains used to feed livestock. We depend on pollination by honey bees to feed us, so if they disappear…well, we’d be in a very bad state. Without the industrious honey bee, farming practices would have to change radically, and food prices would soar.

Bees and bee products are also important to the health industry. Antibiotic treatments that include honey are used to treat burn victims, and bee sting apitherapy can be used to treat arthritis. There are even studies in the works investigating the use of bee venom in cancer treatments.

What’s happening to the honey bees?

For several years, now, we’ve been hearing about the baffling decline of the honey bee. Much of this is due to a phenomenon called colony collapse disorder, or CCD. CCD occurs when the majority of the worker bees in a colony disappear, leaving behind the queen and a few nurse and immature bees—without these worker bees, the survival of the hive is doomed. This isn’t a new phenomenon, by any means, but the drastic rise in the number of cases of CCD since 2006 is what has led to such concern.

We still don’t know exactly what causes CCD, but there are several suspects. Disease and infections, climate change, loss of habitat, malnutrition, parasites, and pesticides have all been cited as potential threats to honey bee colonies. A recent study conducted in Europe suggests certain insecticides could be responsible for harming already weakened hives.

What can we do to help?

  • Buy local, organic honey to help support your local beekeeping community. It’s delicious and it’s just about the most “green” sweetener you can buy.
  • Keep a bee-friendly garden, or add bee-friendly plants to your landscaping plan. Single top flowers such as daisies and marigolds produce lots of nectar and make it easy for bees to access the pollen. Plus, they add a splash of color to your yard! Choose a few different types, so you’ll have blooms throughout as many seasons as possible. (For the more bee-wary homeowner, consider planting your bee habitat in a side yard, or someplace where your family doesn’t congregate very often. This will help protect the bees from getting swatted, too!)
  • When purchasing plants for your landscaping, make sure they haven’t been pretreated with pesticides. While you’re at it, avoid using toxic, chemical pesticides and weed killers—especially neonicotinoids—when treating your lawn. As noted above, this could be a major factor in CCD!
  • Do you have more land than you know what to do with? Consider letting a local beekeeper take over a small corner to build a hive.
  • Donate to your local beekeepers association…or become a beekeeper, yourself!

Long live the bees!


Get Cookin’…in an Outdoor Kitchen!

Summer is almost upon us! With graduation celebrations, July 4th, and Labor Day coming up, we’re looking forward to pool parties, barbeques, and all sorts of fun in the sun.

Nothing turns a yard or patio into a truly delightful living space better than the addition of an outdoor kitchen—it’s one of our most requested summer projects! And we’re not just talking about cobbling a patch of ground for the grill, either (though, we can do that, too). Have you ever considered how much more enjoyable your summer life would be with a fully loaded, alfresco canteen? Here are just a few advantages of adding an outdoor kitchen to your home:

Expand Your Living Space

In the warmer weather months, our backyards tend to become an extension of our living areas. Who wants to be cooped up inside, when the sun is shining and the birds are chirping and all the flowers are in bloom? This doesn’t just have to be confined to lounging around, either. Relocate your kitchen outside, and you can soak up every single ounce of nature the day has to offer. Prep, cook, and eat the food on the patio…then sit back and relax with a cool beverage while you watch the sun set. The only time you’ll need to come inside is bedtime. And if you have a hammock, well…maybe not even then!

Great for Entertaining

Have you ever noticed how dinner guests always pack themselves into the kitchen while you’re trying to prepare the food? It can be tiresome on the best of days, but in the midst of a summer heatwave, it’s positively stifling! Bring the kitchen into the great wide open, and you have plenty of room to let your guests spread out and socialize—with plenty of breathing room for everyone.

Increase Property Value

An outdoor living space and kitchen is an investment, but one that will pay off in spades. It looks great, is relatively low maintenance, and essentially adds an entire room onto your house! Whether you intend to put your home on the market or stay put for years to come, this popular renovation is a surefire way to increase the value and appeal of your home.

Is your outdoor home ready for the summer? At Capehart Landscape & Design, we have the experience and skills needed to transform your outdoor dreams into a reality. Browse through our past projects to see for yourself what we can do. Then give us a call to get started!


10 Clever Gardening Tricks from the Pros

Do the plans for your backyard landscape include a garden? We love it when a design involves edible greenery, as there’s no better way to get fresh, tasty produce than to grow it yourself. Have you ever done the garden vs. store taste test? Try it with tomatoes…there’s no contest! And let’s face it—farm-to-table fare tastes the best when it comes from the fruits of your own labor.

As we head into the gardening season, here are a few tips and tricks from the pros to tend to your own little “farm”:

  1. There are so many beautiful annuals, but it can be such a hassle to replant them every year. Instead, “plant” empty plastic pots (poke drainage holes in the bottom first) and just drop your new seasonals right on in!
  2. Grind up eggshells into a powder and sprinkle in the garden. The calcium in the shells will give your plants a boost.
  3. Magnesium and sulfate-rich epsom salts are wonderful for maintaining a lush, healthy garden. Add some in the soil when first planting your garden, or for potted plants, dissolve into the water in your watering can.
  4. Strategically plant plastic forks—tines up—around your plants to keep pets and critters from trampling your garden.
  5. Speaking of critters, leftover coffee grounds will repel those unwanted guests while at the same time enriching your soil.
  6. Stop invasive plants from taking over your yard by planting them inside a large plastic pot or bucket. Just be sure to cut the bottom off first to let the roots do their thing.
  7. When you cook vegetables, save the leftover water and sprinkle it over your plants as fertilizer. The water contains tons of nutrients your garden will thrive on.
  8. Looking for a simple, non-toxic weed killer? Combine 1 gallon white vinegar, 1 cup table salt, and 1 tablespoon liquid dish soap, and voila!
  9. Store your gardening tools in an unused flower pot filled with sand. It’ll help keep them from rusting!
  10. Give yourself a leg up by selecting easy-to-grow plants for the Indiana climate, as well as for your particular soil structure and lighting conditions.

Need some help or advice? We’re always happy to chat with you to help determine which plants will work best for your home!