Bee Buzz & Blue Berries

By The Old Farmer's Almanac
Sep 21, 2017
Bee Buzz

Herbs that flower like lavender, oregano and thyme are bee magnets.

Doreen G. Howard


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My yard is abuzz with bees from early Spring until late October.  Sometimes, I have to swat them out of my face to get any gardening done. 

Yet, there is a huge loss of honey bee colonies across the country, making crop pollination dicey for farmers.  Many have resorted to renting beehives.  Much has been written about the crisis since 2006.

Gardeners who plant the right flowers and provide welcoming habitats can do their part in restoring the waning bee population.  We can nurture bees that will travel, pollinating fruit, vegetable and flowers around us, helping commercial growers to regain bees.  “Every single gardener can make a difference, even if you just plant one more container of flowers than you have previously, you can help!”, says the National Garden Bureau.

Small Steps

It doesn’t take much effort to help bees increase their population.  Here’s how to make a difference:

Plant flowers with open petals and upright stamens for easy access by our pollen-loving friends. Cosmos, zinnias and purple coneflowers are good examples.

Choose flowers that are heavy pollen producers like salvia, penstemon and goldenrod.  And pick colors that attract bees like blue salvia, yellow nasturtium, marigolds and sunflowers.

Salvia “Evolution’ and other blue and purple salvia attract bees readily. Photo courtesy of the National Garden Bureau.

Herbs, oregano, mints, sage, lemon balm, rosemary, lavenders, thyme, cilantro and basil in particular, provide food for bees as well as humans.  So add them to your garden.   It’s simple to keep a potted herb garden on your back porch, close to the kitchen for cooking.  Bees will quickly discover it.  Pots keep invasives like mint in bounds, and they can be brought indoors for the winter to use.

Make sure your garden blooms from very early spring (crocus and early daffodils) to late fall asters to provide pollen as long as possible.


Limit or eliminate pesticides, which kill bees, and use compost instead of synthetic fertilizers that leave behind toxic chemicals.

Blue Strawberries

Would you eat a blue strawberry?  You may have the chance to sample one soon, especially if you live in a northern climate.  According to Buzz Natural News, scientists are genetically modifying strawberries in order to allow them to resist freezing temperatures better. They’re doing it by transferring the genes from a fish called the Arctic Flounder Fish to the strawberry.

The Arctic Flounder Fish produces an anti-freeze that protects it in freezing waters.  Scientists isolated the gene that produces this anti-freeze and inserted into the berry. The result is a strawberry that looks blue and doesn’t turn to mush or degrade after being placed in the freezer. While the berries aren’t being grown yet, research is advancing rapidly.

About This Blog

Get inspired by Robin Sweetser's backyard gardening tips. Robin has been a contributor to The Old Farmer's Almanac and the All-Seasons Garden Guide for many years. She and her partner Tom have a small greenhouse business and also sell plants, cut flowers, and vegetables at their local Farmer's Market.

Reader Comments

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GMOs always make for an

GMOs always make for an interesting discussion. I see a lot of information and misinformation about them. Major concerns include the health of honeybees, loss of heritage - pure strains of crops and livestock, as well as being a US citizen in one of only two nations with no GMO labeling requirement and negative impacts to human health.

By necessity I have spent many hours and days researching GMOs, a knowledge quest that was initiated for solely for instructional purposes, but has since turned into a joint mission with personal well being as an objective. I find it both upsetting and unfair to see posts that are not supported by scientific research, rather what someone thinks, desires, heard, or simply fears so that it gets the broadcast of truth for all to be misinformed.

GMOs are raising concerns in this country as they should, but they are not the 100% bad guys that they are often promoted to be. There has been some outlawing of GMOs around the world, but for the most part this is not the case. Rather all countries in the world require labeling of GMO's with the exception of the U.S. and Canada. More then 30 attempts have been made for states to require labeling and most of those efforts have either stalled in a state legislature, or have been defeated at the ballot box, after millions of dollars was invested by those industries that want to see no labeling at all. Fortunately there are now two states that recently passed a labeling requirement, one of those being Hawaii and the other one a NE state. I personally think labeling should be the law of the land here and in Canada. There are some proven and documented negative impacts of GMs such as herbicide resistant weeds. There are a lot of observations that point to suspected positive and negative effects of GMOs, but most of the negative I have read is fear-based conjecture. The Franken Salmon has been developed, but so far not approved for commercial production. On a personal basis I hope it is not approved. I would never want to consume an animal that has been altered to grow twice as fast as usual. This is an example of an organism that needs to be controlled and probably should never be allowed to go into commercial production, due to the risk of it getting into the wild, the impacts on the native population could be devastating. This scenario is predicated by the cliché of “once the cat is out of the bag, it can never be put back in.” However, some very good things have come to us in the form of GMOs. How many of you know someone who takes insulin? It is a life saving development and without it many people would die. There are countries where people die and go blind every year due to a lack of Vitamin B, yet a product labeled Golden Rice prevents both of these conditions. Given a choice would you choice to live out your days blind, or to accept this product for to enjoy extra years with your loved ones? I am blessed I am not in one of those life altering predicaments, but given those circumstances I know what I would choose?

Do I plan to be the first in line to consume a blue strawberry, absolutely not. Will I eat one of these berries some day, maybe? After all, this is the deal as I understand it. Fish are considered an essential part of the human diet and this is one that is regularly eaten for its flavor and health benefits. A gene from a fish that is regularly consumed has been implanted into a strawberry, which in its own rite, is considered a healthy food. I equate this to making a fruit smoothie and adding in some green leafy vegetables for their vitamin and fiber components. I say all this to end my point with compliments to the staff of the Farmers Almanac for keeping us informed, Had it not been for this article, I would be among the very, or should I say “berry ignorant,” those who know nothing of the new blueberry.

Thank you Almanac staff for the great reporting!

Doreen, when commenting on

Doreen, when commenting on the results of genetically altering the strawberry, you only refer to the possible positive attributes of putting a fish gene in a strawberry. If "doing your job is to make us aware" then present both pros And cons of GMO. And if you do the research, the nectar and pollen from these GMO crops are providing junk food for our honeybees. Your previous article was about helping the honeybee. You're sending mixed signals and losing creds quick.

WTG Doreen, I guess you've

WTG Doreen, I guess you've done some research. TY You made the point better. All I know is I avoid GMO foods. At least if I know they are GMO.



we don't need blue

we don't need blue strawberrys with fish genes .aka Frankenstein ot frankenfoods .Buy local and boycott this kind of monster food

I'm with you! Or grow your

I'm with you! Or grow your own, from Heritage seed.

Hola! I've been reading your

Hola! I've been reading your site for some time now and finally
got the courage to go ahead and give you a shout out from Dallas Tx!
Just wanted to tell you keep up the great job!

Here is my web blog ...

Thank you Sven.  Glad I'm of

Thank you Sven.  Glad I'm of some help. I lived and gardened in the Dallas area for 7 years and learned about working with the hot climate.

Genetically altered food does

Genetically altered food does not have a place in our diets, nor does it have a place in The Farmers Almanac! I am disappointed that you support the big chemical industry!

I report on all plant

I report on all plant advances.  That doesn't mean I support them.  That is for the reader to decide.  My job is to make you aware.

I just don't see where this

I just don't see where this is an advance. So many of these genetically engineered foods are banned in Europe, I would assume with good reason.


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