Andrea Ames keeps a breed of bees called Carneolians, which are winter hardy, fairly disease-resistant and “at the low end of the cranky scale.” She tends three hives enclosed by an electric fence to keep bears away. PHOTO COURTESY OF ANDREA AMES

Bees’ memory sends them back to certain plants

LAMOINE — Have you heard of floral fidelity? It isn’t what you might imagine — your partner remembering to send you an annual anniversary bouquet.

Andrea Ames, a Lamoine flower gardener and two-year beekeeping veteran, explained that honeybees will feed on one species of flower before moving onto another.

“Right now, they’ll go on the maple tree buds in a three-to five-mile radius,” said Ames. “They forage in a three-to-five mile radius of the hive.”

Ames, who works as a senior technical staff member and content experience strategist at IBM, explains that this floral fidelity is why honeybees are so good for pollinating blueberry fields.

Ames checks on a beehive at her Lamoine home.

“They’re not going to hop off and go ‘look, she’s got chrysanthemums at her house,’” said Ames.

Apple blossoms will be next on the menu and soon after dandelions.

“I have lots of dandelions,” she said. “I don’t mow my lawn until all the dandelions have gone by. Dandelions aren’t weeds — they’re bee food.”

Ames’ house on the Shore Road in Lamoine is home to many neighboring apple trees, whose yields are helped by the bees.

“The more pollinators you have the more fruit you’ll have,” said Ames.

Ames keeps a breed called Carneolians, which are winter hardy, fairly disease-resistant and “at the low end of the cranky scale.”

She has three hives, which sit at the entrance to her woods surrounded by an electric fence to keep bears away.

While Ames doesn’t have enough flowering things for the three hives full of bees to dine solely at her place, she does have good snacks for them in flowerbeds out front. Weigela bushes flank both sides of her porch.

Veronica, a perennial that Ames describes as “nice and spready,” is a favorite. “It has little purple flowers on it. It gets really bushy.”

A couple of “really old rose bushes,” adorn the garden. Ames inherited the roses after her stepmother passed away. She isn’t sure of the variety.

“I’ve got some delphiniums,” she said. “I’ve got Iris.”

Off to one side, more plants inhabit a nursery while Ames’ new house is being built in another part of Lamoine. The nursery includes peonies also inherited.

“My stepmother was a peony fanatic,” she said. “Some of the stock I have is probably 100 to 150 years old.”

Daylilies are in the nursery mix, as are hibiscus, clematis and climbing roses.

“I’ve got a bunch of broad-leaf rhododendron,” she said. There is orange quince, red quince and three varieties of crabapples as well as echinacea, which is a particular bee favorite..

Ames says honeybees will feed on one species of flower before moving onto another in a three-to-five mile radius of the hive.

Ames is an adventurous gardener but pragmatic.

“I’ll try anything once,” she said. “I don’t spend a lot of time frustrating myself with things that won’t grow.”

Ames had been gardening for years, an interest that her mother helped to instill. She had lived in Northern California for 20 years before moving to Maine in 2010.

Curiosity spurred her to sign up for a beekeeping class while she was enrolled in the University of Maine Extension Service’s Master Gardener program.

“I heard about the Master Gardener program,” she said. “I knew I needed something that would help me understand better the soil and the climate here.”

The rigorous program changed the way she gardens. Gone are sprays containing harsh chemicals and pesticides.

As her knowledge increased, her curiosity to learn only grew more. She became very interested in the role beneficial role that insects play in the garden.

“Andrew Dewey, the instructor [Master Gardener Volunteer and Master Beekeeper], made it so interesting, I couldn’t resist,” Ames said. “My technical writing background came into play — I just can’t ‘know about’ something. I have to dig into it, play with it, break it, et cetera, before I’m satisfied.”

Jennifer Osborn

Jennifer Osborn

Reporter and columnist at The Ellsworth American
News Reporter Jennifer Osborn covers news and features on the Blue Hill Peninsula and Deer Isle-Stonington. She welcomes tips and story ideas. She also writes the Gone Shopping column. Email Jennifer with your suggestions at [email protected] or call 667-2576.
Jennifer Osborn

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