DONNA'S DAY: Learn about a bee-friendly life

While owning beehives may not be in the cards for every family, families can be bee spotters or plan a buzz-worthy garden.

Life is always abuzz in the Holmlund household. Working parents and three active kids under 11 come and go from their welcoming Santa Cruz home near Monterey Bay, California. You could almost say that with all their work, school and youth activities, they're as busy as the honeybees living on their rooftop deck.

The kids recently invited me to climb the narrow stairs leading to that third-level breezy space where they often hang out to relax and eat supper. I soon discovered that they share it with over 50,000 hardworking honeybees who live in two basic kid-painted beehives tucked in the corner. Despite the numbers, it's not crowded, and there is no need to shoo the bees away.

They come and go, doing their pollinating thing, while the Holmlunds peacefully co-exist with buzzing friends. "Who knew the bees would become our new family pets," says 42-year-old mom Alison.

When they packed for a fall trek to Lake Tahoe, 6-year-old Eva asked if she could take some of the bees with them.

"I had to tell her that they have to stay home with the queen bee," said Alison.

Like any pet, they require care, so the kids pitched in to help by making sure the jars of sugar water were refilled while the bees were getting established in their new home.

And when family friend and beekeeper James Young, who inspired and set up the project, comes by, he recruits a kid or two to don veiled bee gear and calm the bees by applying smoke to their hives while James checks in on the health of their hives and the honey production.

"It has been a great experience," says Alison. "Little bits of learning become part of our everyday, like being quiet and calm around the hives. We've also learned how every bee plays a role in their extraordinary community life."

Your family might not be into establishing beehives yet, but there are many ways you can learn about these fascinating insects and their impact on our ecosystem and the food we eat.

— Be bee spotters: When out for a family walk, watch honeybees visit flowers. Be still and quiet as you observe.

—Plan a buzz-worthy garden: Research pollinator-friendly plants and flowers you can grow where you live or in a community garden.

Check out planting tips and guidelines at pollinator.org and in the book, "Pollinator Friendly Gardening: Gardening for Bees, Butterflies, and other Pollinators" by Rhonda Fleming Hayes (Voyageur Press, 2015).

— Be an advocate for bees and other pollinators.

Donna Erickson’s award-winning series “Donna’s Day” is airing on public television nationwide. To find more of her creative family recipes and activities, visit www.donnasday.com. © 2020 Donna Erickson Distributed by King Features Synd.

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