Planting seeds for bees
By Thea Vierling, Kenwood beekeeper
Winter is the most difficult time of year for many animals, including bees. Birds are searching for seeds, hummingbirds for nectar, raccoons and skunks are digging for worms and insect larvae, and honeybees need to find nectar and pollen. Normally when we think of beekeepers, we think of the various chores that go into beekeeping: looking at the population, evaluating the health of the hive, checking on their queen status, checking their food supply (honey and pollen), collecting honey for bottling, making candles, and generally ensuring that their hives will make it through the winter.
Our local animal populations have been hit hard with the drought and the fires, but there is still so much we can do to help them and, at the same time, save the honeybees and other pollinators. Many of you may have forgotten why pollinators are so important to our world. Without them the flowers would not be pollinated, and without pollinated flowers we would have no seeds. Without seeds, we would have no plants next year. When we plant seeds in the spring, we create a “grocery store” for all kinds of animals.
A few weeks ago, the Sonoma County Winegrowers trade group, with the generosity of GROW WEST, offered free wildflower seeds to the public as part of the holiday season effort to honor Saralee McClelland Kunde, a legendary area grape grower. She was instrumental in building up the region’s agricultural sector and was also responsible for starting the Sonoma County Farms Trails Map. If there is one regret that I have, it’s that I never got to know Saralee Kunde very well. She helped me with a project I worked on in 1990. Without her help I never would have gotten the Sonoma Wine Country puzzle off the ground. She is one of my heroines. I remember seeing the daffodils along the freeway and saying out loud, “Thank you, Saralee. We love you.” The name of the wildflower seed program was “Sip and Seed,” which directed you to your local participating winery (Kunde Winery for Kenwood) to pick up the seeds and sip a little wine. When I saw this in our local Kenwood Press, I immediately called my beekeeper friends from Kenwood and said, “Let’s support the program and sip and seed together.” Andrew Ewing, the tasting room manager, arranged everything for us. Given COVID restrictions, we had to mask up, social distance, and limit the size of our group, but he helped in every way possible to make it fun. Our local photographer friend, Bill Stacy, took some pictures and we all had a great time.
When spring arrives, we will see all the honeybees, butterflies, and hummingbirds giving thanks to the local beekeepers for planting seeds. I am going to whisper to all those pollinators to thank Saralee Kunde and Kunde Winery for giving us seeds to plant for our starving animal population. If you see wildflowers, say thanks to them, too.