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Willow Creek Bees is bee-ing cautious for their pollinators during the drought

Male Drone Bee
Posted at 6:00 AM, Jun 26, 2023

MASON, Mich. — The lack of rain is the buzz around mid-Michigan, but the buzz in Leslie at Willow Creek Bees is how the drought is affecting pollinators.

Chad Shirey, the owner of Willow Creek Bees, started beekeeping in 2016. Since then, he has become a Michigan State University certified pollinator and sells his unfiltered, raw honey at retailers such as Fresh Thyme and the Capital City Market.

In each bee box lives 20,000-30,000 bee's, which have struggled to find nectar after wildflowers died due to the drought.

"Everything is kind of drying up. The trees are done blooming for the most part. We got a little bit of this scrag weed or thistle that is kind of starting to get ready to bloom, so hopefully, we get a little bit of rain to help that along," said Shirey.

The lack of nectar also presents an issue for local farmers that rely on neighborhood bees to help pollinate their crops.

"The plant produces the nectar, and the bees want the necta,r and a byproduct is they get the pollen all over their body, and they go to the next flower, and that's how they pollinate, but their reward is that nectar, so if it's not producing any nectar, than they're not going to visit that flower," said Shirey.

Pollen works as a nutrient for the bug as well, keeping drones and honey bees alike well nourished.

"It's a very important protein for the bug. Just like we need protein, and they do too, that's where they get their protein from, and the nectar's a carbohydrate," said Shirey.

Shirey says his bee boxes are half the height they should be filled with honey, and though it is enough to maintain them, it isn't enough to produce excess honey. The leftover honey is what ends up on grocery store shelves and in the stomachs of consumers.

Chad Shirey and Hannah McIlree checking for propolis
Chad Shirey and Hannah McIlree checking bee boxes for propolis

Residents can help local bee farmers by planting drought-resistant flowers and plants. Farmers can also dedicate a 5-foot strip of land to wildflowers to bring in bumble and honey bees.

"There's a lot of flowers that are good for like drought that we've got going on right now, lavender and cat mint. The bees love cat mint," said Shirey.

You can contact Willow Creek Bees or buy their honey at their website Willow Creek Bees LLC

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Mason, Leslie

Neighborhood Reporter

Hannah McIlree