Honey Bee Highways

This is how Canadians set out baskets of flowers along the road for bees.

This is how Canadians set out baskets of flowers for bees.

Norway – the 2nd most liveable country in the world* – has yet another feather in its woolly cap. Or super on its hive, if you will. The Norwegians have a Honey Bee Highway.  That’s a trail of flower pots brimming with bee-friendly plants. (As opposed to bee-unfriendly plants like venus flytraps.) But no highway is ever perfectly paved, so there is a website which Oslo residents may visit to learn where the gaps in the beeway are. (The site is hosted by little Polli Pollinator, a nondescript creature who introduces herself with: “Hei! Jeg er Polli Pollinator!“)   The idea of the bee highway is to provide bees with natural pollen at stations located no more than 250 meters apart.

Very well, then. Norway’s honey bee highway is strewn with stuff that Polli is expected to love. The Oslo Garden Society apparently felt that roving bands of peripatetic wild bees might feel hungry and distressed in Norway’s capital. Members of the garden club have been setting out pots of blooming nourishment at helpful intervals to prevent starvation as the bees maraud the city. (I wonder, is anyone doing the same thing for the hungry visiting reindeer?)  Polli the Bee is not only demanding free food, but is also asking for overnight accommodation and insect hotels and hostels (overnattingssteder humlekasser og insekthotell). Polli is what many of us would call an aggressive bee.

I like the interactive map that the friends of Polli the Pollinator have placed on the internet, and I hope you will check it out. It looks perfect for wild bees with internet access. Sitting around the hive on date night, wondering where to eat, wild bees might pull up this web page and discover that a lovely box of flowers is waiting on the northwest edge of the city. There are no Yelp!-like reviews, but the pictures are worth a thousand raves. Here is a pollinatorpassasjen map with flower spots and a sample menu:

Oslo flowers

I don’t know about you, but I doubt the wild bees will get very excited about a dried floral arrangement. But the Oslo garden club deserves credit for thinking of the bees and developing the program and its accompanying website. However, I’m not sure that their method will be as successful as the one that Josephine and Earl Emde used in northern Saskatchewan – a cold, far north place in Canada that’s not remarkably different from Norway.

The Emdes were elderly friends of mine back in the ’80s. They ran 500 hives of bees near Big River, a town that started where the paved road ended in those days (it’s surfaced now). Josephine drove their big 3-ton flatbed while Earl sat on the back, legs dangling over the edge, seed sower on his lap. He spun the crank and sweet clover seeds shot out alongside the highway while Jo slowly drove in the predawn darkness. They probably planted a million flowers which then re-seeded themselves and still add to Saskatchewan’s scenery. I’m sure descendants of those first biennials continue to delight bees thirty years later. If you are going to make a “honey bee highway” then use a real highway and for goodness sake, use flowers that bees actually like to visit.

Roadside sweet clover - the sort Jo and Earl Emde planted.

Roadside sweet clover – the sort of bee-friendly plant Jo and Earl Emde once let loose in northern Saskatchewan.

*Norway is number two.  Stories about the most liveable country in the world can be seen here.

About Ron Miksha

Ron Miksha is a bee ecologist working at the University of Calgary. He is also a geophysicist and does a bit of science writing and blogging. Ron has worked as a radio broadcaster, a beekeeper, and Earth scientist. (Ask him about seismic waves.) He's based in Calgary, Alberta, Canada.
This entry was posted in Culture, or lack thereof, Ecology, Friends, Honey Plants, Humour, Save the Bees and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Honey Bee Highways

  1. safifer says:

    Reblogged this on A single serving and commented:

    I’ve been having a “bee binge” today–a look into my hive (which appears to be thriving) yesterday had an effect somewhat like the arrival of seed catalogs in winter–got me thinking about next summer, which engendered a search about producing comb honey. While I was searching, I found this post. It’s just too good not to pass on.


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