It may be tough to imagine during winter, but close your eyes and pretend you are at a festive gathering in the summer. The burgers and hot dogs were great, but your favorite fruit casserole was missing. Oh well…at least you’ll be able to enjoy the classic combination of apple pie á la mode.

But you won’t. There’s no apple for the pie, and there’s no vanilla for the ice cream.

This is the world without bees.

Most of the products that Hancock Seed sells don’t have much to do with the above story. We don’t specialize in fruits. But we also don’t look forward to living in a world where these wonderful products don’t exist. And it’s not just strawberries, blueberries and other sweets. A Whole Foods in Rhode Island performed an extraordinary demonstration on the impact of bees by removing all the produce that couldn’t exist without bees. They pulled 237 of 453 products from their produce section.

The economic impact of bees is just as staggering. Of the 100 most popular food plants in the United States, 71 percent are pollinated by bees. A study by Cornell University estimates that the unpaid contributions of our yellow-and-black striped benefactors is worth more than $16 billion, annually.

What can you do to help? If you have just a small yard, or even just room for a planter at your window, you can help out the local bee population by planting flowers for them to stop by gather pollen from.

If you’ve got a large piece of property, Hancock Seed has several options to help you create the ideal bee haven. If you’re a farmer in need of pollination assistance, these patches will pay off by promoting the livelihood of your free labor! Here’s a primer on promoting your local bees.

01) Identify Your Bees

Hancock offers two different products: our Bee Feed Wildflower Seed mix and our Honeybee Feed Wildflower Seed mix.

So what’s the difference? There are two different forms of colonizing bees in North America, and we’ve got a blend for both. Our Honeybee Mix is, of course, for honeybees. You may recognize the other variety by the term “bumblebee.” Bumblebees live in much smaller colonies than honeybees, and also don’t produce honey.

The difference in the blends themselves is how they appeal to their respective targets. Bumblebees actually have a much longer proboscis than their smaller cousins. This allows them to gather from much tighter blooms, whereas honeybees prefer more open flowers. This is reflected in the variety of wildflowers featured in both mixes.

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If you’re not too picky about what bees you prefer (we love both!), you should opt for the Hancock’s Bee Seed Mix, which features options optimal for both. One key feature is buckwheat, which helps honeybees produce the darkest honey, something that those raising these insects will love. On the other hand, the red clover in the mix will make for a bumblebee hotspot.

You can’t go wrong with this blend!

02) Plant Your Plot

The good news is that bags of Hancock Bee and Honeybee Feed aren’t necessarily sized for huge plots. One two-pound bag of either is best used on a plot measuring roughly 4,000 sq. feet. By comparison, if you wanted to plant an entire acre of bee plot, you would need 12 or 13 bags. Hancock’s Bee Seed Mix comes in a 10-pound bag, covering 10,000 sq. feet (at a lower price, we might add).

Autumn and Fall are the best time to plant wildflower blends of any kind. One benefit to planting early is that you might also receive an early bloom. The risk inherent to this is that an early bloom may be killed by a late Spring frost. Your best bet is to wait until the first “killing” frost of Autumn and then plant, so that your seeds will bloom at a safe point during the Spring.

03) Maintenance

We at Hancock are big fans of keeping things as old-fashioned as possible, but this time we insist upon it. If your goal is to help bees, it would actually be better to just skip planting rather than use pesticides to help these bee plots grow.

Think about it: Pesticides are meant to kill pest insects. Unfortunately, they kill beneficial insects as well. One of the major factors in declining bee population is the overuse of pesticides. Keep them away from your wildflower plots, and use them in responsible levels on your other plants.

Sometimes bees get a bad reputation because of the pain they’re willing to deal to those who get too close. If you really want to feel a sting, consider living in a world where there are no bees to help pollinate the products that go into your favorite foods. Let’s do what we can to prevent this from becoming a reality.