Char-Koosta News 

Breton Homewood

MSU Lake County Extension Office FCS Agent Breton Homewood informs folks at Elmo about the importance of honey bees.

ELMO — Honeybees, those little buzzing busy insects, are the prime link in the world’s food chain. Bees are crucial for food production, human livelihoods and biodiversity. Globally there are more honeybees than other types of bee and pollinating insects, so it is the world’s most important pollinator of food crops. Other insects as well as birds and bats are also pollinators.

“Eighty percent of all agriculture is dependent on bees,” said Family and Consumer Services Agent Breton Homewood, MSU Lake County Extension Office. “They are the centerpiece of Montana agriculture.”

Bees pollinate approximately 130 agricultural crops in the United States including fruit, fiber, nut and vegetable crops. Bee pollination adds approximately $14 billion annually to improved crop yield and quality.

Homewood passed that information on in Elmo Friday at the Tribal Health Department Center to a group of youngsters and adults. Homewood, along with Brenda Richey, Montana State University Flathead Reservation Extension Office, and THD Reason to Live After School Director Dana Hewankorn were also on hand for the educational presentation, as were about 15 inquisitive youngsters and adults.

Homewood and helper transfer the honeybees

Homewood and helper transfer the honeybees to their new home near the banks of Flathead Lake behind the Elmo Tribal Health Center.

Richey said the presentation was facilitated through the Indian Land Tenure Fund program that promotes American Indian projects related to various land uses. She said the community project was presented by the MSU Extension Offices and the THD Reason to Live.

Richey said the presentation was timely because it shines a light on the issue of food sovereignty with the backdrop of coronavirus COVID-19 revealing the vulnerability of the food supply chain.

“COVID-19 is showing us the need and importance of food sovereignty,” Richey said, adding that the Flathead Reservation community and private gardens efforts is a component of the food sovereignty effort. “This is a way of feeding our community using a science-based curriculum.”

Amy Williams, Polson School Special Services teacher, School Garden coordinator, said her students have access to garden kits to grow home gardens. “It’s a way to connect with families and helps move our curriculum into homes,” Williams said. “All of this works together to that end.”

Hewankorn said there are plans for a garden at the Elmo THD Center that will be used as an educational project for youngsters as well as interested adults to promote community and individual gardens.

Queen bee

Homewood prepares to transport the queen bee to the hives.

Homewood, originally from Florida, has had a lifelong connection with honeybees. His grandfather was a hobby bee raiser, and his father took that hobby to the commercial level.

“There is something magical and therapeutic about bees,” Homewood said, adding that Ronan resident and U.S. Marine Veteran Chuck Lewis is using bees to target Veterans with emotional issues related to their military service. “They have a very calming effect.”

Homewood said many people raise honeybees as a hobby, and a good first step is starting with two to three hives. Beyond hobby is the commercial end and it is regulated. Due to the lack of honeybees in California and elsewhere commercial bees are very important to raising crops there.

Homewood said the honeybee hives now at the Elmo THD Center should be secreting honey by next summer but with fingers crossed maybe this fall. Their long-term stability will positively aid the area gardens and flowering plants.

That stability depends on proper care that includes honeybees health.

Bees are extremely susceptible to certain mites and gut parasites, and these parasites have been steadily increasing due to warming weather conditions. Higher temperatures and more frequent heat waves as a result of climate change, are likely to exacerbate these problems in the future, which could cause colony collapse and wipe out entire hives.

There are measures that can be taken to reverse the decline of bees and other pollinators. Whether you are a land manager, a gardener, window-box owner or business, some simple actions include:

Growing more flowers, shrubs and trees that provide nectar and pollen as food for bees and other pollinators throughout the year.

Homewood moves the other bees

Once the queen bee is safely in the hive, Homewood moves the other bees into the hives.

Planting herbs and vegetables – lavender, basil, mint and tomatoes provide food for bees as well as for humans.

Providing water for bees to take back to the hive.

Avoiding disturbing or destroying nesting or hibernating insects, in places like grass margins, bare soil, hedgerows, trees, dead wood or walls.

Thinking carefully about the use of pesticides, especially where pollinators are active or nesting or where plants are in flower. Many people choose to avoid chemicals and adopt methods like physically removing pests or using barriers to deter them.

Buying locally grown, organic fruits and vegetables to support beekeepers in your area.

Fresh bee’s honey also has medicinal value. It is used in treatment of eye diseases, throat infections, bronchial asthma, tuberculosis, hiccups, thirst, dizziness, fatigue, hepatitis, worm infestation, constipation, piles, eczema, healing of wounds, ulcers and used as a nutritious, easily digestible food for weak people.

Honeybees are considered to be dangerous. A sting from a honeybee will result in a painful, raised welt. In some cases, the venom from a honeybee sting can cause a severe allergic reaction that requires immediate medical attention.

Project Partners: MSU Flathead Reservation Extension Office (FREO) Brenda Richey; MSU Lake County Extension Office - Breton Homewood, FCS Agent; and, Reason to Live Native - Dana Hewankorn, After School Director.

Honey Bee Facts


1. Honeybees must gather nectar from two million flowers to make one pound of honey.

2. One bee has to fly about 90,000 miles – three times around the globe – to make one pound of honey.

3. The average bee will make only 1/12th of a teaspoon of honey in its lifetime.

4. A honey bee visits 50 to 100 flowers during a collection trip.

5. A honey bee can fly for up to six miles, and as fast as 15 miles per hour.

6. The bee’s brain is oval in shape and about the size of a sesame seed, yet it has a remarkable capacity to learn and remember things. For example, it is able to make complex calculations on distance travelled and foraging efficiency.

7. Honey bees communicate with one another by dancing.

8. A colony of bees consists of 20,000-60,000 honey bees and one queen. Worker honey bees are female, live for about 6 weeks and do all the work.

9. The queen bee can live up to 5 years and is the only bee that lays eggs. She is the busiest in the summer months, when the hive needs to be at its maximum strength, and lays up to 2500 eggs per day.

10. Larger than the worker bees, the male honey bees (also called drones), have no stinger and do no work. All they do is mate.

11. Honey has always been highly regarded as a medicine. It is thought to help with everything from sore throats and digestive disorders to skin problems and hay fever.

12. Honey has antiseptic properties and was historically used as a dressing for wounds and a first aid treatment for burns and cuts.

13. The natural fruit sugars in honey – fructose and glucose – are quickly digested by the body. This is why sportsmen and athletes use honey to give them a natural energy boost.

14. Honey bees have been producing honey in the same way for 150 million years.

15. The honey bee is the only insect that produces food eaten by man.

16. Honey lasts an incredibly long time. An explorer who found a 2000-year-old jar of honey in an Egyptian tomb said it tasted delicious!

17. The bees’ buzz is the sound made by their wings which beat 11,400 times per minute.

18. When a bee finds a good source of nectar it flies back to the hive and shows its friends where the nectar source is by doing a dance which positions the flower in relation to the sun and hive. This is known as the ‘waggle dance.’

19. Honey’s ability to attract and retain moisture means that it has long been used as a beauty treatment. It was part of Cleopatra’s daily beauty ritual.

20. Honey is incredibly healthy and includes enzymes, vitamins, minerals. It’s the only food that contains “pinocembrin”, an antioxidant associated with improved brain functioning.

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