TWIN FALLS — Bees are amazing creatures but they have a stinging reputation that scares off many people.

Heidi and Kirk Tubbs have been trying to show bees in a different light through their annual bee day at Tubbs Berry Farm and talks to schools and other groups throughout the Magic Valley. This fall they are hoping that people who take a few moments to wander through a field of sunflowers will leave with a greater appreciation of bees.

The Tubbs, along with the Twin Falls Pest Abatement District, received the fifth annual Bayer Bee Care Community Leadership Award for bee education efforts and research into how mosquito control practices impact bee health. They used part of their award money to plant a 2- to 3-acre late season pollinator patch at Tubbs Berry Farm. A maze of sorts, really more of a meandering walk, has been cut into the patch to give visitors a chance to observe honey bees and other pollinators at work. Kirk also heads up the pest district.

One of the challenges beekeepers face in southern Idaho is a dearth of pollen during the late summer and early fall. Pollen provides vital protein and fats necessary for raising brood. Nectar provides an energy source that is turned into honey.

Kirk Tubbs planted the patch using a mix of 10 to 12 different plant species in June. In addition to several sunflower varieties, he also planted several brassicas, a winter pea, white clover and buckwheat to provide an understory of plants that he hopes will bloom once the sunflowers are finished. The mix was planted at various rates to see what works best.

He is amazed too see how much of a difference having the food plot has made to the weight of his own bee hives. But he has also been surprised to see how quickly other pollinators found the patch.

“I have never seen so many bumblebees,” he said. Leaf cutter bees and other native pollinators are also utilizing the food source.

In addition to recognizing beekeepers who are sharing their passion for pollinators and pollinator health, Bayer also is promoting an effort to plant 50 million flowers for bees.

The Tubbs hope that visitors who come to their pumpkin patch and straw bale maze this fall will take a few minutes to wander through the sunflower maze/pollinator walk as well. Admission to the sunflower maze/pollinator walk is included with the straw bale maze. The pumpkin patch and maze will open Friday.

“To me, it’s magical,” Tubbs said. “It is beautiful to see the pollinators at work. It has been my escape this summer.”

But he knows that not all people see a sunflower and think beauty. To many a sunflower is just another weed. He points out that sunflowers are actually a native species and that they provide a food source for bees, birds and humans. And if visitors are inspired to plant more flowers or let more sunflowers live, that would be a welcome sight.

In addition to the food plot this fall, the Tubbs hope to create a public screened in bee viewing area where school children and others can watch bees at work.

For the first time, Bayer also recognized a youth recipient for the Bee Care Community Leadership Award. Jake Reisdorf is 14 years old and operates nearly 100 hives of his own throughout Monterey County, Calif. He runs his own business, Carmel Honey Company, where he sells premium honey and honeycomb to speciality food stores and chefs. Through Jake Gives Back he gives speeches at schools and local organizations to educate them about honey bees.

“To me, it’s magical. It is beautiful to see the pollinators at work. It has been my escape this summer.” Kirk Tubbs, Twin Falls County Pest Abatement District
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