10 Things You Can Do to Help Bees
- Plant bee friendly flowers and flowering herbs in your garden and yard.
Bees are losing habitat all around the world due to intensive monoculture based farming practices, pristine green (but flower-barren) sprawling suburban lawns and from the distraction of native landscapes. Just planting flowers in your garden, yard or in a planter will help provide bees with forage. Avoid chemically treating your flowers, as chemicals can Leach into pollen and negatively affect the bees systems. Plant plenty of the same type of bloom together, bees like volume of forage (a sq. yard is a good estimate).Here are a few examples of good plant varieties: Spring – lilacs, penstemon, lavender, sage, verbena and wisteria. Summer – mint, cosmos, squash, tomatoes, pumpkins, sunflowers, oregano, rosemary, poppies, black-eyed susans, passionflower vine, and honey suckle. Fall – fuchsia, mint, bush sunflower, sage, Verbena, and toadflax.
- Weeds can be a good thing.
Contrary to popular belief, a lawn full of clover and dandelions is not just a good thing – it’s a great thing! A haven for honeybees (and other native pollinators too). Don’t be so nervous about letting your lawn live a little. Wildflowers, many of which we might classify as weeds, are some of the most important food sources for native North American bees. If some of these are weeds you chose to get rid of (say you want to pull out that blackberry bush that’s taking over), let it bloom first for the bees and then before it goes to seed, pull it out or trim it back!
- Don’t use chemicals and pesticides to treat your lawn and garden.
Yes, they make your lawn look pristine and pretty, but they’re actually doing the opposite to the life in your biosphere. The chemicals and pest treatments you put on the lawn and garden can cause damage to the honeybees systems. These treatments are specially damaging if applied while the flowers are in bloom as they will get into the pollen and nectar and be taken back to the beehive where they also get into the honey – which in turn means they can get into us. Pesticides, specifically neonicotinoid varieties have been one of the major culprits in Colony Collapse Disorder.
- Buy local raw honey.
Strive to buy local, raw honey that is from hives that are not treated by chemicals. If it’s untreated the label will say, as this is an important selling point. We recommend meeting your local beekeepers at the farmers market. Say hello, have a conversation with them, find out what they are doing to their hives, and how they are keeping their bees. If their thoughtful, respectful beekeepers who treat their bees in a sustainable, natural way, then support them!
- Bees are thirsty.
Put a small basin of fresh water outside your home. You may not have known this one – but it’s easy and it’s true! If you have a lot of bees starting to come to your new garden of native plants, wildflowers and flowering herbs, put a little water basin out (a bird bath with some stones in it for them to crawl on does a nice trick). They will appreciate it!
- Buy local, organic food from a farmer that you know.
What’s true for honey generally holds true for the rest of our food. Buying local means eating seasonally as well, And buying local from a farmer that you know means you know if that food is coming from a monoculture or not. This is much easier in the summer when you get your fresh produce from a local farmers market. Another option is to get your food from a local CSA (community supported agriculture) farm. Keep in mind, USDA Organic Certification can be expensive and you may find many great farmers and beekeepers with excellent food and honey that isn’t USDA certified simply because they don’t produce a high quantity or opt for the expense of the certification. Don’t let this get in the way of supporting them and if you’re worried about their products – have a conversation with them. (ED. Note – a huge challenge for beekeepers is to keep their bees in an area where there is no chemical spray within 3 miles, as this is really what is required to guarantee truly organic honey. All the more reason for us all to avoid the use of harsh chemicals.)
- Learn how to be a beekeeper with sustainable practices.
Look up a local bee association that offers classes with natural approaches in your community and link up.
- Understand that honey bees aren’t out to get you.
Honeybees are vegetarians. They want to forage pollen and nectar from flowers up to three miles from their home and bring that food back to provide food for themselves and the beehive. Contrary to what the media might have us believe, they are not out to sting us. Here are a few tips to avoid getting stung: (1) Stay calm stay still if a bee is around you or lands on you. Many of the bees will land on you and sniff you out. They can smell the pheromones that come with fear and anger, it can be a trigger for them to sting you. (2) Don’t stand in front of a hive opening, or a pathway to a concentration of flowers. Bees are busy running back-and-forth from the hive, and if you don’t get in their way, they won’t be in yours. (3) Learn to differentiate between honey bees and wasps. Honey bees die after they sting humans (but not after they sting other bees!), wasps do not. Wasps are carnivores, so they like your lunch-meat and soda.
- Share solutions with others in your community.
There are so many fun ways to help and be a voice for the bees. Share about the importance of bees at local community meetings, at conferences, in schools, universities, and on-line message boards and forums.
- Let Congress know what you think.
Change has to happen from top-down as well as from the bottom-up.