Did you know the coffee we drink each morning and the trail mix bar we snack on in the afternoon are reliant upon bees? In fact, according to the National Resources Defense Council (NRDC,) one out of every three mouthfuls of food in the American diet is, in some way, a product of honeybee pollination. We need the bees.
The conundrum is our pollinating friends are contending with Colony Collapse Disorder and record rates of death. When bees are in trouble and declining in number, our food supply is in peril. If we don’t have enough bees to pollinate, it will not only irreparably damage our eco-system, it will severely impact our pocket books with sky-rocketing food costs.
Factors affecting the bee population like global-warming, parasites and industrial agriculture, are aspects we do not have full direct control over. We need the bees and the bees need us. There are ways we can immediately have a positive impact, though, starting in our own backyards!
Sow Plants That Attract Bees
As bees are closely tied to their environment, native wildflowers are the first sure bet to attract our world’s most important pollinator to your garden. Bees tend to prefer single petal flowers with yellow or purple hues, but if you plant the right selection, those little buzzers will come around. To add a little gold dust to your garden, try planting any of these tried-and-true bee magnets:
Ainnia, Alyssum, Aster, Basil, Bee Balm, California Poppy, Daisy, English Lavender, Goldenrod, Huckleberry, Purple Coneflower, Queen Anne\’s Lace, Rhododendron, Rosemary, Sage, Sunflower, Wild Lilac, Zinnia
Keep Your Garden Pesticide Free
Pesticides (used to eliminate insects) and herbicides (used to eliminate weeds) are harmful and often lethal to bees. There are plenty of safe, organic alternatives available to home gardeners for combatting pesky bugs. Pulling weeds by hand, eliminating with tried-and-true remedies like pouring boiling hot water on them, or using a weed-wacker are better solutions for dealing with weeds.
Also, be sure to purchase pesticide-free plants. Many commercially sold plants are treated with pesticides prior to sale. Check with your retailer to ensure you are purchasing pesticide-free plants. The Beyond Pesticides organization (beyondpesticides.org) offers a directory of pollinator-friendly seeds and nurseries to help you make informed decisions.
Let Your Lawn Grow
In America, we take great pride in our lush, green lawns. They are certainly aesthetically pleasing and ideal for our family’s enjoyment. Unfortunately, applying treatments to our lawns and keeping them closely cropped creates a hostile environment for bees.
To offer the bees a safe haven, it’s better to let your lawn grow a longer and allow the clover and dandelions to thrive. If you can’t bear to allow your entire lawn to be a bit unkempt, try dedicating a portion of it.
Create a Bee Paradise
If you want to take your efforts a step further, set up a bee shelter on your property to provide a happy home for visitors. There are many prefab kits available for bee houses and bee nests that are inexpensive and quick and easy to assemble. Simply set them up and let the bees do the rest.
Once the bees have settled in their home, be sure to leave them alone and do not disturb the nest. If bees sense an area has become unsafe, they will abandon it.
In addition to the bee house, be sure your property has a source of water for bees. A birdbath in your garden or a small pond or stream will suffice. Place some pollinator-friendly plants near your water source to enhance the environment and create an even more desirable habitat.
Express Your Concerns in Writing
A simple and effective step you can take in aiding the ‘save the bees’ movement is to write a letter of concern and a call for action to your elected officials. Make it clear to them, we need the bees and we expect their help in saving the bees. Never underestimate the power of your voice.
Let them know how important this issue is to you and that you want their support in passing laws restricting and/or eliminating the use of harmful pesticides. You can find the contact information for your federal, state and local leaders at www.usa.gov/elected-officials
Share and Encourage Other to Join In Helping the Bees!
— Rural Mom (@ruralmoms) October 20, 2016