Over the last six months or so, it has been in the news several times about bees dying off by the millions. Some cases are from colony collapse disorder, and some are directly linked to pesticide use. You might feel helpless to do anything, but don’t! You can help!
Not just honeybees are at risk. Wild species are, as well. They are both vital parts of the global ecosystem. They pollinate plants that produce food for humans and wildlife, and they keep non-food plant species from dying off. All plants play an important part in the earth’s life. Bees are responsible for pollinating 1/3 of the US food supply. Without them, our food sources would disappear and so would we.
Pollen is not the only thing bees want from a plant, though. They get more food in the form of nectar for themselves than they get pollen for us. Wildflowers are crucial to their survival. Wild, natural acreage is important, but pastures are being plowed under for high-value crops, such as corn and soybeans. The monoculture of industrial farming is detrimental to the food supply.
These huge expanses of conventionally grown crops sprayed with pesticides are also killing off the bees. Pesticides weaken their immune systems, so when they are attacked with disease or mite infestations, they don’t have the strength to fight them off. A recent study showed that there were up to 21 different kinds of pesticides in collected pollen, and some of that was at a higher concentration than allowed by law. That means farmers are applying pesticides at greater strengths than they are supposed to.
Pesticides also change bee behavior. They walk more and fly less, they have severe problems with their digestive systems, and the way they communicate with other bees about food sources is being disrupted.
What You Can Do to Help
What can you do? There are a few things.
First, garden organically. I shouldn’t even have to say that. The negative impact of pesticides is obvious, and the ramifications down the road are serious. Do not use pesticides in your yard!
Put a hive in your yard. You might have to check with your zoning or neighborhood covenants to see if it’s allowed (amazes and angers me that some place will not let you do this!). A friend of mine has a couple of hives, and she is now concerned that her neighbors are not growing organically and that her bees are eating toxic nectar. Educate your neighbors about the importance of growing organically!
Buy local honey. By keeping small apiaries alive, you contribute to your local economy. You are also not buying honey that was created from a pesticide laden monoculture field.
Finally, create habitat. Provide pollen and nectar with a large wildflower area in your yard. Use native plants, and plant each species in a three-foot square block. This way, bees can forage and collect lots of pollen and nectar in a concentrated area expending little energy, instead of darting around to scattered plants.
Provide water with a birdbath or pond. They also like puddles. Provide shelter for wild bees to bear young. It should be out of the elements.
You don’t need a lot of space. A container or window box with some native flowers in it and access to a little fresh water will help. Please do your share! It’s your own food source you are protecting!