We need to change our thinking from defense to offense, as our honey bee and other pollinators population continue to decline to alarmingly low numbers. Without our bees and pollinators, we wouldn’t have most of the food we eat. In fact, one bite of every three we take was dependent on a bee for pollination.
What’s causing the bee decline?
- Mites vectoring multiple viruses and other diseases in bee hives.
- Lack of nutrition with a limited supply of good pollen and nectar sources
- Lack of natural habitat reason etc
- Extreme weather conditions
- Improper management of bee hives, lack of bee hives/beekeepers, bee genetics
- Exposure to insecticides due mostly due to human error and lack of responsibility ( Not reading and following labels, etc.)
Bottom line: The bee decline is a very complicated situation and does not have major reason; its several reasons.
What can you do to help?
Although backyard gardeners can’t do anything about the mites, viruses, diseases and many of the other factors causing bee decline, we can do more to help increase honey bees, native bees, and other pollinators within our gardens by becoming Bee Bed and Breakfasts.
- Garden for Bees
- Provide a source of water.
- Plant nectar-rich plants in your garden
- Create bee areas that are in full sun and protected from the wind -Plan for your garden to flower at all times for the bees
- Allow field edges to grow ‘wild.’ Many weeds are an excellent source of nectar and pollen especially dandelions and clovers. Let them flower for the bees to use, then pull or get rid of the weeds.
- Plant both native and nonnative nectar and pollen sources.
What are some Bee Friendly Plants?
Flowers with a variety of colors will attract a diverse variety of bees. Shades of blue, purple, violet, white and yellow are best.
Bee favorites include lavender, milkweed, daisies, coreopsis, Crocus, Alliums, chives, catmint, salvia, sage, gayfeather, Penstemon digitalis, sedum, goldenrod, lambs ears, thyme, zinnias, etc. Flowering shrubs, perennials, annuals, vegetables, and herbs are excellent sources of nectar and pollen.
Trees and shrubs include crab apples, edible peaches, apples, hawthorn, flowering cherry, spirea, butterfly plant, caryopteris, etc.)
Buy Local Honey
Help support your local beekeepers by purchasing locally produced honey and other honey related products. The honey is often fresher and will contain vitamins and minerals that some commercially produced honey may lack.
If a swarm of honeybees happens to visit your yard and garden, don’t panic! They’re usually not aggressive. Give them time to move on, or call your local Extension office or Police to get phone numbers for local beekeepers that will gladly come and remove the hive safely and transport it elsewhere. You can often find people on swarm lists for your county online as well.
Reduce the Use of Insecticides
- When needed, use them wisely, practice Integrated Pest (Pollinator) Management (IPM)
- If you must spray, use targeted pesticides that won’t affect bees, spray when the bees are least active (at dusk – on hot days, bees can be active at night), and when the wind is not blowing
- Don’t spray when crops are in flower.
- Don’t spray flowering plants that attract the bees
- Treat only plants that are being badly eaten.
- Use integrated pest (pollinator) management methods (mechanical and cultural ways to control pests as well as chemical, such as hosing off bad bugs, knocking them off into a bucket of soapy water, using grow covers, hand picking, etc.)
- Apply Insecticidal Soap or Horticultural Oil before getting out the stronger insecticides. Note: Insecticides will vary in their effect on bees. Dust and wettable powders are more hazardous to bees than solutions, granular, or emulsifiable concentrates. Systemics are a safer way to control many harmful pests without sprays, but ‘may’ contaminate nectar or pollen, so apply when plants are not in flower. Read the label and always follow the directions. Many insecticides, like Sevin or Spinosad (an organic spray), may be very low in toxicity to humans and pets, yet are extremely toxic to bees. Remember that bees forage 3+ square miles, and it is not just insecticides that may affect bees – fungicides, defoliants, desiccants, miticides, or combinations of these could as well! READ and FOLLOW THE LABEL.
Install Bee Nesting Boxes
Install boxes and allow space along the edge of your garden to encourage the native bee populations. The solitary bee species that nest in boxes, hollow stems and ground won’t swarm and don’t sting. These are excellent pollinators and are already in your yards and gardens. By installing their nesting boxes, you help increase their populations. 250 Mason (orchard) bees can pollinate 1 acre of an orchard!
Learn More About Bees
Take the time to learn more about not only honey bees, but our native bees as well. Educate the kids about the importance of the bees, and how to watch for and avoid bees. (Only female honey bees can sting, and it is truly is used as a defense mechanism only.)
Check with local Extension and local beekeeper associations for classes and workshops about beekeeping. You don’t have to become a beekeeper just to learn about them!
Let’s all do our part to invite and allow honey bees and native bees to do their jobs in our gardens. Can you imagine what the world would ‘bee’ like without our pollinators? Special thanks to ‘Barbee’ Bloetscher / ODA State Apiarist for additional bee information.
Great Bee Friendly Resources: