Helping Bees, Beyond Beekeeping
By Camilla Bee, Editor
If you’re reading this, chances are you’re interested in bees, or at least interested in food, as bees are essential for much of what we eat.
You probably want to help bees. While beekeeping is a great way to support them, it isn’t practical or possible for everyone. Here are some other tips we’ve collected on how to help our winged friends. We encourage you to share them with others so we can all best support this vital insect.
Plant! Even if you don’t have a green thumb or garden space, a few native flowers on the porch step or in a window box increase the diet diversity available to bees. Like us, they need to feed on a variety of substances.
Garden with bees in mind: Check with your local garden center (or the internet) for bee-friendly plants that will flourish in your area.
[pullquote align="right"]1 - The Sting, by Susan Brackney, Indiana Alumni Magazine, July / August 2010, page 40.[/pullquote]Try to plant large swaths of the same variety. This helps counteract the negative effects air pollution and landscape fragmentation have had on the floral scent trails that bees use to find food.1
Heirloom varieties often have more pollen and nectar than newer, hybrid varieties.
If space allows, try to have something always coming into bloom to keep honeybees making a helpful-to-you beeline to your garden.
Plant native plants—those are the ones to which your area honeybees have, through the years, become adapted to feeding on.
Don’t use chemicals: Scientists are still working to understand the links between pesticides, herbicides, and the massive health issues affecting bees. While not clearly defined, in most cases there’s definitely a link. This year, why not try going natural?
If you feel you must use a pesticide, select a product rated Category 3 by the EPA, and apply it at a time when bees aren’t out foraging.
Support your local beekeepers: Purchase honey from known sources at farmers’ markets and local stores. It’s likely much purer—and tastier—than anything available commercially.
Let the lawn “bee”: What we see as unsightly weeds—plants like dandelions and clover—bees see as a wonderful source of nutrition. Consider raising the mower blades so these plants can flourish, and consider letting areas of your lawn go wild so bees can enjoy native plants.
Learn about bees: Hornets, yellow jackets, and wasps give the non-aggressive honeybee a bad name. Learn how to tell the difference so you can deal with infestations (and fears) appropriately. Teach kids the difference so they can happily coexist with honeybees. Your local bee club likely has speakers who would love to talk about these fascinating insects at schools, garden clubs or other events. And of course, keep reading this newsletter!
Watch for swarms: Honeybees are usually quite docile during this natural event. If you see a cluster of bees, don’t kill it. Check the internet to find a local beekeeper to safely remove it. Many bee clubs maintain a list of folks who would like additional bees and take this “problem” off your hands, er—tree or fence post.