Simple Things You Can Do to Help Save the Bees
You don't have to keep bees to join the fight to protect them.
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If you haven’t heard of colony collapse disorder by now, the phenomenon refers to the mysterious disappearance of honeybee colonies throughout North America.
Theories about what causes colony collapse disorder are numerous. The Varroa Mite, Israeli Acute Paralysis Virus, the gut parasite Nosema, pesticide poisoning, stress and changes in habitat top the list. But one thing is for sure: Many people are doing everything they can to save the bees.
You don’t have to keep bees to join the fight to protect them. Here are a few things you can do.
Add Bee-Friendly Plants to Your Backyard
Bees feed on the nectar and pollen found in flowers. However, some flowers are more attractive to bees than others. For instance, they prefer blue, purple, violet, white and yellow flowers. And according to the National Wildlife Federation, bees prefer native plants to invasive or exotic ones. Because tubular flowers are prohibitive for some bees because their tongues can’t reach the nectar, add flowers of different shapes and sizes to accommodate the different species of bees. Also, plant the flowers in clumps to make it easier for the bees to hover from one flower to the next. Check out our list of flowers that attract bees.
Provide Water for Bees
Many folks don’t think of bees needing water, but they do. But they can’t hover over water to drink and will drown in something like a dog bowl. Instead, provide a tray or birdbath of water with rocks in it for them to rest on.
Just about any container will work. But if you want to go all out, build your own backyard pond, fountain or water garden. Just choose one that allows water to pool up around the rocks and give the bees something to sit on while they’re sipping.
Avoid Using Pesticides in Your Yard
Maybe you just want to kill the Japanese beetles eating your roses. But the bees are exposed to the pesticide you use on the beetles, the bees will die, too.
For a healthy alternative, plant geraniums among the roses. Japanese beetles will eat the geraniums, which contain a paralyzing substance. Once rendered temporarily immobile, the beetle is susceptible to predators. Savvy backyard gardeners use companion planting to repel many other harmful pests. Marigolds, mint and lavender are a few to consider.
Build a Bee Hotel
Native bees live in the most amazing places — broken bramble canes, bamboo and small spaces in a barn. With the loss of natural habitats, many native bees are suffering. You can save the bees by providing a nesting place. Purchase a native bee house or make your own using a coffee can and tubes of rolled up paper. Different bees require tubes of different diameter, so do some research for the bees that live in your area.
Buy Local and Organic
Your dollars speak loudly. If you only buy organic produce, you’re telling food producers you don’t want bee-harmful chemicals in our ecosystem. If you buy local — particularly honey — you reduce your carbon footprint while supporting smaller beekeepers who take pride in their work.
Other small changes you can make to help the environment include composting, collecting rainwater, switching to low-flow shower heads, and many more collected here.
Become a Beekeeper
Bees provide our food by pollinating crops like fruits and vegetables. Their activity is energizing to watch, and the honey they produce is a sweet reward.
While not for the faint of heart, beekeeping is a rewarding hobby that can lead to a nice little side business if you’re interested in recouping some of your investment.
To learn more about keeping bees, contact your local extension service to see if beekeeping classes are offered in your area. In the meantime, here are some useful backyard beekeeping tips.