How Gardeners Can Help Save the Bees

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Are bees going the way of the dodo? We certainly hope not. Humans are having a massive impact on the planet, and the animals with whom we share an environment are suffering for it. Bees are disappearing in droves, but what can we do about it? Fortunately, there are ways home gardeners can help protect bees.

What is Colony Collapse Disorder?

Due to climate change, pesticide usage, and habitat loss, bees are disappearing all over the world, which has been termed Colony Collapse Disorder. A single bee colony can house roughly 60,000 bees, but it’s now estimated that over 30% of all honeybee colonies across the United States have vanished.

What can bee done?

Part of the responsibility of protecting the world’s bees falls on gardeners and farmers. Whether you’re handling a 100-acre piece of agricultural land or you are taking care of a small garden in your backyard, you can help save the bees by implementing some of these important tips:

Limit the use of insecticides — You should avoid using pesticides, herbicides, and other noxious chemicals on your lawn, since they are toxic to bees. Additionally, these chemicals can kill your plants over time. Even “biodegradable” pesticides can hurt both bees and humans, so use natural pesticides like ladybugs and garlic, instead.

Lavender is a bee favorite. Image credit Martin Deane, CC BY-SA 3.0.

Select plants that bees enjoy — Bees pollinate all sorts of plants and can visit up to 15,000 flowers in a day’s time. There are a few plants that bees truly love, including native wildflowers, lavender, rosemary, sunflowers, coneflowers, and daisies.

Bees get thirsty too! Image credit Pam Link, CC BY-SA 3.0.

Have a water source — Bees need water to survive, so help them out by creating a shallow water source from which they can easily drink. Simply fill a flat container with water and include some twigs and pebbles so the bees can rest while they hydrate.

Bee houses like this are one way to provide shelter for bees. Image credit Joccay, CC BY-SA 3.0.

Provide shelter — Bees only sting when they feel like they are in danger, so building a habitat for them and keeping them comfortable will likely prevent bee stings.

Dandelions may look like weeds to you, but they are a welcome sight to bees. Image credit Rachael Bonoan, CC BY-SA 3.0.

Don’t get rid of weeds right away — The sight of weeds in your garden might look untidy to you and drive you nuts, but don’t cut them down right away. Weeds are actually quite attractive to bees.

Feed them — Ever see a tired bee too exhausted to fly? You can give them their buzz back by leaving out a small dish containing a solution made of two tablespoons of granulated sugar and one teaspoon of water.

Whether you’re an experienced gardener or just a homeowner with a yard, you can do your part to keep your local bees alive.


Featured image: a honeybee on a flower. Image credit Cory Barnes, CC BY-SA 3.0.

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About Author

Greg Long of GloryBee has nearly completed his three-year journey to becoming a Master Beekeeper. He’s currently enrolled in Master Beekeeping apprentice classes through the Oregon State Master Beekeepers’ Program. With the help of his mentor, Greg has honed his beekeeping skills and raised a hive of healthy, happy bees. Click to see author's profile.

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