Bees are a pretty big topic right now with the declining populations and the U.S. listing a bumblebee species on the endangered list for the first time. It is important now more than ever to try to save these pollinators especially when the U.S. might eliminate the Endangered Species Act of 1973.
More than $15 billion worth of food is pollinated by bees in the U.S. every year. That’s a lot of food! As bee populations go down, the amount of food production also goes down. This means higher prices for the consumer. Things like pesticides, loss of habitat, and more contribute to the decline of bee populations. Luckily, there are 5 easy ways we can help bee populations at our own homes!
1. Plant Native Plants
Bee populations are not only important to us for food production, but to many native species that rely on them for pollinations. Bee populations have adapted to collecting nectar from local flowers. Even though they will collect nectar from non-native plants, there’s not enough of these plants to make up for what they could have in the native area.
Here is a great resource to find out what native plants you should plant based on your area. This site has great information on native plants for the U.S., Great Britain, Canada, Mexico, and more!
If you are planting a garden this spring, consider planting some of these herbs, fruits, and veggies to help the bees.
Herbs: borage, chives, lavender, comfrey, sage, thyme, oregano, mint, parsley, dill, rosemary
Fruit: melons, tomatoes, blackberries, raspberries, strawberries, blueberries
Vegetables: kale, onions, carrots, peas, pumpkins, peppers, squashes
Many of these plants can be grown in containers so if you don’t have room for a garden you can still grow these in small spaces.
2. Bee Hotels
Bee hotels are resting and nesting boxes for solitary bees. Solitary bees, such as mason and leafcutter bees, are bees that make individual nest cells for their larvae. They will make their homes in hollow holes that were made by beetles and other animals.
Making a bee hotel is pretty easy and there are many ways you can do it. The important thing to know is that they require maintenance and can attract pests if not properly taken care of. Birds, such as woodpeckers, can damage bee hotels and need to be watched as well.
Bee hotels can create a safe place for bees but if not taken care of properly it can hurt or kill the bees that try to live in them. To learn more about bee hotels and how to make and maintain them, check out this article here!
You can also make safe watering holes for bees. This is as simple as taking an old bird bath, adding rocks or marbles, and then keeping it filled with water. This creates a safe environment for the bees to get water without drowning.
3. Start your own beehive (or Sponsor one!)
Even in urban environments, you can start beehives. This will give you access to your own honey and beeswax as well as providing a home for honeybees. If you are interested in starting your own beehive, contact your local beekeeping club and they can help you get started.
Don’t want to start a beehive? Consider sponsoring one! The Honeybee Conservancy distributes bee houses to start local beehives. This helps increase bee populations, increase food productions, provides educational experiences, and more. To learn more check out 5 Reasons to Sponsor-A-Hive or go here to donate!
4. Don’t Use Pesticides
Pesticides are contributing to the decline of bee populations. Neonicotinoids are the most well known for harming bee populations. If you are wanting to grow organic food, avoiding pesticides should be a given. When planning your garden or maintaining your lawn, look for natural pesticides and other alternatives.
5. Support Local Beekeepers
Supporting local business supports your community, and in this case, it supports the bees too! Buying locally made honey and other bee products help maintain local populations. You also have the ability to talk with and learn from local beekeepers and find more ways you can help.
There are many ways, big and small, we can all help the bees. What will you be doing this spring?
–Why We Need Bees: Nature’s Tiny Workers Put Food on Our Tables
–Herb Planting For Bees
–More Bee Friendly Plants: Fruit And Vegetables
–The Honeybee Conservancy
–Bee Basics An Introduction to Our Native Bees