10 Things You Can Do to Help Bees
Bees are in trouble, and it is mostly because of us. We have destroyed much of their natural habitat, we have poisoned their food and in the case of honeybees, we have used and abused them for our own purposes while not giving enough attention to their needs and welfare.
It doesn't have to be like this. Some beekeepers have realized that, if bees are to become healthy enough to develop resistance to disease and the ability to adapt to pests, then they have to be treated differently – and not just by beekeepers.
Here are some things you can do to help the bees:
1. Stop Using Insecticides Especially for 'cosmetic' gardening. There are better ways of dealing with pests - especially biological controls. Modern pesticides are extremely powerful and many are long-lasting and very toxic to bees and other insects. Removing all unnecessary pesticides from the environment is probably the single most important thing we can do to help save the bees.
2. Avoid Seeds Coated With Systemic Insecticides
Beware – many farm seeds are now coated with Clotiandidin and other related Neonicotinoids which cause the entire plant to become toxic to bees and all other insects that may feed on it. The same coatings may soon appear on garden seeds. Check your seed packets carefully – and if in doubt, ask the manufacturer for full information.
3. Read The Labels On Garden Compost ~ Beware of Hidden Killers!
Some garden and potting composts on sale contain Imidacloprid - a deadly insecticide manufactured by Bayer. It is often disguised as 'vine weevil protection' or similar, but it is highly toxic to all insects and all soil life, including beneficial earthworms. The insecticide is taken up by plants, and if you use this compost in hanging baskets, bees seeking water from the moist compost may be killed.
4. Create Your Own Bee-Friendly Zone
If you have space in your garden, let some of it go wild to create a safe haven for bees and other insects and small mammals. You can buy wildflower seeds which can be sown in any spare patch of ground - even on waste ground that is not being cultivated. Leave some weeds if you can, especially dandelions. Dandelions are probably the most beneficial flower for bees in the early spring. Create a safe haven by planting bee-friendly flowers, herbs, shrubs and native plants that are pesticide free – you can create a bee-friendly zone as small as a window box or as big as a whole neighborhood.
5. Provide a Clean Water Source
Like most living things, bees need water. Shallow, calm sources tend to work best. Add a birdbath, fountain or small pond to your property, and enjoy the opportunity to watch wildlife in action while at the same time beautifying your landscape.
6. Make a Wild Bee House
Providing a simple box as a place for feral bees to set up home is one step short of taking up beekeeping, but may appeal to those who want to have bees around but don't want to get involved with looking after them. Also, build homes for native bees, such as mason and bumble bees. Ideas and plans for these bee boxes and homes can be found online. *Check that the wood you use has not been treated with chemicals.
7. Provide a Site For Beehives
If you have some space to spare, you could offer a corner of your garden to a local beekeeper as a place to keep a hive or two. They will need to have regular access, so bear this in mind when considering a site.
8. Support Your Local Beekeepers
Many people believe that local honey can help to reduce the effects of hay fever and similar allergies, which is one good reason to buy honey from a local beekeeper rather than from supermarkets, most of which source honey from thousands of miles away and may contain additives. If you can, find a beekeeper who does not use any chemicals in their hives and ask for pure comb honey for a real treat.
9. Protect Swarms
Swarming is a natural process when colonies of honeybees can increase their numbers. If you see a swarm, contact the local authority who will contact a local beekeeper who will collect the swarm and take it away. Honeybees in a swarm are usually very gentle and present very little danger. They can be made aggressive if disturbed or sprayed with water. Just leave them alone and wait for a competent beekeeper to arrive or for them to move on.
10. Learn About Bees - and Tell Others
Bees are fascinating creatures that relatively few people take the trouble to understand and may fear. Read a good book about bees and beekeeping, and who knows - you might decide to become a beekeeper!
Phil Chandler is author of The Barefoot Beekeeper and has a busy discussion forum for natural beekeeping on his web site at www.biobees.com