Did you know that bees are vital to our food supply chain? Their pollination role in the fruits and vegetables we eat is just as important as the role they play in providing food for the animal protein we consume. And of course, they have a crucial involvement in the production of other household items like honey and wax.
Honey bees are responsible for pollinating about 400 different agricultural types of plants, in addition to one sixth of flowering plant species around the globe. These hardworking insects help product about $19 billion worth of crops annually, about one third of what we eat.
You’ve likely heard stories about bees disappearing at an alarming rate, in part due to pesticides, parasites, disease, and habitat loss. The effect of species reduction would have a dramatic and devastating impact on our lives, here are some things you can do to help the honey bee as compiled from beekeepers, conservationists, and educators.
1. Plant bee-friendly flowers, herbs, and trees.
Many factors have led to the destruction of the honey bee’s habitat. Planting chemically untreated flowers in your garden can help bees find a place to forage. Check with local greenhouses in your area to find plants that have not been pre-treated with neonicotinoid chemicals.
Bees love volume, so plant many of the same species of blooming plants together in groups. Find species native to your area so they are sure to bloom longer, retain water more efficiently, and be an overall benefit to your environment.
2. Learn about weeds
Although it may not be aesthetically pleasing, a yard covered in clover and dandelion is a great thing for your local bee population. Dandelions are among the first plants to bloom in the spring, giving honey bees early access to pollen and nectar.
3. Buy local, raw honey
Not only can local, raw honey benefit your health, it also supports local beekeepers, your local economy, and farmers who also play a vital role in the health of honey bees. In fact, store-bought honey sometimes isn’t even honey at all.
4. Shop from your local farmers
In addition to purchasing honey locally, there are benefits to also buying produce locally as well. Learning to eat seasonally may be a bit of an adjustment, but you’ll know exactly where your food comes from and what’s in it as well. Visit a local farmer’s market and get to know the growers, they’ll enjoy telling you more about their goods.
5. Importance of hydration
Bees can be thirsty, too! In urban and suburban communities, there is sometimes a lack of standing water that would otherwise be found in a natural space. A water basin near your bee-friendly flowers, herbs, and trees can be a great place for a quick drink. A birdbath with rocks in it can be a great idea, without something for bees to land on, they pose the risk of drowning.
6. A peaceful ally
It’s true that tiny critters are more frightened of you than you are of them. A honey bee’s goal is not to sting or attack humans, they are more concerned with pollen and nectar collection than with people. Bees can travel up to 3 miles from their hive in search of nutrients for their colony.
7. Be proactive
Speak up and let local, state, and national politicians know the importance of protecting these pollinators by creating naturally preserved spaces to allow them to thrive. If you should find a hive, don’t call an exterminator. Instead, call a bee keeper to have them moved.
If pest control is a must, consider researching organic methods to keep pests at bay. Bees are often back at their hives in the evening, so this would be a better time to treat your property if the need arises.
It’s important to know that not all flying yellow insects are honey bees. Knowing the difference between this helpful species versus wasps and hornets can provide a better understanding in the type of wildlife that lives near your property. Bees are vegetarians and will leave you alone, while wasps are carnivores who often will try to sneak in on your lunch if you’re eating outdoors.
If a bee lands on you, stay still and calm. In most cases it will soon fly away without incident. Swatting, or hitting at the bee may startle it and cause it to sting you.