About one-third of the human diet comes from insect pollinated plants. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture the honeybee is responsible for 80 percent of that pollination. Among these plant are apples, nuts, avacodos, soybeans, squash, cucumbers, citrus fruit, peaches, cherries, strawberries, melons, and well, it’s quite a lengthy list as you might imagine.
Neonicotinoids in pesticides have been linked to bee colony collapse. Neonicotinoids were developed in the 1990s and soon became the most popular class of pesticides in modern history. Their affect on non-pest insects was unknown, until the mid 2000s when beekeepers, and others, noted a sharp decline in the bee population. It became as Colony Collapse Syndrome because starved of the foragers and the pollen they carry, colonies produce fewer queens, and eventually collapse.
What can you do? First of all safely dispose of all products with neonicotinoids; here are couple of links that might help you get started http://www.pan-uk.org/home-garden/list-of-home-and-garden-pesticides-containing-neonicotinoids, http://www.xerces.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/11/NeonicotinoidsInYourGarden_Wings-Fall2012.pdf. While the EPA has declared a moratorium on all neonicotinoids there are a lot of them on shelves across the country.
This being an organic gardening post it should go without saying, but I’ll say it, DO NOT use any pesticides, herbicides or other chemicals in your garden or anywhere in your yard. If you use a lawn care company be sure they don’t use chemicals on your lawn. Pin them down on what they use. I once had a lawn care person tell me he only used treatments that were natural and safe for pets. I came home to find him using Roundup – only one of the most toxic chemical cocktails on the planet; so be sure you know exactly what they are using.
Now provide the three things bees need to live happy healthy lives; food, water, and shelter.
Bees are pollinators – they gather and create food from pollen. Does your garden plan include pollen producers? Bees love native wildflowers, flowering herbs and berries, and many flowering fruits and vegetables. To learn more about wildflowers native to your state go to http://uswildflowers.com/.
Grouping plants together helps to attract bees. One square yard of the same plant would be ideal, but even a flowerbox or a few containers on a patio will help provide much needed foraging habitat. Try to choose plants with long and overlapping blooming cycles so there is a continuous supply of pollen.
I know from experience it may not make you popular with your neighbors, but many weeds are beautiful and provide important food sources for bees. Just a tip, the neighbors didn’t seem to mind as much when I kept the weeds in a separate area, put a border around it, and called it a wildflower or natural prairie garden.
Finally deadhead your flowers and let some of your herbs and vegetables go to flower. Leave the plants in your garden till the flowers are gone.
People don’t usually think of providing water for bees but our little yellow friends need water too. Here’s an easy way to provide water for bees. Fill a bowl with marbles then add water till it almost covers the marbles. The marbles give the bees a place to rest while they drink.
Check out this fence by Benjamin Spoth. It’s modular and provides spaces to build bee habitats.
Well that’s it. Three simple steps to help support the dwindling bee population. The added bonus is your vegetable and herb gardens will greatly benefit from the increased pollinators in your garden.
I’d love to hear what you do in your garden to attract and support bees.