Bees are having a hard time, but we can all do our bit to help save the bees. You do not need to become a beekeeper. Indeed, many other pollinators (not just honey bees) are in serious decline too.
For example, in some countries, like the UK, some bumblebee species have gone extinct already. Many butterfly species are also struggling.
Many of the steps you can take will help pollinators as a whole, as well as the bees.
We need our bees, and putting a stop to bee decline is in everyone's best interests, and everyone really can do at least something. Having compaigned for several years, I have noticed how awareness has increased greatly, and people are generally trying to help bees by including bee-friendly plants in their gardens, or in pots or hanging baskets by the front door. So......
You CAN make a difference - and collectively we make a BIG difference!
.....and here are some tips to help set you on your way to doing just that!
You could also make efforts to purchase plants, bulbs and seeds free of
neonicotinoid and systemic insecticides - more about this below. These
pesticides are used widely in Holland, a major supplier to garden
centers, grocery multiples and other plant sellers. Why not establish a
relationship with a local nursery or grower you can trust, and ask them
whether or not they are using these products. Many conservation
charities are asking for a suspension of these pesticides, and
for an overhaul of the regulatory system. As of August 2013, I'm not aware of a full ban on any of these produces - merely some temporary restrictions to some of these chemicals in certain circumstances. This applies particularly to the EU and you can read more about it here and the global scenario here.
Another option is to purchase your plants, bulbs and seeds from organic suppliers.
Remember too that a supply of water and mud are useful. Some bees, such as Mason bees, use mud for constructing their nests.
OLD FASHIONED IS BEST!
When selecting plants for your garden, always remember that simple, old-fashioned varieties are better than highly cultivated ones. Herbs and heathers are generally great for bees, as well as traditional cottage style flowers (and whatever anyone says, they NEVER go out of fashion!).
SAVE THE BEES WITH WONDERFUL WILDFLOWERS!
Plant wildflowers in your garden, or even create a small meadow. There are several ways you could do this:
- allow a patch of lawn to grow, only mowing twice during the year (early and at the end of the season). Wait and see what comes up.
- sow seeds, or buy potted wildflowers (some may be difficult to establish otherwise).
- many grassy areas will not convert easily to meadow, because of resilient grasses that prevent wildflowers establishing themselves. If this is the case for you, sow a wildflower that is parasitic on tough grasses such as Yellow Rattle, which is loved by bees, and will out-compete the grass.
Take a look at these ideas for your lawn, including incorporating wildflowers.
THINK TWICE ABOUT USING PESTICIDES
If you want to help save the bees, try natural methods of pest control - such as putting up bird boxes and blasting aphids with water.
Many well-known garden pesticides contain neonicotinoids. The same applies to lawn care products.
The fact is, most insect species are beneficial or harmless.
Neonicotinoid pesticides can remain in the soil for years, and continue to be taken up by the plant (and the bees). Neonicoitinoids include imidacloprid, Acetimacloprid,Clothianidin, Thiacloprid, Thiamethoxam, Dinotefuran and Nitenpyram. To read more, follow this interesting link looking at patents for pesticides and what they reveal, go to this link to look at how neonicotinoids work, and this link about organic gardening.
CREATE NEST SITES FOR BEES
A bundle of hollow canes could make a home for solitary bees. Some bumblebee species will take up residence in bird boxes, or an upturned plant pot (with holes) provisioned with bedding, and located in a secure, shady area. Take a look at this useful bees nest Q&A.
If you come across a bee nest or swarm, try not to disturb it. If it’s a solitary or bumblebee nest, they only last a season – and be careful not to mistake solitary bees for wasps, as some look alike. Most bees rarely sting unless provoked - see may page about bee sting facts.
Meanwhile, if you are concerned about a swarm or honey bee nest, contact a local beekeeper. Take a look at my information page about bee swarm removal.
SPREAD THE WORD
Spread the word about the need to help save the bees! This could range from sharing these tips to chatting with your neighbour or giving a talk about bees to your gardening groups.
CAREFULLY SELECT YOUR HONEY, HONEY!
If you are going to buy honey, buy local honey from a beekeeper you trust who cares about their bees.
See these honey buying tips.
GET INVOLVED! IT'S EVERYONE'S JOB!
There are lots of ‘Save the Bees’ types of initiatives, from signing petitions to ban suspect pesticides and GMO crops, to asking governments for more funds for positive action into helping bees and pollinators. Participate where you can.
SPEAK TO YOUR COUNCIL
Write to your local council or political representative. Tell them about the need to save our bees, and ask them to stop the use of pesticides in public spaces (from parklands to community planting schemes), to plant more bee-friendly plants, and to make space for wildflowers along verges etc.
For further information about how councils can help to prevent bee decline, see these ideas.
HELP SAVE THE BEES - EAT ORGANIC!
Neonicotinoid and systemic pesticides are used in agriculture on food crops - and these of course, end up on the shelves of supermarkets.
Perhaps now is the time to start growing your own pesticide-free fruit & veg? You'll be surprised just how many corgettes and green beans you can grow - even in a few pots outside!
If you cannot grow your own, then try to select as much organic produce as you can when you are buying your shopping.
When you spend your cash, you cast a vote.
If you buy at least some organic produce, your purchases, along with those of others, will send a signal to retailers, which will ultimately send a signal to farmers.
It's as simple as that!
Read more about eating organic and how it helps the bees.
This is a brief snapshot of things we can do to save the bees, but there's more information on this site, and more tips on this page.
Have you done something to help the bees? Or do you have any tips to share? Find out what other members of the public have been doing to help the bees, or add your own tips to inspire others! Go here!
Want to know about tip number 11? Go here!
More wonderful links:
Beautiful video clips: Pollination
Wasps are important pollinators too! More on this link.
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