Friday, June 27, 2008

Save the bees!

By now, you have probably heard of Colony Collapse Disorder, the affliction that wiped out 36% of the honeybee hives in 2007. WOW. Honeybees are essential for pollinating over a third of human food crops, including almonds, blueberries, pears, raspberries, etc. Haagen-Dazs, worried that many favorite ice cream flavors may be on the brink of extinction due to a lack of ingredients, has even started a campaign to raise awareness for the dying bees.

What's even more worrying is that other pollinators are starting to die off as well: bumblebees, hummingbirds, and butterflies. These key species are a necessity to our survival on the planet.

While scientists have not determined the exact cause of CCD, suspects include lack of habitat, huge farm monocultures, rampant pesticide use, and compromised immune systems.

So what can we do? We need bees to pollinate our gardens too!

Step 1: Provide habitat and food for the bees & other pollinators in your yard.

  • Provide food: Create an insectary! According to the Melissa Bee Garden, the top 5 plants to attract bees are: borage, lemon balm, tansy, goldenrod, and echium. Also valuable are catmint, salvias, mint, oregano, lavender, garlic, parsley and chives. You could also plant a clover lawn , which attracts bees and doesn't need as much water, fertilizer or mowing.

Bees love my salvia and catmint

  • Provide shelter: Leave dead wood for nesting, and dead plants and leaf litter for shelter. Leave some areas of soil uncovered for ground-nesting insects. Group plantings to help pollinators move through the landscape to avoid predators.

  • Provide water: Running water, ponds and small containers provide drinking and bathing water. Water sources should have a sloping side so pollinators can approach easily without drowning.

Step II: Don't poison

Many scientists believe pesticides and herbicides, spread by farmers, lawn services and gardeners, are contributing to the epidemic of bee deaths.

Step III: Host bees in your back yard!

Become an urban beekeeper, and provide a home for bees while reaping the benefits of their pollination and harvesting their honey.'s what I'm going to do:

  • Plant a clover lawn.
  • Plant 6 more bee-attracting perennials in the fall.
  • Plant borage again next year.
  • Give away at least 3 lemon balms this year (they spring up everywhere)!
  • I would love to become a beekeeper... but that is a few years down the road.

How about you?


Verde said...

The bees have helped me see my little garden pond as a good thing.

I bought a book on beekeeping and have been visiting sites but it is a ways away for me as well.

I have heard that backyard bee keepers can have a profound impact on getting bees back in action. Like anything, it is the smaller scale production that is most sustainable and provieds the most security.

Lewru said...

I've seen some bees on my sunflowers but I need to add more of the plants you recommend.

Where did you hear that about the other pollinators dying off? That's awful! I hadn't heard that yet.

Hausfrau said...

Here's the comment, found in the San Fran Chronicle:

The problem extends not just to the commercialized honeybee imported from Europe 400 years ago but, etymologists say, to other native pollinators.

Those include native bees such as bumblebees that are also showing rapid declines, plus butterflies, moths, beetles, flies, hummingbirds and bats. Lack of data on these species hinders measurement.

Bee said...

We've been lucky where we are because we see little honey bees all over our plants. My kids love them. They are always out there talking to the bees.

A couple of years ago we had the neat experience of being outside when a swarm of bees came through our yard. There were thousands of them and you could hear them before you could see them. The hive settled in a tree on one side of our house and then a couple of days later moved over to the other side of the house. I was in the process of calling someone to come get the hive and relocate it safely and go out and see that my sh*t-bag neighbor killed the whole hive because his kid was scared of bees. I was livid. My kids were heartbroken. We've since moved away from the idiot and try to take care of our bees around here.

Lamzeydievey said...

your flowers are gorgeous. i would love to keep bees, but in the meantime cultivating an insectary sounds like a great idea.