By Donna Mazzitelli
Most everyone knows by now that honeybees are in danger. They’re dying. And while researchers probe deeper into understanding Colony Collapse Disorder and beekeepers work harder to improve bee health, we ordinary citizens can help the honeybee too. Here are seven ways to keep them buzzing:
1. Plant bee-friendly flowers and flowering herbs in your yard. Bees are losing habitat all over the world. By planting flowers in your garden, yard or in a planter, you help to provide bees with forage. Avoid chemically treating your flowers because chemicals can leach into pollen and negatively affect the bees’ systems. Plant plenty of the same type of bloom together; bees like volume (a square yard is a good estimate). Here are a few examples of good plant varieties: Spring: lilacs, lavender, sage, verbena and wisteria. Summer: mint, cosmos, squash, tomatoes, pumpkins, sunflowers, oregano, rosemary, poppies, black-eyed Susan, passion flower vine and honeysuckle. Fall: fuchsia, mint, bush sunflower, sage and verbena.
2. Let dandelions and clover grow in your yard. Weeds are a good thing! Dandelions and clover are two of the bees’ favorite foods—they provide tons of nourishment and pollen for our pollinators to make their honey and feed their young. The beauty is that these flowers are the easiest to grow—all you have to do is not do anything and let them and your lawn live a little. Wildflowers, many of which we might classify as weeds, are some of the most important food sources for native North American bees. If some of these are “weeds” you choose to get rid of, this year let them bloom first for the bees and then before the weeds go to seed, pull them out or trim them back!
3. Stop using commercial pesticides, herbicides, and fertilizers. Although they make your lawn look pristine and pretty, they actually do the opposite to the life in your biosphere. The chemicals and pest treatments you put on your lawn and garden can cause damage to the honeybees’ systems. These treatments are especially damaging when applied while the flowers are in bloom. They get into the pollen and nectar and are taken back to the beehive where they also get into the honey. Pesticides, specifically neonicotinoid varieties, are one of the major culprits in Colony Collapse Disorder.
4. Bees get thirsty. Put a small basin of fresh water in your yard. When a lot of bees begin to come to your new garden of native plants, wildflowers and flowering herbs, put a little water basin out for the bees (a birdbath with some stones in it allows them to crawl in the water).
5. Buy local, raw honey. Unlike big honey companies, local beekeepers tend to be much more concerned about the health of their bees than they are about their profits. And their products do not have to travel far to reach your kitchen either. Strive to buy local ─raw honey from hives that are not treated with chemicals. It can be hard to find out what is truly “local” and truly “raw.” If it’s coming from the grocery store but the label doesn’t include the words “pure” or “raw” and you can’t read in the description that it’s untreated by chemicals, don’t buy it. If it’s untreated the label will say so, as this is an important selling point. You can almost always find local honey at your farmers’ market (where you also have the chance to talk to the beekeepers and find out the specifics of their honey). Local raw honey may also be available at your local health food or grocery store.
6. Buy organic. Organic food and fibers like cotton and hemp are produced without the use of commercial pesticides, fertilizers, and herbicides, making them inherently more bee-friendly than conventionally grown products.
7. Add your name to petitions urging the EPA and USDA to ban neonicotinoids, a widely-used class of agricultural pesticides that is highly toxic to bees and believed to play a crucial role in Colony Collapse Disorder. The EU has enacted a ban on neonicotinoids and the U.S. must follow Europe’s lead, as there is literally no time to waste.
Donna Mazzitelli is a contributing author to Speaking Your Truth, Vols. I and II. The Word Heartiste, Donna helps others connect to their stories and craft them with heart. She and partner Jordon Holiday recently co-founded Merry Dissonance Press, a place for writers and other creatives to make mirthful, discordant noise in the world. www.writingwithdonna.com www.merrydissonancepress.com.