What can I do to help Honey Bees?
As you may have heard, the humble honey bee and other native pollinators are in trouble, and need your help. High-efficiency monoculture farms, extensive use of pesticides, and bee parasites and diseases all play a role in the current bee health crisis. Beekeepers continue to struggle to keep their hives alive and well. Bee colony losses are not sustainable, and may ultimately destroy the American beekeeping industry, impacting the bulk of our food growers across the country.
For more information on the complex and integrated causes of the decline of bee health, I highly recommend the 15 minute TED talk titled “Why Bees are Disappearing” by Dr. Marla Spivak – Professor of Entomology and Director of the University of Minnesota’s Bee Lab. You can find the video on YouTube.
Concerned community members may wonder what they can do individually to help support Honey Bee health. I have a few suggestions.
- Plant bee-friendly plants in your yard. Our flowering gardens are the grocery stores bees visit. Planting a variety of flowering shrubs and perennials on a rotating bloom cycle is a great way to provide pollen and nectar to bees. Salvia, coneflowers, lavender, butterfly bush are just a few options that honey bees particularly love. And if you have acreage, consider a wildflower mix or a little clover and alfalfa in your wild grasses.
- Limit the use of pesticides. Inadvertent exposure to pesticides kills bees. If you must spray, avoid spraying blooming plants and spray at the end of the day when bees are less likely to be exposed.
- Have a few acres? Consider hosting a few hives on your property. Beekeepers depend on their community to provide suitable sites for setting up bee apiaries. Reach out to your local beekeeping organization to make you interest known, most states and many communities have established groups. A quick internet search will help you connect with the right people. And for your generosity, beekeepers typically give you a few pounds of the honey your property helped produce.
- Buy genuine honey. This one may seem obvious but it’s worth saying, beekeepers depend on every one of us to create demand for their products. Imitation honey products and other refined sugars have lessened demand for authentic honey. We strongly recommend raw honey sourced from trusted beekeepers. Compared to other sugars, real honey is better for your health and better for the bees, a win-win.
- Several non-profit groups are actively working on solutions to this crisis. Check out Project Apis M., The Pollinator Stewardship Council, or The Foundation for the Preservation of Honey Bees. Private donations are the lifeblood of ongoing research.
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--Jeff, Head Beekeeper, Honey Gardens