It’s been all over the news lately: the bees are disappearing. Whether it’s caused by pesticides, global warming or electromagnetic radiation, the effect remains the same: less buzz around the garden – and bigger risks to global food supply chains.
The disappearance of bees is bad news for us all; after all, the busy-bodies are an important pollinator in the garden, the orchard and on the field.Without bees, we wouldn’t have any apples or flowers to enjoy. In fact, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture bees pollinate 80% of flowering crops, which constitutes around a third of what we eat.
Governments are starting to take notice, with the European Commission pushing through bans on certain types of pesticide, but they’re not acting fast enough – with bee populations declining by a massive 30% a year in the US.
Luckily, there are things you can do to help reverse this trend and help give this little worker a hand by turning your own garden or balcony into a veritable bee heaven.
And guess what? It’s really not that difficult.
Follow these five easy steps and you too can help save our bees:
1. Use bee-friendly plants
Bees need nectar to make honey, so a lot depends on which plants you choose to have in your garden or on the window still. It’s easy to pick plants which help sustain pollinators, but instead of giving you a list, the best thing you can do is to use species local to where you live.
These help encourage bee and pollinator populations since they’re the same as the plants they will encounter in the wild. As an added bonus, local plants are ideally suited to your climate and quite hardy against diseases making them perfect garden residents.
Not sure which plants that are native to your area? Ask your local garden center for a native wildflower mix. Chances are they have these pre-packed for your convenience already.
2. Go wild!
Not every patch in your garden needs to be trimmed to perfection. Allow a little corner of your garden to grow a bit wilder. Bees are wild creatures and need a bit of natural habitat. Some species of bees live underground and will be quite grateful when they get access to some open soil or unraked leaves.
3. Have a bath.
Bees and other insects have trouble using a bird bath, yet, they still need water to drink. To make a bee bath, you can simply add rocks to a shallow dish or tray and pour water over the rocks. Bees and even butterflies will be able to use the rocks as little islands from which they can drink without drowning.
4. Hotel lounges
These days, you can find pre-made insect and bee hotels in your local garden centre. Or you could make one quite easily yourself. These hotels provide shelter and a place to lay eggs for many species of solitary bees and other insects.
5. Stop using pesticides.
Bees are very susceptible to the use of pesticides, so the easiest step (and one of the most important things you can do) is to just stop using them in your garden. It also means you no longer have to expose yourself or your family to the chemicals used to make pesticides.
Pests around the garden can be easily battled using natural predators, like the ladybug. Or why not brew your own organic pesticide? The bees and butterflies will be grateful for the little extra effort you put in on their behalf, and will eagerly visit your garden or flower box and pollinate all of your crops and flowers in return. In doing so, they gladly help out in keeping your garden healthy.
Quite the handy helpers around the garden, these busy bees.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Bart Verdeyen
Bart Verdeyen is a civil servant, lecturer and writer, based in Mechelen, Belgium. He is currently working on his first book and enjoying recent fatherhood.Linked In Twitter
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