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Saving Bees

Save the Bees: Saving Bees Saves People

Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD) is the name given to the sudden and unexplainable disappearance of adult honeybees from a hive. It leaves behind a queen and immature larvae. This problem has occurred ever since apiculture (the raising of bees for honey) began, but not until late 2006 did it occur in such huge numbers. About 25% of beekeepers that year reported CCD.

This is an incredibly important problem for farmers because honeybees are responsible for pollinating some $15 billion in crops each year.  Honeybees are not the only native pollinators – there are over 4,000 species of bees. Butterflies (also in record low numbers) and other insects contribute to pollination.

Researchers are trying to determine the cause of CCD. Currently, the leading theories involve varroa mites, viruses, fungus (such as Nosema ceranae), pesticides, hive stress, and insufficient habitats. Certain pesticides have been created which deter plant pests, but still give the bees a non-lethal dose. Insufficient rainfall will also reduce feeding grounds.

One researcher believes diet may be a stress factor for the hive. Bee colonies are routinely shipped from one area of the country to another, from one farm to another, providing pollination for the crops. One day the bees may be full of almond pollen and a week later it may be watermelon pollen. In between, in the “holding yards,” they are fed sugar syrup.

Some companies are very active in bee preservation. Bee Raw, Burt’s Bees, Haagen-Dazs, Me & the Bees Lemonade, Justin’s, and Droga Chocolates, They help spur community interest in native bee and honeybee populations through donations, websites, and public-awareness programs. They encourage people to not use pesticides, to plant bee gardens, to make bee homes, to leave “weedy” areas and bare ground spots near gardens for nesting places, and to tell others to do the same. Native bee populations in urban areas have been seeing small increases due to such efforts of home gardeners.

Want to help?

Make a bee house! Some native bees live in dead trees or elderberry stems. Drill starter holes into one end of a dried, 1-2 ft. long elderberry stem. Sharpen the other and stick it in the ground near a shed or barn. Bundle drilled elderberry stems (unsharpened) and hang from tree branches.

Using scrap lumber (4”x 6”x 6” or 6” square pine post or blocks) and various size drill bits (1/4” to 3/8”, 5/16ths works well for Mason bees and Blue Orchard bees), drill holes 3 to 5 inches deep but not all the way through the block of wood, about an inch apart. Nail your bee house, with tunnels horizontal, in a secure, secluded area, such as under building eaves. Best time? Early spring. If placing houses on posts in a pasture, nail a “roof” across the top to keep rain from entering the tunnels.

Bundle paper straws together and glue them into the bottom of a paper milk carton or a coffee can. Place in protected, dry, shady areas in the spring. 

Make a bee garden in your backyard!

You can provide nectar and pollen for the bees by making sure you plant local flowers and bushes that bees in your area love. Try not to use any insecticides in your yard. Provide some shelter for the bees. Make sure to include a small watering area for the bees. Choose a shallow container and place rocks and pebbles of various sizes in the container. Put in enough water to not cover the rocks. This allows the bees to get a drink without drowning. In the fall, you can put out sugar water drizzled on a flat baking pan with a short lip all around. Mix one part white sugar to one part water, stir well. Pour a small puddle into the pan, leaving dry areas so they don’t drown. Or, you can place rocks in the sugar water for them to land on.

If we all pitch in and do one small thing to help our fuzzy friends, we can make a big difference. We need bees in order to survive, and they need us. So next time you’re tempted to swat a small bee, shoo it away instead. Because every bee saved means more flowers pollinated, more gardens that will thrive, and more food for the planet.


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