By now most of us have probably heard about Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD) — stated simply CCD is the abrupt disappearance and death of honey bees. The reason this phenomenon is alarming stems from the fact that bees provide an essential ecosystem service by pollinating various crops, plants and flowers. According to Michigan State University bees are responsible for one out of every three bites of food we eat. Thus, it is imperative to keep bee populations happy and thriving in our communities. While most of us aren’t able (or may not want) to keep beehives on our properties, there are many ways we can support bees that require much less time, effort and attention.
- DON’T use insecticides, pesticides, herbicides — these can have harmful effects on bees. Whenever possible, use organic methods to control weeds and garden pests. If you absolutely must use any of these, don’t do so during the middle of the day when the bees are most likely to be foraging for nectar or pollen. But, really, the use of these is just not necessary.
- Grow bee friendly plants — provide the bees with an abundant food supply that will continue blooming throughout the seasons. Know those dandelions so many people consider weeds? They’re actually one of the first things bees feed on in the spring. Other bee plants include cilantro, lavender, rosemary, borage, lamb’s ear, echinacea and so many more.
- Let the lawn grow — this gives clover a chance to flower and provides the bees with nectar.
- Supply clean water — particularly important in hot weather or a dry climate (ahem, Colorado). Fill a shallow water basin with pebbles or stones to provide a safe landing place for bees to get a sip of water.
- Involve the community — talk to people about the importance of bees and why we should do the things on this list to ensure their survival.
- Get involved — join a local beekeeping group and learn about urban beekeeping from the experts.
- Support native and solitary bees, too — set up a bee house for these pollinators
- Other resources — Friends of the Earth: 20 things you need to know about bees (pdf)
Most importantly, just take action! Start with any one of these to support your local bee community. Our food and plants depend on it!
— Amy DePierre