SAVE OUR BEES AND POLLINATORS

Articles gathered by Sherrie Eoff

Here’s how important bees are to our food system: 70 out of the top 100 human food crops — which supply about 90% of the world’s nutrition — are pollinated by bees.

More than 1,000 of all pollinators are vertebrates such as birds, bats, and small mammals. Most (more than 200,000 species) are beneficial insects such as flies, beetles, wasps, ants, butterflies, moths and bees. 

Monarch butterflies have declined by 90% in the last 20 years. 

25% of bumble bees species are thought to be in serious decline.

Avoid pesticides to save pollinators

Some pesticides pose direct risk to pollinators. The elimination of bee-harming chemicals from agriculture is a crucial and most-effective first step to protect the health of bee populations.

Why this matters 

Believe it or not, you have a bee to thank for one in every three bites of food you eat. Honeybees perform about 80% of all pollination, and a single bee colony can pollinate 300 million flowers each day, making them essential to farmers. But a deadly mix of pesticides, parasites, and climate change have put bee populations in crisis around the world.

The problem 

Since the 1990s, beekeepers have noted a sharp and astonishing decline in bee populations. Industrial agriculture methods, parasites, and climate change are killing off bees in droves, and the widespread use of bee-harming pesticides are particular threats to honeybees and wild pollinators. Without them, feeding the world’s growing population will be nearly impossible. It’s time to ban these damaging pesticides and protect vital pollinators.

*info from the Green Peace website

How To Save The Bees

Saving the bees is a big job- but taking action is easy! By starting in your own community, you can help make our world a healthier place for bees. Here are some things that you can do to save our bees:

Protect bee habitat

One of the largest threats to bees is the lack of habitat due to urban sprawl. If you notice a lack of green space in your neighborhood, you can volunteer to plant a bee garden or create a habitat corridor with nectar-rich plants such as wildflowers. You don’t need a ton of space to help save the bees- gardens can be established in small spaces like balconies or street corners, and flowers can be planted along roadways and other public areas. You can also get involved with your local government to advocate sensible limits to development where you live.

One of the largest threats to bees is the lack of habitat due to urban sprawl.. 

Avoid harmful pesticides.

Synthetic pesticides, fertilizers, and herbicides are harmful to bees. Using these pesticides in your garden can not only keep bees away, but also endanger their lives. If you must treat your garden, opt for organic pesticide options and spray at night when pollinators are least active. Or use beneficial insects such as praying mantises and ladybugs in your garden. Avoid chemicals belonging to the neonicotinoid family at all costs, as they are especially harmful to bees.

Plant a bee-friendly garden. Plant  Natives.

Flowers help feed bees and other valuable pollinators. Not only will you be helping save the bees by planting bee-friendly plants, but you’ll helping your garden as well. Some tips:

Avoid hybrid flowers, which may be sterile and have little or no nectar or pollen

Skip the double flowers, which lack pollen. Make sure you’ll have blooms for bees year round.

Plant flowers in patches – bees like to focus on one flower type at a time

Leave an undisturbed plot for ground-nesting bee. **Native plants co-evolved with the native wildlife of your region. Native plants form the foundation of habitat for pollinators by providing them with pollen and nectar for food, cover from the elements and predators, and places where their young can grow. The best way to attract beautiful butterflies, busy bees, speedy hummingbirds and other pollinators is to fill your yard with native plants.

Bees Need Trees.

Bees aren’t only just interested in perennials! In fact, did you know that bees get most of their nectar from trees? When a tree blooms, it provides bees with hundreds if not thousands of blossoms to feed from. Trees are not only a great food source for bees but they are also essential to a bees habitat. Tree leaves and resin provide nesting material for bees, while their natural wood cavities make excellent shelters. With deforestation and development on the rise, you can help bolster bee habitats by caring for trees and joining tree-planting parties in your area. Did You Know that bees get most of their nectar from trees?

Create a Bee Bath.

A fun activity that can also help save the bees is creating a bee bath. Fill a shallow bird bath or a small dish or bowl with clean water, and arrange pebbles and stones inside so that they poke out of the water. Bees will land on the stones and pebbles to drink the water as they take a break from foraging and pollinating.

Build homes for native bees.

Did you know that, with the exception of honey bees, most bees are solitary creatures? 70% of bees live underground, while 30% live in holes inside of trees or hollow stems. Since many solitary and bumble bees build their nests in undisturbed land, why not keep an untouched plot of land for them in your garden? “Bee condos” allow solitary bees like mason bees to take up residence and pollinate your garden, and are widely available for sale online. **There are 4,000 bee species native to North America (the honey bee is a European import) and most of those don’t form hives. Instead, individual female bees lay their eggs in tunnels in decaying wood or in sandy soil. You can offer such nesting spots by leaving tree snags on your property, by leaving bare batches of sandy soil, or by building or buying whimsical native bee houses.You can also learn how to build your own bee condo and create a better space for solitary bees.

DID YOU KNOW? 70% of bees live underground, while 30% live in holes inside of trees or hollow stems. 

Support your local beekeeper.

You can make a difference by supporting a beekeeper in your area. These keepers work hard to nurture their bees and better the local community for bees and humans alike. The easiest way to do this is to buy locally-made honey and beeswax products. Many beekeepers use products from their hives to create soaps, lotions, and beeswax candles. Plus, local honey is not only delicious- it may be made by bees that visited plants in your own backyard! You can also contact your local beekeeping societies to see what kind of volunteer support or donations they might need.

Do : diversify and maximize blooms

To help bees make the most out of their active months, it’s ideal to have plants that bloom at different times across the seasons. Early spring and late autumn blooms will be especially helpful for early foragers or bees going for their last harvest before hunkering down for the winter. It is also ideal to have a variety of flower shapes – from flat to tubular – to accommodate bees with different tongue sizes. Be sure to prolong your plants’ blooms by removing dead blooms and leaves.

If you have a grass lawn, consider replacing it with colorful pollinator plants to make better use of your space and save water. You can also make a compromise by allowing your lawn to share space with flowers that attract bees, such as dandelions, clovers or siberian squill (more on squills below).

Don’t : plant treated or hybridized plants

It is extremely important to avoid using any insecticides, herbicides, or pesticides on your plants – even organic ones contain substances that are harmful to bees. Pesticides contain neonicotinoids, chemicals that are a known danger to bees. If we’re going to do our part in helping the declining population of bees, we must be adamant about keeping our gardens chemical-free. When purchasing plants from nurseries, make sure they haven’t been treated. Also, avoid hybridized plant varieties, as they are often less beneficial for bees).

Flowers that Attract Bees

Early Spring

Pansies

USDA zones 4 – 8. Full sun. Blooms early Spring – Fall.

Whimsy, joy, colors – pansies have it all, and bees love them. They are great for containers or ground cover, but are often treated as annuals because of their ability to spread quickly. Bred from their predecessor the wild pansy, the many types of pansies can bloom in early spring or later in autumn.

Pussy Willow

USDA zones 4 – 7. Full to partial sun. Blooms early Spring.

These North American wetland shrubs have a beautiful greyish hue and fur-like blooms. Their blooms mark the arrival of spring, making them a perfect treat for early foraging bees. Humans may also enjoy using their dried stems as decorations.

 Siberian Squill

USDA zones 2 – 8. Full to partial sun. Blooms early Spring.

These beautiful blue blooms have a stunning presence that you can enjoy for a few weeks each year. If you have a grass lawn, you can make the most of your space by planting Siberian Squill bulbs throughout it. Their colors will make your lawn pop in early spring, and the plants will recede just in time to let you start mowing in late spring. Just make sure they have good drainage to prevent bulb rot, and be cautious about their ability to spread quickly.

Snowdrops

USDA zones 3 – 9. Full to partial sun. Blooms late Winter, early Spring.

Snowdrops are known to announce their arrival by poking out of the snow. They are great for climates with mild to cold winters. Just keep in mind that the flowers will be dormant by summertime, so the soil in which the bulbs rest will be barren.

 Spring, Summer

 Peony

USDA zones 2 – 8. Full to partial sun. Blooms in Spring.

With their colors and sweet scents, these flowers will attract bees, hummingbirds, and possibly your neighbors too. Peonies benefit from cold winters to aid their bud formation. Try to place them in loamy soil in a spot protected from wind.

 Milkweed

USDA zones 4 – 10. Prefers sun. Blooms Spring – Fall, depending on variety.

Milkweed not only serves as food to bees, but it is also the only host to monarch butterflies. These plants are great food sources for bees, but beware of their complex flower structures, for bees can get trapped or lose a leg in them. Many varieties are drought-resistant and prefer sun 

 Bee Balm

USDA zones 4 – 9. Full to partial sun, but shade tolerant. Blooms Summer.

As you may guess from the name, bees love these North American prairie flowers. The blooms almost resemble little fireworks, and come in befittingly vibrant shades too. Favoring warm climates, you can enjoy these perennials’ lush, colorful blooms year after year, and so will bees and other winged things.

 Lavender

USDA zones 5 – 9. Full to partial sun. Blooms Spring, Summer.

Bees love them for their nectar, humans love them for their scent and flavor. Everyone wins, and with many different varieties of lavender to choose from, you’ll likely find one that will settle happily in your garden. The plant can do well in many climates, but prefers warm climates and well-drained soil. It is rather drought resistant once established. 

 Phlox

USDA zones 2 – 9. Full to partial sun. Blooms Spring, Summer.

With their star-shaped blooms, these plants are a beautiful addition to any garden, and can make a great ground cover. There are several different varieties, including the wild ground phlox. This variety bears its pink blooms in early spring, which is the reason Native Americans dubbed the April full moon the “Full Pink Moon.”

 Zinnias

Annual. Full sun. Blooms Summer.

Zinnias come in many colors and will attract both bees and butterflies to your space. They are relatively easy to plant and will bloom in abundance all summer long if dead flowers are removed.

Marigolds

Annual. Full sun. Blooms Summer.

Like zinnias, marigolds are annuals that can bloom all summer long if properly groomed. Their edible blooms can brighten up your salads as well as your garden, and they are even known to repel pests and animals, such as nematodes.

 Goldenrod

USDA zones 2 – 8. Full to partial sun. Blooms in Summer.

These flowers are sometimes considered weeds because of their ability to spread easily, but kept in check, they are an invaluable resource for bees and have medicinal value as well. To keep their spread in check, just cut off the dead flower heads before they re-seed.

 Chives

USDA zones 3 – 10. Full sun. Blooms late Spring, Summer.

Resist eating their tasty purple flowers and the bees will thank you! This perennial tolerates cold climates rather well, and is a great way to add a fresh, oniony taste to salads, dishes, or eggs.

 Late Summer, Fall

 Liatris

USDA zones 5 – 9. Full to partial sun. Blooms late Summer.

These flowers, found in purple, pink, and white, bloom on grass-like spiky leaves that can grow 1 – 5 feet tall. They are relatively low maintenance, and are rather tolerant of drought, pests, and cold weather. Butterflies will also thank you for having liatris in your garden.

 Mint

USDA zones 3 – 10. Full sun, but tolerates some shade. Blooms Spring through Summer.

Mint is invigorating with its fragrance and flavor – and bees go crazy on their flowers too. Mint is a great choice if you’re looking for an herb that’s low maintenance. Easy to grow, but easy to lose control of too, so be careful about their spread. DO NOT plant in the ground, plant in a container to control it’s spread.

 Sage

USDA zones 5 – 9. Full sun. Blooms Spring, Summer, Fall.

It’s great in stuffing, sauces, and herb pots! Bees love sage’s beautiful flowers, and these perennials are rather easy to grow. Of all the flowers that attract bees, make sure to incorporate this one into your autumn squash dishes.

 Nasturtium

USDA zone 9 – 11. Full sun. Blooms Summer through Fall.

Nasturtiums can keep bees buzzing in your garden well into autumn. Their edible blooms will bring a burst of color to your outdoor space. To maximize the amount of blooms they have, water them regularly and opt for poorer soils. Most nasturtiums are annuals, but some varieties are perennials in zones 9 – 11.

 Black-eyed Susans

USDA zones 3 – 9. Full to partial sun. Blooms late Summer, Fall.

These are flowers that attract bees, butterflies, and bring a burst of yellow to your garden. As members of the sunflower family, they can grow up to three feet tall! They make excellent borders, but spread very easily, so be careful about placing them in – or letting them grow into – other plants’ space.

 Borage

Full to partial sun. Blooms Summer, Fall.

Also known as starflower, borage’s star-shaped blooms start out pink and mature into a beautiful blue. Borage is considered a good neighbor for tomatoes, which bees also love. These plants are annuals, but they re-seed readily, so keep an eye on their spread.

 Thyme

USDA zones 5 – 9. Full sun. Blooms Summer, Fall.

Irresistible to bees and pun-lovers alike, placing one of these shrubs by a walkway will prove to be a wonderful way to pass the thyme. These perennials bear bee-loving flowers in pink or purple, and can grow up to one foot tall.

Oregano

Full sun. Blooms mid-Summer, Fall.

This perennial has pink, purple, or white flowers, and its late blooms will be appreciated by your bee friends. Oregano provides excellent ground cover and is rather hardy. Harvest its leaves for cooking or medicinal purposes. Drying them will help you make use of its reported immune-boosting properties throughout winter.

TREES

Native flowering trees are not only beneficial to foraging bees and other insects but also to the larvae of many native butterflies and moths that feed upon tree foliage.

Suggestions would be; Tulip Poplar, Bigleaf Maple, Redbud, Dogwood, Staghorn Sumac

This is a very short list of plants that are good for the bees.

 Plant for Bees, Plant for Change

 They say flowers that attract bees also bring good tidings for the gardener. Okay, maybe they don’t say that, but there’s something undoubtedly powerful about planting pollinator blooms. The art of gardening is not only a form of relaxation, but also of creating change. With every haven we create for bees, we make clear our stance on their importance, we designate ourselves as their allies, and we become leaders in the movement to create a world that is nourishing to the very creatures that nourish us too. Gardening is no longer a hobby – it is a grassroots movement.

*From the HONEYBEE CONSERVANCY

**from the National Wildlife Foundation

Check out www.pollinator.org for more information

BEE FEED FLOWER MIX

This mix is a blend of annual and perennial flowers that provide nectar and pollen to wild bees, honey bees, and other pollinators. The seeds are open-pollinated, non-GMO and untreated. 

To plant: either plant directing in the soil or in a container. 

Direct sow: Plant in a well-drained cultivated soil during early spring or fall. For best results, loosen soil with rake or hoe. Mix seeds with a cup of sand or other inert material and spread over calculated areal. Lightly rake seed into soil or cover with peat moss or similar light mulch. Keep soil moist until plants begin to grow.

Container: Fill container with potting soil to within about 2” of top. Scatter seeds on surface. Cover with about 1” of potting soil, water and wait. 



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