This post has a little Bad News / Good News action. The bad news is the same scary stuff that’s been around for a while. The good news is something that needs to be spread farther and wider than the bad news.
The plight of the bees and other pollinators isn’t new. Their numbers have been dropping since the end of World War Two. It is the severity honey bees’ colony collapses, about eight years ago, that have brought this news to global attention. The problem is, what Dr. Marla Spivak of the University of Minnesota aptly calls, ‘multiple, interacting causes of death’ and breaks down into four basic issues.
1. Monoculture crops that create pollinator food deserts. Large acreages of the same two or three types of plants, flowering for a limited time. (Imagine only one grocery store that sells three items and is open one month of the year.)
2. Agricultural pesticides and herbicides made stronger and more durable. (Now, the food from this grocery store always makes you sick, gives you amnesia and weakens your babies.)
3. The afflictions of pests and diseases normally present in insect life are exacerbated by the bees weakened condition. (Imagine having a bad case of the flu, or a tick the size of a dinner plate stuck to your back, and trying to get any work done. Especially if you’ve gone to the store for nourishment and can’t remember the way home.)
4. Lack of flowering landscapes and flowering cover crops, or flowering landscapes sprayed with pesticides and herbicides.
News headlines over the last few years have been pretty alarming. While I think there is reason to be alarmed, this type of news can bring a paralyzing fear and a sincere desire to point fingers or hide, or both.
Good news is that item #4 is something that can be handled by anyone, and any action in that regard will make a difference.
Plant a variety of flowering plants that bloom over the course of the growing season from spring through fall. Honey bees are one of the few, if not the only, bee that lives collectively and survives through the winter. Most bees only live a few weeks to a month or two, and if little or nothing is blooming while they are alive they won’t be making babies, or helping plants make our food.
When you plant flowers, don’t spray the blooms. If you must spray but can wait for a calm day, awesome. Aim low. The main point is to keep the pollen centers and surrounding petals free of contamination. Spray drifts so easily and even gentle breezes can carry unseen droplets where you don’t want them. If you can’t wait, try to spray at dusk when when breezes calm and all hardworking bees have gone to bed. Once the spray dries on the plant it is far less harmful to bees and other foraging pollinators.
Get choosey about your ‘cides. Pesticides and herbicides are made to degrade from their initially toxic form to a non-toxic, environmentally compatible debris. While you’re reading the package for what it will kill, find out how long it stays around and what it turns into. The agricultural versions are stronger, longer lasting and the reason they are not labeled for home use is because they will actually make you sick as well.
Looking for information? Don’t know what flowers to plant? Want to know how to build homes to encourage ground or wood bees to live near your garden? Check out the Bee Lab online: http://www.beelab.umn.edu
And, remember this. A honey bee’s sting is a last, defensive resort. Don’t let them take the blame for those bossy and aggressive stinging wasps like hornets and yellow jackets.
Thanks for reading. I hope this was helpful and hopeful.