Honey bees are facing huge challenges to their health and viability from pathogens or diseases, poor nutrition or mono-crop diets, pesticides, lack of quality foraging and other insects, especially mites, wasps and beetles. Fortunately, honey bees aren’t the only bees that can be used for pollinating food crops. In fact, some other types of bees can pollinate more efficiently than honey bees can. There are about one hundred crops pollinated by honey bees in North America, and only about fifteen are pollinated only by honey bees. In addition to hosting honey bee hives on your property, there are things you can do to support other species as well. One well known bee is the solitary mason bee. Bee houses are sold in all garden centres, and there are tutorials online for how to make your own. ..Read more
Native wild bees are also struggling as urbanization results in much of the ground being covered in pavement, concrete, lawns or buildings. This means that bees that live in the ground have fewer places to live. Invasive species can also crowd out native plants that bees need for food and nesting. Bumble bee boxes can be purchased, but just leaving a small pile of brush in the yard or some bare soil can provide nesting sites for native bees. Planting pollinator gardens containing plants that bees prefer helps to support local bee populations. Different bees forage on different flowers, so plant a variety of blooms. For instance, honeysuckles have very deep blossoms which are well suited to the much longer tongue of the bumblebee, and are seldom visited by honeybees. Many bedding and hybridized plants have been bred at the expense of nectar and pollen and are completely useless to bees. Double blooms, red blooms, feverfew and chrysanthemums are just some of the flowers that deter or even repel bees. Check out this guide for Planting for Pollinators in our region. ..Read more
One of the most potentially deadly chemicals for bees is a class of insecticides called neonicotinoids. In December of 2013 a ban on some neonicotinoids began in the European Union however Canada and the US have not committed to a ban. ‘Neonics’ as they are commonly called, were introduced in the 1990’s. They are coated on seeds to help control insects. The problem is that the poison is systemic. That means that the whole plant is affected, including the nectar and pollen that the bees eat. These chemicals are persistent, lasting months or even years in the plant, soil and waterways. Scientific research has not determined what the long term effects of the chemicals are on humans. Traditional best management practices for bee health and protection, such as not spraying during the day or on blooms, are no longer possible with neonics. ..Read more
A great way to help bees is to speak up for them. Contact your local and national government to stop the use of harmful pesticides. Keep chemical pesticides off your own lawn and garden. Know the origin of seeds that you plant to ensure they are not coated with neonics. Educate children about bees and how to protect them. Shop organic and support small local farmers who are already working to keep bees and humans safe from chemicals. Finally, buy or produce local honey! This supports your local bee population and is the healthiest for you.