Bees are responsible for 80 percent of pollination that takes place on Earth. We have bees to thank for around one-third of the world’s food supply, including avocados, almonds, onions, and a whole lot of fruits and vegetables that would be extremely missed if they were to disappear.
But in the past year alone, US beekeepers have reported that 40% of their hives have died unexpectedly, possibly partly due to erratic weather conditions that are a result of climate change. Other threats to bee populations include habitat loss, pesticides and herbicides, monoculture where farmers only grow a single crop at a time and disease.
While it’s good to know that a decline in bee populations is troubling, it’s even better to know how you can actually make a difference to this pretty terrifying situation. Spreading awareness and investing time and money to pass legislation would help preserve many bee species by banning various insecticides.
1. Plant a Bee Garden
One of the largest threats to bees is a lack of safe habitat where they can build homes and find a variety of nutritious food sources. By planting a bee garden, you can create a habitat corridor with plants that are rich in pollen and nectar. You don’t need a ton of space to grow bee-friendly plants — gardens can be established in window boxes, flower pots and planters, and across yards. You can also get involved with local organizations and governments to find opportunities to enrich public and shared spaces. If you want to take a step further, get involved with the local government to advocate sensible solutions to the expanding urban areas.
2. Avoid using pesticides in your own home garden With bee populations declining, it’s more important than ever to keep our homes pesticide-free. Bees exist in urban environments, so the forage that they find in people’s yards is critical to their nutrition. Plants that are treated with pesticides are extremely harmful to bees, and even low doses of tainted pollen/nectar can build up in a beehive over time and lead to neurological issues and whole colony collapse.
Synthetic pesticides, fertilizers, and herbicides are some of the dangers that bees face. Go for organic options and spray at night since pollinators are least active at that time. You can also use beneficial insects such as praying mantises and ladybugs to help you out in the garden.
3. Create a Bee Bath
Like all living things, bees need water to stay healthy and productive. They work tirelessly to collect nectar and pollen, and if they can’t find a water source, they can easily become dehydrated. You can help them out by setting up a clean, safe spot for them to rest and get a drink. This can be as pretty and extravagant as a garden pool or fountain, or as simple as a small bowl filled with water. Whatever you do, make sure the water is free of chemicals. It is also a good idea to place stones, twigs, or other places for bees to land on in the water.
4. Start Your Own Hive
Of all the different ways to protect honey bees, becoming a beekeeper is among the most exciting. Providing a safe habitat and caring for a colony is one of the best ways to support bees in your community. It can also result in delicious honey and some side cash for you as your hive grows and prospers. You can buy bees and everything you need to keep them. There is a buzzing community waiting to share your love of honey bees.
Did you know that, with the exception of honeybees, most bees are solitary creatures? 70% of solitary bees live underground, while 30% live in holes inside of trees or hollow stems. Species like bumble bees build their nests in undisturbed land, and you can provide safe haven for them by leaving an untouched plot of land for them in your garden! “Bee condos” — which have small tube “apartments” allow species like mason bees to take up residence.
5. Go Chemical-Free for Bees
You can help out bees by planting a bee-friendly garden and providing them a place to rest, pollinate and forage. Some helpful tips offered by The Honeybee Conservancy are:
- Avoid hybrid flowers, which might be sterile and have little or no nectar or pollen
- Make sure you’ll have blooms for bees year round.
- Leave an undisturbed plot for ground-nesting bees
- Plant flowers in patches – bees like to focus on one flower type at a time
- Skip the double flowers, which lack pollen
6. Provide Trees for Bees
Did you know that bees get most of their nectar from trees? When a tree blooms, it provides hundreds if not thousands of blossoms to feed from. Trees are not only a great food source for bees, but also an essential habitat. Tree leaves and resin provide nesting material for bees, while 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 and Become a Citizen Scientist.
7. Support Local Beekeepers and Organizations
Local beekeepers work hard to nurture their bees and the local community. The easiest way to show your appreciation 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 is made from local flora and may help with seasonal allergies! You can also give time, resources, and monetary donations to local beekeeping societies and environmental groups to help their programs grow. Local beekeepers often sell more than just honey, too. You can get soap, lotions, and candles made from the work of local bees.
8. Sponsor a Hive
If you don’t have the space or can’t make it to your local farmer’s market, you can still support the bees. Consider adopting or sponsoring a honey bee hive. You can help keep local beekeepers in business even if drought or other complications hit their hives. You can also fund new hive installations in your community or across the country. Not only will you protect the bees, but you will promote a healthy, environmentally friendly practice for your community as well. This is also a great way to boost awareness about the importance of bees and the work your local beekeepers do.
The Honeybee Conservancy is working on installing stocked honeybee hives and solitary bee homes in communities across the US. You can help them out by donating or looking for organizations around with similar initiatives.
9. Teach Tomorrow’s Bee Stewards
There are a lot of misconceptions about honey bees. When many people think of bees, they tend to think of gross or creepy insects that sting you and cause a lot of pain. You can get rid of these negative connotations through information, education, and awareness. This will go a long way in protecting bees and the work they do for the environment.
Learn more about honey bees and share your knowledge wherever you can. Consider writing articles for the local newsletter or participating in events and fundraisers. The more informed people are, the more likely they will be to help support and preserve their local bee populations.
Inspire the next generation of eco citizens with guides, lessons, and activities to get them buzzed about bees! Educators can use our collection of free resources to bring nature and ecology into the classroom — and the hearts of children everywhere.
Now, let’s get out there and save some bees!