Recently someone sent me an email which contained this picture. Her comment was, “I thought this was interesting”. Since she thought it was interesting I thought other readers might think so as well.
This is the time of year when people start itching to get outside and beautify their yards, so it’s the perfect time to write about it. While I think the photo (above) is good, I’d like to offer some other thoughts, ideas and links for reference.
It you have access to pretty much any media source you have probably heard in recent years about the honey bees being in danger. There have been countless stories of mysterious bee die-offs and colony collapse disorder. When we tell people that we are bee keepers, we often get comments about the bees disappearing and people seem to have varying degrees of knowledge on the topic. Disturbing as it is, I won’t go into my thoughts on the many causes of this, but instead focus on what individuals can do to, as the above photo says, “Help Save The Bees”. I have found this website to be a good resource https://savebees.org/ if you want to know more about the topic.
I think it is important to note that it is not only the honey bees that are in danger. The honey bee is the one we most often think of and are probably most concerned with because we humans have become managers of the honey bee. We put them in homes (hives), where we want them, and feed or medicate them when we feel it is necessary. We then utilize their services for pollenating our crops and we rob them of their products (honey, wax, pollen, propolis) for our consumption. Other bee types, each with their own attributes, are disappearing as well. Even though we don’t get honey or other products from them these other bees, wasps, and hornets they still play important roles in nature, doing things like pollinating plants and helping control insect populations by feeding on insects and caterpillars.
I do think that rather than sit on our hands and wait years for the government to come up with a plan and then spend millions of dollars on it, that most of us have the power to do some little things that can make a difference.
In addition to the message in the above picture, I’ll offer the following suggestions:
#1. Do Nothing – I’m not trying to confuse you when I say that the first action that should be considered, and is quite appropriate in many situations, is to do nothing. What I mean is let nature take its course. We often see bees, hornets and wasps as dangerous and feel the need to exterminate them from our space, so when we find a nest we are quick to seek ways to get rid of it. Sometimes, they do indeed, build nests in buildings, or equipment, or other places where they just can’t stay, so it is necessary to get rid of them. Other times it may be possible to allow them to stay.
Last year, for example, we discovered a bald faced hornets nest in the tree in front of our house. The nest was about 12 feet up and hung over the street. It was also near my parking place in the driveway. My first thought was that it was dangerous for whoever cut the grass, it was also potentially dangerous for people riding bikes or walking under that tree, I wondered if they would become disturbed by my entering and exiting my vehicle, and heaven forbid some kids should decide to play ball in the street and hit that nest. My husband and I talked about it and decided that if these hornets became aggressive we would then remove the nest. These hornets visited our deck daily but I only saw one or two at a time. They would fly around but never attempted to sting. I did observe them eating other insects. They never seemed disturbed by the grass being cut or our being in the area of their nest. We were able to peacefully coexist and I feel good about our decision to let them stay. If at all possible give bees, wasps and hornets their (or a piece of your) space.
#2 Do Nothing – Another way to do nothing, or let nature take its course, is to let wild flowers grow and blossom, thus providing food for the bees. Unfortunately we have come to think of many of the blossoms that the bees feed on as unsightly weeds. In our area bees forage on the dandelions and clover in our lawns and in addition they forage on things like golden rod, asters, thistle blossoms and many other (weeds) that grow in fields and along ditches. So instead of cutting , pulling or using herbicides to eradicate these weeds, we can decide to “do nothing”. Enjoy seeing the dandelions blossom in your yard or the thistle and golden rod take over a field or the side of the ditch and know they are a beautiful source of food for the bees.
I also want to share my thoughts about planting for the bees but have decided to do the in a separate post, so stay tuned for Part II.