Bee a Hero: 6 Easy Ways to Save Your Pollinators

Lake County Beekeepers AssociationI went to an Introductory Beekeeping class this month, and it was AMAZING!! Offered by the Lake County Beekeepers Association, it was chock-full of information, useful strategies, history and biology, and specific steps for starting your own hives.

I left with the very firm conviction that I want to commit to beekeeping; however, with a daughter who is still hesitant, neighbors right next door who are somewhat nature-phobic, and still so much to learn… I’m okay taking one more year to plan carefully, feel fully prepared, and find a good home for my initial hives.

What I also left with, however, was an even stronger urge to advocate for the safety, protection, and support of pollinators locally and worldwide. We need our bees, friends. We need them desperately. And right now they seem to be the proverbial canary in the coal mine – giving us an early heads up that our environment (and food) has become unsustainably toxic. Something has to change.

And that’s where we come in. Today, I want to share 6 easy things we can each do that will immediately and very effectively have a positive impact on our bees. Perhaps if enough of us step in, change our own environments, and use our power as consumers to help usher in constructive change – we will manage to save our pollinators. Any step(s) you can take will help a great deal!

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Colony Collapse DisorderThere is increasing evidence that our pollinators (honey bees, wild bees, etc.) are dying off. Colony Collapse Disorder is a very real thing, though the theories on cause and remedy do vary. (And if you have time, I do encourage you to look through all those embedded links!)

While there may not be a cohesive theory as to why it’s happening, everyone is sure it is. Hearing decades-long beekeepers talk about the shifts they’ve seen and the observational data they can offer is extremely sobering. One of the best – and easiest – things you can do is become more informed and advocate in every way possible to save the bees. Here are some of the petitions and efforts currently underway:

ConeflowerAll of our bees are suffering – we often think of honey bees first, but other wild bees are essential to the pollination of food crops. By planting bee-friendly flowers, herb, and grasses in your environment, you can help ensure a variety of bees can gather food in areas that are safe. Here are some resources that can help you determine what may work best in your area:

  • The Native Plant Society can help you identify native species in your state (in the US), or you can try Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center‘s database. While not all are necessarily bee-friendly, using native species helps all local flora and fauna thrive.
  • The Honeybee Conservancy has tips and strategies for planting a bee-friendly garden.
  • For those in Britain, check out treehugger‘s info on lists shared by the Royal Horticultural Society for 400 bee-friendly plants.
  • Plant suggestions shared with me by local (Midwest) beekeepers include: thistle, clover, alfalfa, maple trees, chicory, dandelions, goldenrod, coneflower, and anything in the mint family.
  • PLEASE BE SURE to buy plants you know are safe from chemicals. Bee supporters have been petitioning Home Depot and Lowe’s to stop selling pesticide-laden plants… but no change is yet firm. Buy from a safe source, such as Ernst Conservation Seeds or The Ark Institute (among others), to ensure seeds are chemical-free.

money talksIt’s always important to remember: One of the greatest roles of power we inhabit is that of consumer. How and where you spend your money matter. Supporting businesses that are truly bee-friendly sends a message, as does ignoring businesses who are harming the planet. Here are a few ideas for getting the biggest bang for your (metaphorically loud) buck:

  • Burt’s Bees has a Wild for Bees program that includes information, community partnerships to increase plantings for pollinators, and recipes by chefs who keep bees.
  • Support local garden and nursery shops who sell chemical-free plants. If you’re not sure what to look for, check out the Xerxes Society for a list of common pesticides used (in the US), or visit Beyond Pesticides to find common trade names for bee-harming chemicals.
  • Buy organic when you can. This type of purchase ensures your food was grown without the use of pesticides, chemicals, or GM/GE crops… all of which helps ensure bee safety and hive survival. Be wary of companies masquerading as safe. EWG and others have begun to compiles lists of companies greenwashing their efforts by putting on an organic (or at the very least “healthy”) facade while actually cutting dangerous corners in production. Check out the Non-GMO Shopping Guide to help your decision-making on grocery day.

2013 cucumber and tomatoes
So along with planting chemical-free plants and buying chemical-free food (both of which are fantastic steps!), it’s important to remember that we’ve also got to treat our own homes in a chemical-free way. Sometimes it’s easy to forget that the way we treat our yards, water our plants, or pest-proof our homes can also introduce harmful toxins into the environment. Here are some ideas for getting pesticides out of your local domain:

  • Check out Reader’s Digest or Mother Earth News to learn how to garden chemical-free. Select organic soils and natural fertilizers, boost plants’ growth with worm compost tea, and conquer garden pests without pesticides.
  • Try to maintain your lawn naturally. Organic Gardening has great tips on natural lawn care that is safer for you and the environment.
  • Take are of pests inside your home with chemical-free strategies from the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC). Most common household pests can be eliminated naturally; however, if you’re looking for a company that can offer a safe alternative, take a look at Beyond Pesticides’ Safety Source for Pest Management.

Bee house
One of the best ways to support local pollinators is to build a bee house (sometimes also referred to as a bee hotel, or bee box). These little structures provide a nesting area for pollinators of all types, which encourages population growth. Here are a few resources for building (or buying) your own pollinator palace:

Okay. This one may not qualify as easy, but it’s worth considering. When you consider that one beehive can yield 85 to 100 pounds of honey each year, most beekeepers say they break even in the first year (and if you make some of the necessary equipment from scratch, you can make even more).

In some states, a certain amount of acreage enables you to list the bees as livestock to enjoy a tax break. So it’s not only an act of protection and advocacy (and a labor of love for most keepers), it’s also not a bad way to make some extra income while sustaining the environment. If you think you even might be interested, I encourage you to give these resources a look:

  • The American Beekeeping Federation (ABF) is a wonderful place to start for information. Consider it the motherload of honeybee-related facts.
  • Beesource is an online community that enables you to virtually connect with beekeepers all over the world, boasting 14000 member and growing.
  • The Practical Beekeeper: Beekeeping Naturally by Michael Bush is a highly recommended starter book.
  • Visit your local Farmers’ Market and talk to any honey sellers you see. Chances are, they keep their own bees – and will LOVE to tell you all about them! (Seriously, these folks really do tend to adore their bees.)


4 responses to “Bee a Hero: 6 Easy Ways to Save Your Pollinators

  1. Good blog and such an important topic

  2. Regarding the Make Your Money Talks section, I thought I’d add that Häagen-Dazs has had a program for years now where they donate money toward honey bee research.

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