Six things you can do to help save our bees
August is Bee Aware month in New Zealand and there’s no better time to highlight the life-threatening problems currently facing these beautiful little creatures. Bees around the world are in trouble and millions of them are dying, yet up to a third of the food we eat relies on pollination by bees, so apart from doing the right thing, it’s in our own best interests to protect them.
Varroa Mite, the use of pesticides and a lack of nutritious food sources are each contributing to the plight of our bees. Varroa Mite has been in NZ for around 13 years severely reducing the number of working hives. The use of pesticides and in particular those called Neonicotinoids are also believed to be contributing to the devastation. This makes for scary reading given they make up 25 percent of the world’s insecticide market and worldwide production is increasing. The loss of traditional foraging sources for bees like gorse and broom, which we tend to think of as unwanted pest weeds can also compromise the bees’ resistance to pests and diseases.
How can we help?
- Plant bee-friendly, nectar-rich plants. Some varieties can easily be grown in containers or in your garden like rosemary, sage, thyme and basil. Anything in the brassica family like broccoli is also good for bees as are flowers like cosmos, dahlias and sunflowers. More bee friendly plants can be found here on the National Bee Association Website.
- Avoid toxic pesticide sprays in your garden. If you have to use something, spray late in the evening after bees have gone to sleep and avoid spraying while plants are flowering. Always read the labels on your garden sprays and avoid products containing neonicotinoids.
- Leave some wild spaces in your garden. I noticed a large Mediterranean mustard plant that had a lot of bees feeding on its small yellow flowers, because of its rich food source for the bees I left it there.
- Everyone can make a difference. The Auckland town hall has working hives on their rooftop. In other parts of the world bees are actually doing better in urban environments because of the diverse food sources and less frequent use of pesticides. The rooftops and public gardens of cities like Paris, Berlin, London, Tokyo and Washington D.C are all places where bees are thriving.
- Donate. The National Beekeepers Association wants to raise money for research to assist bees. Go to www.beeware.org.nz for more.
- If you enjoy honey, then try buying it from your local bee keeper or Farmers market when you can. Good quality, sustainably harvested honey might also be available at your local health food or grocery store.
- We also have a downloadable PDF of facts about bees and some bee-friendly actions you can take.