Steps you can take to aid stricken bee populations

May 12, 2013 

Did you know that bees are facing many challenges these days? All over the world, bees are experiencing Colony Collapse Disorder. In countries such as the United States and the United Kingdom, a third of the bee population disappeared in 2010. In Italy, it was half.

There is little doubt that humans are causing the disorder through their activities. Some of the main theories are that the increasing lack of food due to habitat loss is causing malnutrition among honeybees which then makes them more vulnerable to viruses and fungi. Other theories include the increasing number of pesticides being used and bee parasites. Most likely it is a combination of all these things. Let’s face it, bees have many challenges.

Why should we care? One-third of the U.S. food supply requires the assistance of the honeybee. Plus, bee venom and honey can be healing sources for many. Still don’t care? Do you like almonds, pumpkins, watermelons or vanilla? What about ice cream? Recently Haagen-Dazs donated $250,000 to research into the disorder because 24 of their 60 flavors of ice cream rely on bees.

Why are bees so important? When a bee visits a flower to sip its nectar, a powdery substance in the flower called pollen sticks to the bees legs and body. When the bee flies to another flower, some of the pollen falls onto the new plant and the seed starts to grow. If there are not enough bees to pollinate crops, there will be fewer of these foods available. That could mean a food shortage or a large increase in food prices.

HOW YOU CAN HELP

Create and maintain bee habitat. Even if you only have a porch and a few pots, you can plant bee-friendly plants. Some simple plants you can grow that help bees include mint, squash, pumpkin, zucchini, sage, rosemary, oregano, spearmint, blueberry, tomato and sunflowers. You also can plant a variety of species of flowers and shrubs that produce flowers. Just avoid hybrids as they usually don’t produce much pollen. Some good choices for our area are: daisy, fleabane, larkspur, buckwheat, iris, lily, lavender, goldenrod and lilac.

Also, plan your garden so there are flowers blooming from spring through fall so the bees can eat and gather pollen during all of those months. Provide a bee bath. Yep, they need them too. Fill a large jar lid with pebbles and then fill the lid with water. Refill often during the warmest days as the bees will come to rely on this source of water.

An important step is to keep your garden chemical-free. Choose native plants, which are easier to grow without pesticides and fertilizers. Use natural concoctions if you must. Options can be found online.

Keep track of what you see before you create your habitat, or make it better, as the plants grow and once it is in full bloom you will more than likely see an increase in bees and hummingbirds. This means you are creating needed habitat for these species of wildlife. In particular, urban bees need your help. Even a few bee friendly plants can help make a difference in the survival of a local hive.

BEES IN THE NEWS

Researchers at Washington University in St. Louis recently announced a cure for HIV and possible cures for Hepatitis B and C using bee venom. Bee venom has also been used for a long time in the treatment of multiple sclerosis, arthritis and more.

Honey has a long history of being used to treat a variety of ailments, including sore throats and coughs, gastric problems, ulcers, wounds and burns. It is highly antiseptic and antibacterial.

The Tacoma Nature Center now has its very own observation beehive. This is a good way to safely see the bees working up close. In addition to the observation hive, there will be several production hives on the Nature Center property. The goal is to have Nature Center honey for sale.

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