It’s summer, and that means more time outside, lounging in the pool, picnics, lemonade, baseball and honeybees… but wait, where are the honeybees, anyway?
As winter thaws and spring arrives, we should start to see honeybees flocking to our flowerbeds and hard at work pollinating our flowers and gardens. But over the last several years, fewer and fewer honeybees survive the winter and return to help beautify our world, and help create over 70% of the produce we consume. And because honeybees are so important to our survival, researchers are in a rush to not only figure out why they’re dying, but to stop it from happening.
As you may remember learning in grade school, honeybees get their food from flowers, greenery and crops. While they gather their food, pollen collects on their body and is then transferred to other plants as they continue on their quest for food. It’s all a perfectly orchestrated circle of life, but human beings are causing this cycle to stop altogether.
So just what exactly is causing the large decline in honeybees?
- Pesticides: Pesticides are chemicals that are sprayed on flowers, plants, crops and trees in order to keep pesky insects away. But sadly, by keeping some insects away, the substances actually keep all insects away – including the honeybee and their fellow helpful pollinators such as butterflies. And ladybugs? They’re dying off too.
- Droughts and flooding: Too little or too much rain keeps flowers, greenery and crops from growing.
- Water conservation: Regulations placed on home and business owners, which limit the amount that they can water their yards and flower beds.
- Air pollution: Not only is the scent of flowers enjoyable to humans, but their scent is what draws honeybees. The excess pollution caused by cars, trucks and factories, makes it less likely that honeybees will be able to find their way to flowers to feed themselves.
- Urban sprawl: Just as the number of wildlife decreases when more and more forests are destroyed and buildings, homes and roads are built, the fewer areas honeybees have to build their hives.
Now that we know what’s causing the honeybees to disappear, let’s talk about what we can do at home to entice them to return.
- Plant flowers and plant a lot of them. Not only do honeybees love bright flowers, they are attracted to yards that have larger amounts of them. The more flowers, the more scent they produce and draw the bees to them.
- Don’t use pesticides. If your bothered by other, more pesky insects, search for organic ways to control them. Pesticides not only keep our bee friends at bay, they pollute our air and increase our chances of illness.
- Don’t tear down all of your old tress. Honeybees only build their beehives above ground. They look for hollowed out, dark spaces where they can protect themselves from the environment. Old trees with hollow spots are the perfect spot for a honeybee queen to seek shelter, and soon be followed by all of her worker bees.
- Relocate bees that are bothersome. Often, when they can find no other option, bees will build hives within the siding of homes or other spaces that are populated by people. Once people are concerned that they may be stung by one of the growing number of bees, they often call an exterminator. Instead, call your local bee expert. IT is just as easy for them to come to the location, remove the hive and relocate it to another location.
- Create a water feature. Just like humans, bees get thirsty. Find an interesting and attractive way to provide them with water and food at the same time. Bird feeders and waterfalls are a great way to provide access to water. Just be sure that the water runs consistently or is changed often so that mosquitoes don’t become a problem.
- Enlist your neighbors to help out. Everyone wants a more beautiful neighborhood, so why not encourage your neighbors to follow these guidelines as well? If several homes on your street take part, your neighborhood will not only be colorful and smell amazing, but it will become a honeybee habitat for everyone to enjoy.
With just a little bit of effort, you can help save the honeybee population and make the world a more beautiful place.