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Helping Honey Bees

By Linda Brown-Kuhn
May 28, 2009
File under: Gardening


From Pooh Bear’s obsession with honey to the popularity of the novel (and movie), The Secret Life of Bees, and the animated Bee Movie starring Jerry Seinfeld, you would think that these striped insects are living the high life.  In actuality, it’s been no picnic being a honey bee lately.

A couple of years ago the buzzword Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD) surfaced to describe the unexplained disappearance of millions of bees from their hives. While CCD is turning out to have multiple causes and there’s still much to be figured out, one teensy insect, the varroa mite, is a major player.

Unfortunately, it looks like the destructive varroa mite is here to stay but researchers have found some strains of bees with partial resistance to this parasitic mite.

I wondered what I could do to help honey bees and the beekeepers that raise them. Becoming a backyard beekeeper is one option, though not in the cards for me at this time.

A step down would be to let a beekeeper install a few hives on your property if you own a piece of land suitable for honey bees to forage. You’ll certainly get some honey out of the arrangement and excellent pollination of fruit trees, veggies, and other plants.

Planting flowers and trees that honey bees favor for their pollen and/or nectar can help as well. This will vary by region but in general, native wildflowers are excellent choices.

The much hated dandelion turns out to be a mainstay for honey bees in the early spring, giving them sustenance after the winter. So letting dandelions stay in your yard at least for a while, is a good move for the bees.

While gardening and caring for your lawn, skip the pesticides. The most critical times are when flowers are in bloom and bees are busy gathering pollen and nectar. Any chemicals sprayed that drift onto flowers can be carried back to the hive. Bees feed the pollen to their young larvae. Not all pesticides are toxic to bees but even a little bit of a type that is, can extensively damage a hive.

Enjoying the fruits of bees’ labors, by buying local honey and handmade beeswax candles, helps area beekeepers stay in business. You can check the National Honey Board’s honey locator for suppliers. Health food stores, independent coffee shops, and farmer’s markets are usually good places to find such products.

Here’s the way I look at it. I get to eat delicious local honey on my toast while honey bees keep doing a fantastic job pollinating a large number of crops in our food supply. Now that’s a sweet deal!

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