3 Easy Ways to Help Save the Bees (And Why it Matters)
By Ginny Aaron
Something that has been near and dear to my heart for a long time is the devastating drop in the global honeybee population.
Honeybees ALONE are responsible for pollinating 80% of fruits and vegetables.Considering how much we depend on these little pollinators for the vast majority of our food, their demise could spell our demise, which is why this should be very concerning to all humans, not just farmers and homesteaders.
My own fascination with bees started as a child. I especially loved bumblebees, and when I was young I would go outside and try my hardest to catch them. I thought of them in the same way a cat lover must think of a kitten!
As I got older and realized that not every bee was the same, I started learning about them through library books, internet searches, and just observing them outdoors.
Finally, as an adult, my dream of having my own apiary came true one day when my amazing husband came home with the greatest surprise for me: my very first beehive! To say that I was elated is a gross understatement.
I’ve learned so much from studying bees over the years. I could probably sit here and drag on and on about how their bodies function and how they communicate, but I’ll spare you the in-depth science lesson for now. What we really need to talk about is what we can do to help save the bees, and the many reasons why we need to!
Some Scary Statistics About Bee Populations
In the US alone, in 2018, beekeepers reported an overall 40% loss of their hives. That’s a terrible loss! And when you think about the beehives that are not reported that number just gets higher and higher. A small, new colony has about 10,000 bees. Established colonies can have upwards of 40,000 bees. These numbers just make me so sad! I look at it like this: If an apiary has 10 hives and they lose 40%, that’s four full hives of typically 25,000-60,000 bees. That’s a lot of little lives lost!
Studies find that the use of chemical pesticides AND herbicides play a large role in the otherwise unexplainable deaths of honeybees. Pesticides get on the flowers and plants that these sweet little creatures are collecting nectar and pollen from. Then they bring the poison back to their hive and contaminate the entire colony!
It can also contaminate the places that honeybees get their water. Herbicides (even the ones that state “safe for pollinators”) are BAD! Those pesky weeds that you are so desperately trying to kill are the very source that many honeybees go to get their pollen and their nectar. If you MASS kill those weeds and wildflowers, you are starving the bees!
Honeybees will travel 2-5 miles from their hive on their daily hunt for food. Being that they go so far, I even worry about my neighbors using chemical sprays. So please think twice before spraying pesticides and herbicides.
When I go shopping, I cringe when I see people purchasing those nasty chemical sprays. So as a “beek” myself, I ask you to please reconsider purchasing those harmful chemicals. I cannot expect every person to let their yards and gardens be covered in weeds, but maybe you could find a safer alternative to getting rid of them and leave a small area designated to helping your local pollinators.
Honeybees, alone, are responsible for pollinating 80% of the fruits, vegetable and seed crops! According to this article from Yale University, “one of every three bites of food eaten worldwide depends on pollinators, especially bees, for a successful harvest.” We literally depend on bees and other pollinators in order to feed ourselves and the world’s population.
Bottom line is that chemical pesticides and herbicides are bad for bees, bad for the planet and bad for you!
Here’s another interesting statistic: Bees need to pollinate 2 MILLION flowers just to make ONE pound of honey! Each worker bee will visit 50 to 100 flowers each time they leave the hive! In that one pound of honey, you will find the life work of approximately 768 worker bees!
Honey is also the only food that contains all the substances necessary to sustain life, including water! It really should be it’s own food group!
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How YOU Can Help Save the Bees
Wondering how YOU can help save the bees? Here are 3 simple ways you can make a HUGE difference!
You can find flowers that grow wonderfully in the Fall. Plant them! In pots, in the ground, in a raised bed, anywhere! Bees will just be happy to know that they can find food for their colony to make it through the upcoming winter. There are so many flowers to choose from, but I will list you my favorites!
- Asters – These perennials form dense mounds of white, purple, pink, or blue flowers! These daisy-like blooms are certain to make the bees do their happy dance!
- Chrysanthemums – These festive Fall flowers are wide-known and breathtaking! Mums are available in seasonal shades of red, orange, yellow, peach, contrasting shades of pink, and white. They make a great container plant, so know back-breaking digging needed!
- Pansies – More of a vibrant colored flower, they come available in just about every shade of the rainbow! When you plant these flowers in the Fall, they come back to bloom again in the Spring! And the bees will thank you, twice!
- Dianthus – These make a great cool-season flower. Along with the beautiful colors that range from white and pink to red and purple, they have a terrific fragrance! So, you will want to plant these ones where you can not only see them, but you can take in the amazing fragrance!
- Black-Eyed Susans – These are a bold and beautiful flower. One of my favorites. These flowers are a bold golden-yellow in color and shaped like a daisy. They are great for container or in the garden bed. Pair them with some mums and asters and your fall flower garden will be a showstopper.
- Bee Balm – Like the name suggests, bee balm attracts bees along with other pollinators like hummingbirds and butterflies to you garden. Plant it on its own or as part of a wildflower mix.
- Borage – Another beautiful addition to your garden, borage not only attracts bees, it is also said to boost honey production. Consider planting borage especially if you have an apiary and produce your own honey.
Set Up Watering Areas
Honeybees do not need the same water that we (and other animals) need. In fact, honeybees will drink from water that we look at as undesirable. They get their nutrients from the “stuff” in the water. They will happily choose to drink from a shallow bird bath, rain gutters, or just murky puddles on the ground. Seems easy enough, right? Well, here’s the catch: honeybees can’t swim. If they land in the water, they’ll be unable to fly and will likely drown in the water.
So, how can YOU help?
- Shallow Bird Baths – You can fill these bird baths with water, add a sprinkle of table salt. Find a few corks and toss in. The corks give the bees a place to land and they can drink from the bird bath. If you do not have a cork, packing peanuts (just make sure they are not the ones that will dissolve in water), rocks, small pieces of wood. Anything for them to land on to get that much need drink of water. When filling the bird bath, do not worry about washing it out. The algae that will form around the edges of the water makes for added nutrients that the bees so need. Fallen leaves also will decay and make the water even more inviting to your local pollinators.
- Soaker Hose – I haven’t tried this one out, but I can’t wait to give it a whirl! All you do is coil the soaker hose up and then you can fill the center with dirt and plant a flower in it. Turn the soaker hose on periodically throughout the day and the water that comes out is the perfect little bee sized drops! I found this idea on Pinterest and really cannot wait to try it out. I would love to see pictures and hear about it if y’all give this idea a try.
- Hummingbird Feeders – This is a dual-purpose feeder. Just do not add the red food coloring to it. You can put water with a little table salt or even sugar water that will be loved by hummingbirds and bees alike. In the Fall, a ratio of 2:1 sugar to water will be perfect.
NEVER Use Chemical Pesticides or Herbicides!!!
This tip is pretty self-explanatory. But I’ll tell you just how bad it is…
Chemical pesticides will take down an entire colony! The bees will make their way out of their hive and no sooner do they make it to the entrance, and they will become too weak to fly. They fall to the ground and die. How can you tell if a beehive has been poisoned? When the bees die of chemical pesticide poisoning they fall to their death and their tongues will hang out of their mouths:(
The worker bees leave the hive in the morning to start their daily tasks of visiting 50-100 flowers per trip. If they land where pesticides are present and make it back to their hive (the chemicals can be present in the pollen that they collect and carry on their legs), they will unload their ‘pollen pockets’ exposing the entire colony to the poison.
Herbicides also play a part in the destruction of bees, even the ones labelled “Safe for Pollinators.” When you kill all the weeds that flower with chemical herbicides, you’re taking food away from the honeybees. Honeybees have to be able to visit tons of flowers to provide enough food to feed their entire colony for the entire winter, so taking any sources of food away from them can affect the health and survival of the entire colony.
Honeybees also don’t leave their hive in the winter. They stay huddled up together to maintain the hive temperature at about 95 degrees Fahrenheit. Regardless of the temperature outside the hive – whether it’s 107 degrees or -20 degrees – the beehive temperature remains constant. So they need all the food hey can get when it’s in season to get them through the winter.
Dandelions are one of the best flowers to keep around for bees and they’re also one of the most heavily sprayed crops. Read more about the benefits of dandelions for bees AND humans and how to make your own dandelion salve here.
Bees depend on us, and we depend on them
These are just three ways that YOU can help save the bees: Provide them with food and water, and don’t poison them. Simple enough, right? And since we depend on them as much as (or even more than) they depend on us, the more we can help save the bees, the more they can help save us!
Don’t just think about it, BEE the change you want to see ?
What other ways can you think of to help save the bees? I would love to know what the other homesteaders of the world are doing to help our tiny little friends. Leave a comment below and share your thoughts!
My name is Ginny Lynn Aaron. I’m just a Pittsburgh woman who fell in love with a Texas man. My husband and I are raising our three children, tucked back into the woods, while teaching them to be self-sufficient and self-reliant.
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Texas had a freeze in February & wiped out all the flowers. I make 2 cups of WARM water & add two tablespoons of sugar. I also put little pebbles in the water so they have a place to land. On sunny days the bees just swarm around the water. Sometimes I have to fill it 3 times in one day.
That’s so thoughtful of you! Yes, these little creatures need all the help they can get right now.