It’s becoming a crisis. Countless queens are spearheading mass exoduses and are taking all the workers with them. As a result, one-third of our diet will be adversely affected. Rally the troops. We must act now to save them – and ourselves.
No, this is not the introduction to a new science fiction series or the synopsis of a bad dream. It is, however, a call to action to an issue that, if not corrected, could very well become detrimental to our well-being.
Since 2006, some queen bees have led the mass and mysterious exodus of worker bees. Scientists have yet to be able to pinpoint the problem but they have given it a name – colony collapse disorder (CCD).
Research leader at the USDA-ARS Bee Research Laboratory, Jeff Pettis, says, Our health really does rely and fly on the wings of honeybees. The one-third of our diet that relies on bees’ cross-pollination is the fruits, nuts and vegetables that enrich our diet and allow us to thrive.
It is easy to understand why we must take steps to make queen bees, and her workers, feel more welcome within our habitat. How do we accomplish that?
The most obvious way would be to give them somewhere they would like to visit. Planting flowers where bees can flit about for nectar and pollen would help. It is essential for bees to have flowers around in early spring, late summer and during the fall so they can store enough nectar and pollen to sustain their hives over the winter. Bees can help pollinate your crops. If you chose to grow crops, bee pollination increases the quality and quantity of your harvest.
Once you’ve decided to plant flowers, does it matter which kind you plant? Actually, there are some flowers bees like more than others. It appears they are especially attracted to flowers that are yellow, violet, orange and blue. Dr. Eric Mussen, extension apiculturist at the University of California, likes borage, a honeybee favorite with ultraviolet flowers that bloom for months at a time. Other long-lasting bloomers include bee balm, black-eyed Susan, coneflower, coreopsis and Russian sage. Bees are also fond of asters, calendula, cosmos, lavender and sunflowers.
Keep in mind that bees have short tongues so will not be able to eat much if you only plant flowers with trumpet-shaped blooms that butterflies and hummingbirds love so much.
Another way to make bees feel welcome is to let your yard go pesticide/herbicide free. Yes, dandelions and white clover will sprout but they provide honeybees seasonal food sources for a balanced diet.
Provide the bees a rehydration station in a dish or bird bath. Stack a few pebbles in either until they come just above the waterline to prevent the honeybees from drowning. Change the water frequently to keep from attracting mosquitoes.
There are no “bee friendly” pesticides as they relate to honeybees. If you feel you absolutely must use something in your garden, Dr. Mussen suggests using an insecticidal soap such as Safer which should not harm honeybees unless you spray them directly with it. Use it in the early evening when bees are not visiting flowers or gardens.