Mar 3, 2012

Is Your Backyard A Pesticide-Free Honey Bee Haven? Put It On The Map!

Johnny Mason, March 3, 2012:

I've already told you about the crowd-sourced bee health initiative, Bee Informed, but here's another movement that non-beekeepers can also get on board with!

We all know that policy makers and manufacturers really aren't moving quickly enough to help honey bee health. That's where millions of average citizens, sideline beekeepers, and backyard gardeners have stepped in to at least guarantee that their immediate area is pesticide free.  Honey Bee Haven is a new website created in collaboration between Beyond Pesticides and Pesticide Action North America where people can plot their personal bee safe havens on a map. The idea is to show a visual representation of people who care and where they are located. Participants are also encouraged to take a pesticide-free pledge and to protect the well being of honey bees everywhere. 

As Honey Bee Haven mentions, you don't need to be a beekeeper to promote honey bee health and there are a few simple things you can do. Things that we all need.
1. Food. You can begin by planting a bee garden filled with flowering varieties that will attract the bees. This will not only provide habitat and sustenance to the pollinators, but will also help your plants to flower more plentifully. Bees are attracted to most flowering plants, and are especially fond of blue and yellow flowers. Other colors such as purple, white, and pink also serve to attract bees. Make sure there are plants that will flower during different parts of the season to keep your garden flourishing throughout the summer and well into fall. This serves to provide a steady supply of nectar and pollen for bees. A diversity of flowers planted in close proximity to each other strongly attracts bees. Gardens with 10 or more species of flowering plants attract the greatest number of bees. The best plants are those native annual and perennial wildflowers that naturally grow in your region.
2. Water. Bees also need sources of water. Water can be provided in very shallow birdbaths or by adding a quarter inch of sand to a large saucer, such as those designed to fit beneath clay flower pots. Fill the saucer so that the water rises about a quarter inch above the sand. Add a few flat stones, some should rise above the water and some should just touch the surface. These stones will allow bees and other insects to drink without drowning. To avoid creating a mosquito breeding site, be sure to change the water at least twice a week.
3. Shelter. Many bees do not live in hives or colonies. By creating an ideal nesting site, you can attract species to nest and hibernate in your garden. Bumblebees, for example, hibernate and nest in abandoned rodent nests, birdhouses, snags and logs. They also are attracted to piles of cut vegetation, compost heaps, and mounds of earth and rubble. Leaving some areas in your garden bare, preferably in a sunny location, provides other ground-nesting bee species areas to dig tunnels into the soil to create nests. Brush piles, dead trees, and some dead branches or dried pithy stems attract stem-nesting bees such as leafcutter bees, while others such as the blue orchard bee prefer to use mud to build their nests. 

So, what do you think? It's a quick and easy way to show that you care about the bees. I plotted my little slice of joy in Flint, Michigan and added a bit more color to the map. Next?