Chances are, if you’ve been paying even a little bit of attention, you’ve heard about the “beepocalypse.” Depending on the source, you’ve likely seen varying levels of concern. While some experts are simply following the phenomenon, others are downright alarmed.
Regardless of who you ask, there are a few inarguable truths one must understand about the state of bees across the world. It’s entirely true, for example, that bees have been disappearing at much higher rates than usual for more than a decade. It’s also undeniable that we need bees. In addition to playing a major role in the food chain and helping to maintain a stable natural environment, bees are primarily responsible for pollinating our food supply.
There are also factors about which we are less certain. Scientists disagree about what’s causing Colony Collapse Disorder, for instance. Some think it’s an epidemic of parasites, while others blame pesticides like neonicotinoids. Many blame climate change. Another theory is that it’s a combination of all these factors.
Aside from all the semantics surrounding where the bees are going and why they’re leaving, there’s one thing everyone agrees on: we can help. From supporting local beekeepers to becoming a beekeeper yourself, there are a slew of ways to help the bee population.
The most popular option by far has been for regular folks like you and me to plant pollinator-friendly gardens in our own backyards. From elementary school students to avid gardeners, concerned citizens far and wide are dedicating themselves to making space for bees and other beneficial insects, providing them with an area all their own in the midst of the general population.
The best thing about these plots, affectionately referred to as “bee gardens,” is that they are easy to plant and even easier to care for. Just follow these three simple rules:
Pick The Right Location
Bees, like most wildlife, prefer natural and unmanicured settings. Pick a location at the edge of your property where the blooms can grow freely and close together to prevent unnecessary travel between plants. You should also be sure to leave some dirt uncovered by mulch or foliage so solitary bees can nest.
Finally, bees need water. Muddy puddles are preferable, as they contain salt and minerals from the soil, but small containers of water can work as well. Just be sure to empty and refill the container regularly in order to prevent mosquito larvae and other backyard pests from hatching.
Choose Your Blooms Wisely
The most successful bee gardens include 10 or more different species of plants. Choosing a wide variety of flowers will also attract a wider variety of bees. To keep it simple and cost-effective, plant perennials (flowering plants that return year after year), as opposed to annuals which die after one season.
To reduce maintenance and ensure survival, choose plants native to your area. Or, if you’d prefer to let the experts do the work for you, order a pre-designed bee garden seed kit online.
Steer Clear Of Pesticides
Most pesticides are just as harmful to bees as they are to nuisance insects. Even “natural” solutions will kill the beneficial garden insects you are trying to attract and protect. For this reason, you should avoid using any pesticides in or around your bee garden. If you need to control pests elsewhere on your property, take care to avoid all flowering plants. You should also apply the solution at sundown, after peak bee activity.
It’s that simple. And the best part? It’s working. Thanks to pesticide regulation, improved beekeeping practices, and yes, bee gardens, bee populations have rebounded over the past several years. Still, in order to maintain honeybee health and the foods that they pollinate for us, we have to continue to do our part. So let’s get planting!
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