By April Overall
It won’t be long before bees are buzzing around your garden again. Are you ready for these pollinators' arrival?
There are a whopping 20,000 bee species across the globe. A thousand of these call Canada home. While the numbers might sound large, sadly, they are declining rapidly. Considering that 87 of the world’s major food crops depend on pollination and three-quarters of the world’s flowering plants rely on pollinators too, we’ve got plenty of cause for concern. Bees are a critical piece of the pollination puzzle that we cannot afford to lose. So how can you help conserve our bee species? Keep reading!
Go Neonic Free
When you use chemicals on plants of any kind (whether they’re in your backyard or in farmer’s fields), those chemicals seep into bees food sources. Researchers at York University studied the levels of neonicotinoids that Honeybees were exposed to in regions in Canada where corn is grown. It seems these bees were also exposed to the neonicotinoids for longer periods of time than originally believed – about four months to be precise – when they’re hard at work pollinating. They also found that worker bees died quicker than they would have if they hadn’t been exposed to the substance, clothianidin. Moreover, these same bee colonies had a higher risk of losing their queens. Why not have a conversation with your local farmers the next time you head to the farmer’s market to learn whether or not they use neonics on their crops? Voicing your concern might make a bigger difference than you’d think!
Plant Blooms of All Sizes
Bees come in all sorts of shapes and sizes; so too should the blooms you put in your garden for them. Smaller bees and bees with shorter tongues need flowers that are relatively open so they reach the nectar without too much hassle. Aster and coneflowers are just a couple of examples of open flowers that these bees would benefit from. On the other hand, larger bees and bees with long tongues can wiggle their way into tubular flowers, like the Great Blue Lobelia, a little more easily. Be sure to give the bees in your backyard flowers of various shapes so you can make your backyard a haven for all kinds of bees.
Give Them Somewhere to Nest
Bees are anything but lazy (the old saying ‘busy as a bee’ has stood the test of time for good reason!), however, they like to stick close to home when they’re foraging for nectar. In fact, they won’t go beyond 250 metres of their nesting sites when they’re looking to collect pollen. One great way you can help the bees is by offering them a spot to nest in:
- Overgrown grass: Bumblebees
- Abandoned rodent burrows: Bumblebees
- Pithy stems: Carpenter Bees, Plasterer Bees
- Tunnels underground: Mining Bees
- Sandy soil: Dagger bees
- Abandoned bee and wasp nests: Masked Bees, Mason Bees
- Existing holes in plant stems: Masked Bees, Leaf-cutter Bees
- Crevices in dead wood: Leaf-cutter Bees, Mason Bees
The next time you browse through the organic section at the supermarket, think beyond the price tag. Not only is organic food a healthier option for you, it’s a far healthier option for bees too! By avoiding the use of herbicides, more wildflowers are able to grow alongside crops which ultimately means more pollinators (and healthier pollinators too). Having access to various kinds of plants means that bees have the pollen needed to build stronger and healthier hives.
Pick These Brightly Coloured Flowers for Your Backyard
Did you know that bees have a hard time seeing red? It’s true! They tend to navigate towards blue, purple, yellow and white flowers instead. If you don’t know where to start, we’ve got some suggestions of posies that’ll be a hit with these pollinators. Joe Pye Weed and Vervain come in gorgeous purple hues, while sunflowers will attract plenty of bees with their bright yellow colouring. Other flower species come in a variety of colours: Camassia and Nodding Onion both come in both purple and white variations, while you can get lupine in nearly every colour of the rainbow – from yellow to purple, and pink to white.