Erica Shelley, Ph.D. Best For Bees

We hear it everywhere: the bees are in trouble. Since we have a bee to thank for one in every three bites we eat, we may want to pay attention. Is there anything we can actually do? Of course!

The first step is to realize that YOU can be a bee guardian. Every day you make decisions that could help or harm the bees.

We are talking about all bees – all 20,000+ different types that live on our planet – not just the famous honeybee. Our lives literally depend on all the different kinds of bees. We pay attention to honeybees because there are people whose job it is to watch those girls!bee

Did you know that most bees are solitary and live underground or in hollow spaces?
Very few types of bees even make honey! Nonetheless, they are all important for pollination, the very process that produces the majority of our food.

What can YOU do to become a bee guardian?

1. CONSIDER YOUR FOOD CHOICES. Pesticides have been scientifically proven to affect the overall health of bees. You may only be thinking of produce, but every single food that has corn syrup, soy, or other plant byproducts in its ingredient list was grown on a field that a bee visited. Bee guardian food choices would include organic foods, as these are not sprayed with bee-harming chemicals. Growing your own food is also a good bee guardian choice!

2. MAKE YOUR YARD BEE FRIENDLY. Do you know that some bees only visit certain types of plants? Blueberries are not even pollinated by honeybees! A bee guardian will want to plant things that bloom early, midseason, and late. In my own yard I have a section devoted to goldenrod as it is a late bloomer loved by the pollinators! Dandelions are the first food for bees in the spring, so make sure to leave them! Provide bee-friendly homes such as holes, decaying wood, and plants with hollow stems, such as raspberries. Don’t buy plants from stores that spray them with pesticides-you’ll be doing more harm than good!

3. BE A LAZY GARDENER. Unfortunately the “acceptable” yard in Ontario is not bee friendly. A bee sees an expanse of grass and wonders “where is all the food?” Be a bee guardian and turn your yard into a dessert and not a desert for the bees. Mulching gardens covers up the bare ground where many solitary bees will make their homes. Weeds offer diverse food sources, so leave a few behind. In Fall, be gentle in raking leaves, as you may kill queen bumblebees. Finally, leave behind hollow stems to allow new baby bees to emerge in Spring.

4. BE MINDFUL OF WHERE YOU GET YOUR HONEY. Do you know that most beekeepers treat their hives with antibiotics and miticides (pesticides for mites) every year and you’re eating it! It is standard in Ontario to feed bees sugar water and take away the honey they’ve made. How would you feel if you were on antibiotics, eating sugar, and bathing in pesticides? Ask your beekeeper if they’re treatment-free or organic. Better yet, become a treatment-free beekeeper.

Becoming a bee guardian will definitely help the bees! One day an apple may cost $5 and what we paid for organic foods in 2016 may seem really cheap. Invest your time, money, and space into helping the bees NOW!