My grandfather was a backyard beekeeper. I have fond memories of visiting him and his bees. It was always a little nerve-racking and thrilling to open a hive box and help him manage the honey extraction. I will never forget when a bee flew into his truck, and he picked it up by its wings to set it free.
Beyond how much we appreciate honey, the bee does so much more for us on a global ecological scale. The colony collapse disorder of honeybees has a massive impact on the pollination of our plants and flowers. If the bee dies out, the plants and flowers will soon follow, and then the ecosystem falls apart. 35% of the food supply in this world is made possible by bees.
Did you know bees can communicate through advanced math? The bee’s dance tells the rest of the hive where the good stuff is. In the early 1900s, Karl Von Frisch documented that the bee’s dance nuances gave explicit directions. Fly up/down, left/right, and how far, up to miles away, all mapped out in the dance from the bee scouts. The bee can measure a space for their new hive and relay the details for the rest of the hive to evaluate. But what the bee isn’t able to communicate is that the humans who enjoy the honey they produce is also killing them with pesticides.
Beekeeping has had a renaissance in the past couple of years but nowhere near the scale required to help repair the massive decline. The solution for stabilizing the ecosystem the bee supports is reducing harmful pesticides. I will assume that, like me, you don’t have a direct span of control over what chemicals are used on the farms near you — but you can think globally and act locally to help out our friend, the honeybee. You can start by planting bee-friendly flowers to help feed a local colony all year.
Nourish honeybees with nectar-producing plants. Wildflowers, including asters, goldenrod, sunflowers, even dandelions will provide food for the hives, and the native bee population as well. Plant flowering vegetables and fruits.
Plant long-blooming flowers or a variety of plants that will bloom at different times throughout the spring and fall. Honeybees need to eat until they retreat to their hives for the winter. Try to group at least ten bee plants in a bunch or grouping.
Provide a pond, a fountain, or some other freshwater source. Not only do the bees need nectar, but they also need water as well.
The easiest thing you can do to help the honeybees thrive is to go onto your political representatives’ websites (local, state, and federal) and encourage them to reward farmers for using more environmentally friendly/bee-friendly organic ways of growing their crops. And lastly, the most rewarding is supporting your local organic farmers and buying local honey.