I like eating. I don’t just mean that I enjoy the food that I eat (though I do), I mean I like having food to eat. I like being able to eat. I like other people being able to eat, too. Food is necessary to life, and I’m a big fan of living.
Which is why you need to do something to save the bees.
The bees are dying out all around the world. This is bad news for anybody who eats. Approximately 1/3 of our food is dependent on bees and other little critters for pollination. Where the bees are not present, the work of pollination falls to humans with small paintbrushes. I wish I was making this up. Men and women are going into their gardens and farms armed with tiny paintbrushes to do the job that God’s creatures do for free every day they are allowed to thrive. What’s more, the creepy crawlies do a much better, more thorough job of it.
So you should be doing something to fix this problem.
I’m not saying that you can save the bees singlehandedly. None of us can, and none of us should have to. Don’t let the size and scale of this issue deter you. The problem of looming bee extinction is a global problem, and it is going to take all of us doing our part. Here are things you can do in your yard, in your garden, in your community or church garden, on your farm, on your back porch or windowsill, at your school or workplace, to save the bees.
- Do not use pesticides. I hate seeing buggy holes in my plants as much as you do. I have lost plenty of veggies to infestation by malevolent insects. Blanketing your garden or your yard with poison is not without consequences, though. Pesticides are especially detrimental to social insects, like the honeybee, that live in groups. When a honeybee returns from foraging, she is quickly surrounded by her sisters, who take the nectar and pollen she has brought, groom, and inspect her. Whatever poison she might have picked up while abroad is passed along to other bees. One bee coming into contact with pesticide is not just one dead bee.
- Allow space for native habitat. If you have a field or open area on your property that is not used for any real purpose, let it grow. If you have to mow it, mow it infrequently. Let the weeds and wildflowers grow. Let it fill up with dandelions. Let the tulip poplars and sourwoods intrude on your territory a bit. These plants are extremely beneficial to honeybees and other pollinators; a field of short-cropped grass isn’t really beneficial to anybody.
- Plant a pollinator garden. Many of us have flower beds growing around our landscaping. Most of the decorative flowers we grow have been bred to put forth an abundance of large, colorful flowers, but not an abundance of nectar and pollen. The most pollinator-friendly plants are not the ones typically sold at local gardening stores. In fact, they tend to be a little bit on the weedy side. They’re still pretty, just not what we think of when it comes to landscaping. Do your research. Find out what plants are good for pollinators, as well as which ones thrive in your climate region. Plan ahead; bees need to eat year-round, so plant a variety so that there will be something in bloom throughout the year. Contact your local cooperative extension, they will be able to give you guidance. If you live in North Carolina, I’ve already done the work for you: here’s what the NC State co-op published.
- Provide housing. So you want to save the bees, but you don’t want to be a beekeeper. I understand that. There are ways to provide housing for pollinators other than installing a hive in your yard. Sometimes these critters will take the initiative and make themselves at home on your property; as long as they are not causing damage or endangering you or your loved ones, let them be. There are lots of bumblebee and butterfly houses being sold; put some of those around your property. A church garden I recently visited took logs from a tree that had fallen on their property, drilled holes in them, and set them up as bumblebee houses. Why? Because bumblebees pollinate tomatoes and peppers more effectively and abundantly than any other kind of pollinator.
- Give them something to drink. Bees need water, same as every other living creature. Unfortunately, it is really easy for them to drown; once they get wet, there’s no flying off. So, fill up one side of your birdbath with small pebbles. That way the bees have a place to land so they can drink safely. Put out a shallow dish of water on your porch; add slices of banana and orange to attract butterflies. Got something like a rain barrel, or just a bucket that sits around outside? Float a non-used paint roller in it, again so that the bees can land and drink safely.
- Educate yourself and especially your kids. Years ago I worked at a summer camp. During snack time, when all the kids were sloshing around their sugary beverages and dropping candy on the ground, the bees would show up. Without fail, when bees and other yellow, buzzing fliers came by, someone would scream in terror. I always told those kids the same thing I tell my kids and the same thing I’m going to tell you: those bugs do not want to sting you. If they feel threatened, they will sting to protect themselves, but for many of them that means they die. We share this creation with all God’s creatures, including stinging insects. Instead of living in fear and dread, let’s learn to live in appreciation. Even wasps and hornets, those notoriously vicious stingers, are beneficial; did you know that wasps kill the insects that are eating your garden plants?
Again, this is a gargantuan, global problem. But it is not an insurmountable problem. If you can do all of these things, great! Do all of them. If you can do one of these things, great! Do one of them. If we all start doing what we can, then we all can make a difference. If we save the bees, we save the world, and we save ourselves.