Protect Honey Bees in Your Own Backyard

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Dance of the Honey Bee
U.S. beekeepers have been reporting annual hive deaths of about 30 percent or higher for much of the past 10 years, but this past winter marked the worst loss ever — nearly 40 to 50 percent of the honeybees were wiped out.

This week, the Center for Food Safety is calling on Gina McCarthy, the new director of the Environmental Protection Agency, to make the testing of pesiticides that many believe may be contributing to bee die-offs a priority on her “to-do list.”

In March 2013, Beyond Pesticides, the Center for Food Safety, Pesticide Action Network (PAN) filed a lawsuit with the Environmental Protection Agency asking it to suspend the uses of neonicotinoids, the pesticides banned by the European Union earlier this year.

If you want to support their on-going effort, PAN asks that you write editorials and blog posts, call your local and state representatives, and take the pledge to create a honeybee haven of your own by following the four pollinator protection principles:

1. Protect bees from pesticides. Keep your lawn and garden pesticide-free. Explore organic solutions and control pests with homemade remedies and ladybugs.

2. Provide a variety of food for bees. Clusters of plants with staggered blooming times provide pollen for bees through the year, particularly late summer and fall. Native plants are always best.

3. Provide a year-round, clean source of water for bees. This could take many forms: A rainwater collection or irrigation system or a small garden water feature. Shallow water sources can provide enough water for bees, without creating opportunities for mosquitoes to breed.

4. Provide shelter for bees. Attract wild bees to your backyard by leaving some dead trees or plants that they might nest in.

A recent study shows that the loss of wild bees may be “an even more alarming threat to crop yields than the loss of honeybees.” Visit the Honey Bee Haven website to learn more about protecting wild bees in your own backyard and post your haven on their crowd-sourced map.

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  • Karen Bigelow Theiss

    Thank you for this info. I’ve been wrestling w/ using pesticides, something I haven’t done in nearly 6 years, due to the onset of many aphids in my garden the last couple years. This artical has convinced me to just hang in there and try to find more natural alternatives. Again thank you for this timely article!

  • D.J. Diebold

    It appears that we have not yet learned our place in the eco-system.

  • Magnus

    Anything goes in my garden..dandy flower, any flower, any thing is welcomed in my yard,, no pesticide …ever

  • Jolinda Marshall

    A great solution for aphids is ladybugs. A single box full, purchased from a local nursery every spring and released at night so they won’t fly away, keeps my 60 rose bushes aphid free all season!

  • Jo-Anne Joyce

    Planting high-pollen plants like sunflowers, goldenrod and other members of the daisy family, as well as providing some nectar-producing shrubs & flowers will supplement their diet so the ladybugs will hang around once they’ve polished off your aphids. Make sure you get a native variety and check to see if they are wild-harvested or commercially-raised. Other beneficial insects, like lacewings and preying mantids, may be good options, too. Check online to see what is ecologically-appropriate for your area. Good luck, Karen!

  • Connie

    Buy some lady bugs online–they will take care of the aphids.

  • itsizzi

    This year is the first I have not seen a single honeybee in my yard, yet …not one! I have never used pesticides, although I cannot speak for my neighbors. I have flowering trees, shrubs and bee-friendly flowers that are normally buzzing by now. I am astonished at the lack of concern or awareness of just how serious a problem this is becoming. Thank you for sounding yet one more alarm …and what an individual can do to help.

  • Theresa Riley

    Thanks for your note, Itsizzi. Maybe talk with your neighbors. See if they are using pesticides and offer other alternatives to them. They may not be aware of the issue.

  • Theresa Riley

    Glad to hear it. Thanks for writing, Karen!

  • Mary Schoen-Clark

    I grew up playing with my honey bees. I know that’s strange but I do see them as an important part of my history. Lets protect them do one of the 4 things. It seems like these thing would help birds too.

  • Mary Schoen-Clark
  • Guest

    My first honeybee sighting was today. I was thrilled and relieved to hear the buzzing in the clover and see two bees working. A few years ago, it was risky to walk in my yard in sandals in summertime. We once had a honeybee colony make a hive in our barn window between two panes of glass. Their hive was destroyed by a few boys who were up to no good. I played with bees as a child, too, and was never afraid of them.

    From educating our children about the importance of insects, to supporting efforts of re-educating farmers and gardeners about the consequences of chemical pesticide use, we have to make an effort to protect our honeybees.Thanks for the pollinator protection pointers!

  • susan

    ✿ Have You Saved a Bee Today? ✿ Bee Petitions to Sign and Share! ✿ #SaveTheBees

  • guest

    So much for the US being a “leader” in the scientific world… The EU being more progressive than we are. All we seem to be is worried how much money this will cost vs protecting and averting a real threat to the environment… End of the US-dominated era, right here…

  • Steff F. Kerkhof

    want to do something against bee killing companies? vote for syngenta, bayer and basf at the public eye awards:

  • Michael

    Interesting work supporting Honeybees is being done by this non-profit org in SC:

  • Stephen E Chambers

    The Adventures of Beatrice the Bee (Storybook App)
    A children’s interactive storybook about pollination and bee declines explored thru one bee’s adventures to save her colony. Available for iOS and Android
    Release date; April 25, 2014