The bee crisis
Recently, the global bee population has declined severely — the amount of hives lost is in the millions. Why does this matter? David Suzuki’s Queen of Green, Lindsay Coulter, says bees are so vital because they pollinate many of the crops we eat. Without them it would be difficult to grow many of the fruits, vegetables and even nuts we eat. Without bees, there would be no chocolate or coffee.
Why are they dying?
While many factors contribute to the quick decline of bees, researchers say the use of pesticides, specifically “neonic” pesticides, are a big factor. “Neonicotinoids, unlike other pesticides which stay on the surface of leaves, are gulped up by plants and transported to the leaves, flowers, roots, stems and, bee food — pollen and nectar,” says Coulter. As bees pollinate these plants, they also ingest the toxic neonicotinoids. Last November, recognizing the impact neonic pesticides are having on the global decline of the bee population, the Ontario government proposed reducing the number of acres they are allowed to be used on by 80 percent by 2017.
How you can help
Follow Coulter’s five steps for creating your own bee-friendly garden to give bees a safe and healthy habitat.
1. Read plant labels before you buy
They may say “bee-friendly” but that doesn’t mean they are neonic-free. 70 percent of Rona’s plants are now grown without the use of neonic pesticides. They recently announced that all their plant suppliers will have to indicate whether a plant was grown with or without these pesticides by 2016.
2. Plant native, bee-friendly species
Native plants attract pollinators. This handy list shows what in-season native plants attract bees (for example, chives and lavender).
3. Go pesticide-free
Reducing toxins in your garden will lead to healthier plants, insects and animals.
4. Make a bee bath
Bees need to drink water too! To make a bee bath, line a plate with rocks and add a little bit of water — keep the rocks above water so the bees have a place to land without getting wet. Place in your garden and refresh the water daily.
5. Build or buy a bee house
This will ensure mason bees (different from honeybees!) have a safe and healthy habitat to live. Follow Coulter’s tips to making your own.
Feature image of bee, Yuki Hirano.