The second most asked question our research lab and the Bee Informed Partnership hears from the public, after, “What is killing the bees?”, is, “What can I do?”.
Both are usually asked in earnest, with a sincere hope that things are getting better for the first and with humbleness in the asking of the second. The world is a big place and for most of us, we have a difficult time fathoming that the actions of a single person can make a difference. But they can.
When we get this question, we respond with the following 5 simple steps. And we try to reassure them that they can, in fact, set in motion the opportunity for discussion, for movement and for change.
Get to know a local beekeeper. Support her (or him). Buy local honey. Go to a local beekeeping meeting (hint: these are not “closed” or private meetings and they will welcome you with open arms and likely talk your ear off and answer all of your questions). Even if you don’t feel inclined to keep bees yourself, join the club and get educated on what challenges beekeepers are facing. Once you become educated, you can spread that knowledge to coworkers, family, and friends.
Pay attention to what is blooming in your area and what insects you see visiting those blooms. We are located in Maryland and the public here is often shocked to learn that our two most prolific nectar sources come from trees (the Tulip Poplar and the Black Locust). If flowers are not blooming in your area, and you think they should be, find out why. Talk to your local extension office or Master Gardening group. Is there something you can do to promote honey bee (and native bee) forage?
Reduce pesticides on your yard and lawn. Homeowners generally use up to 10 times more pesticides to combat rodents, insects, weeds, etc. than farmers do on a per acre basis. Do you really need to use pesticides on ornamental plants? Think about fostering clover and dandelions in your lawn instead of spraying them. Talk to your neighbors and homeowners’ association about not spraying or reducing their use of pesticides. There are often other methods of controlling pests.
Reduce (or eliminate) your lawn. Lawns are green deserts. Wouldn’t a meadow filled with blooming, native plants that attract all kinds of pollinators be much more interesting to look at and cultivate? If you don’t know what pollinator plants will grow well in your area, consult your local nursery or some online maps such as this one: http://xerces.org/pollinator-resource-center/.
If you have the resources, make a financial contribution to your favorite pollinator or honey bee research organization. Even small amounts make a difference. Your contributions to any of three below are a step towards helping us solve the “why are bees dying” question. And, in light of the recent tragedies in Puerto Rico, you will truly be saving bees who currently have no forage. They are starving. No pollen, no nectar, means no bees.
Project Apis m.
The Bee Informed Partnership
GoFundMe Puerto Rico honey bees
So, maybe the second question shouldn’t be, “What can I do”.
But, instead, “Why aren’t you?”
Karen Rennich, Executive Director
The Bee Informed Partnership