YOU’VE PROBABLY ALREADY HEARD that bee populations are dwindling. And that’s bad news, because these buzzing insects are responsible for pollinating at least 1/3 of our nation’s crops. Fortunately there are three things we gardeners can do to help local populations survive:
1. Avoid pesticide use. Systemic pesticides are particularly toxic to bees. In fact, studies show that Clothianidin, a widely-used systemic, is at least partly responsible for honey bee Colony Collapse Disorder. The chemical, which bees ingest while foraging in non-organic areas, plays havoc with their nervous system. The bees become disoriented. They can’t find their way home to their hive, and consequently die from sheer exhaustion. (Last summer, I remember seeing honey bees drop one after another into our swimming pool. I have no doubt they were the victims of systemic poison.)
Clothianidin is manufactured by Bayer. It is widely used by industrial corn growers, but its use isn’t limited to commercial crops. While visiting my local hardware store recently, I looked at the label of Bayer’s “2 in 1 Rose & Flower Care.” Sure enough, this granular systemic, which is used by millions of home-gardeners, contains clothianidin. If you care for bees, please don’t use this product.
I should probably mention that Europe has already banned the sale of clothiandin. The United States Department of Agriculture, as you might have guessed, has seen no need to restrict the chemical, let alone ban it.
2. Plant Flowers. Honey bees will visit all flowers which offer pollen, but they are especially drawn to blossoms of blue and yellow. Indeed, they see yellow as blue. A case in point — the morning glories (above) which most summers grow on the fence in my herb garden, are always teeming with honey bees. Ditto the blue bachelor buttons pictured in the photo at the top of this post.
And here’s an interesting fact: Bees see red as black. Black is a danger signal to them, as most of their predators (including skunks and bears) have dark fur.
And if you’d really like to woo honey bees, be sure to grow Digitalis (Foxglove). The “honey spots,” or little dots on the interior of the flowers are used by bees as a sort of “landing-guide.” (The white eye of the morning glory, the copper halo of the coreopsis, the pink veins of a snapdragon — these, too, act as landing-guides for bees.)
3. Let some weeds remain. Try not to be overly fussy about your lawn. If 94-year-old Clara Cannucciari hasn’t yet convinced you to keep your dandelions, perhaps a “Save the Bees” campaign will. Remember that clover, too, is highly desired by bees.
Think you’ll make a special effort to help the bees out? You can let me know by leaving a comment. As always, I love hearing from you.
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