You need bees, your garden needs bees – if we are all to eat and survive, the world needs bees!
Why? Because these busy little creatures are the pollinators of more than a third of all our food crops and about 90% of wildflowers, ensuring they survive, thrive and flourish.
However, at home and abroad, bee populations are on a rapid decline. So with World Bee Day coming up May 20th, here’s what you can do to save the bee.
First and foremost, make sure that your garden, potted patio, balcony or yard is filled with the plants that will supply them with what they need – forage or bee food.
For bees, their forage or food supply consists of nectar and pollen from blooming plants within flight range. The forage sources for honey bees are an important consideration for beekeepers.
If you’re not sure which plants are bee-friendly, download Candide the FREE, social and eco-conscious gardening app that will tell you which plants are most bee-welcoming.
“If there’s one species more than any other that you’d call the gardeners best friend, its the bee,” says Candide’s Shani Krige.
“Through their intuitive cross-pollination system, they keep alive a whole range of plants from flowers and shrubs to vegetables, herbs and trees. And it’s this variety, this biodiversity that creates a healthy environment that can support all living things – great, small and tiny.
In Nature, everything is connected one way or another and the bee is the single most vital connector.”
According to Krige, there are many, many plants that bees love, often with brightly coloured and scented flowers. “On the app, in the discover section you’ll find information about the best bee attracting plants to have in your garden, starting with Aloes, Vygies, Clivia, Daisies, Proteas, Ericas, Cape Honeysuckle and Rosemary,” says Krige.
You’ll also find lots of bee facts, learn how to make a bee Bait box – and meet a whole community of local and international bee-minded people. “You may even already have a selection of bee-friendly plants in your garden, if you’re not sure, use our newly developed Plant ID function in the Knowledge section of the App to find out,” adds Krige.
The decline in bee numbers also impacts the production of honey, that precious golden liquid beloved since the dawn of time for its healing and nutritious properties.
But did you know for instance that in its lifetime one bee will make less than a quarter spoonful of honey, and to make a 450g jar of pure, raw honey, 60,000 bees would have to travel nearly 90,000 km and visit more than 2 million flowers?
So with honey consumption on the increase, we simply can’t afford to lose a single bee because each one is responsible for between 10 and 100 pollen foraging trips in one-day visiting up to 5000 flowers. Plus the Queen Bee, while she doesn’t actually move, does her bit laying up to 1000 eggs in 24 hours!
So why are bees threatened? Many reasons, but mainly: habitat loss – as land gets developed, with it goes many of the plants bees feed on; monocropping agriculture – bees thrive on variety; climate change – rising temperatures and fluctuating seasons mean flowers and bees patterns are out of synch; disease and viruses – such as American foul brood and Colony Collapse Disorder, and finally, increased use of pesticides, herbicides and genetically modified foods.
But the real question is – what can you do to help save the bee?
South Africa’s organic gardening guru and best-selling-author Jane Griffiths has a beehive in her garden. “One of the benefits of having a beehive is knowing that I am providing a home to insects that are beneficial, not just to my garden but to the greater neighbourhood,” says Griffiths. “Bees are crucial to our food chain, pollinating plants while they forage for nectar and pollen.”
Here are a few simple ways that you too can help save our bees:
- Become a pollinator champ. Create a pollinator-friendly garden by planting colourful flowers and growing single petal plans. Download Candide the free gardening app for information about which plants are bee-friendly.
- Know your weeds. Think about the bees before pulling out any weeds – some weeds are great sources of pollen and nectar for hardworking bees gathering their late food sources before winter comes.
- Support local. By buying local raw honey, you support local beekeepers and their bees, and consequently the environmental health of your town or city, as well as your own health.
- Know your bees. There are over 20,000 species worldwide – but here in South Africa, we’re looking at Apis mellifera and the Cape Honeybee. Talk to your nearest beekeeper to learn more.
- Avoid all pesticides and chemicals in your garden.
- Don’t swot the swarm: Swarming is a natural process that occurs when colonies of bees have outgrown their hive. If you see a swarm, contact a local beekeeper or beekeeper’s association, but be sure to choose an eco-conscious individual or group who will collect swarms to keep or relocate them to a safer new home rather than destroy them. Bees in a swarm are gentle and present very little danger, but can be made aggressive if disturbed or sprayed with water. Just leave them alone and wait for help to arrive.