The bees need us and we need them, we all know that, so here’s a list of things we can do in our gardens this summer to help these amazing creatures.
1. Stop using toxic chemicals in your garden. Instead of using pesticides and herbicides enjoy the daisies and buttercups and marvel at the myriad of insects and butterflies that will visit your garden. As well as helping the bees, your lawn will be a safer place for your children and pets to play.
2. Stop pulling dandelions. Instead, learn to appreciate them as early spring greens. Adding the leaves to a salad acts like a bitter tonic, an important digestive and liver cleansing flavour, so think of dandelions as a gourmet gift from nature, full of vitamins and minerals, at a time when we all need a healthy boost.
The flowers are an early source of pollen, much needed to feed a spring hatching, brood of hungry bees. As well as using the leaves in a spring salad, use the yellow flowers to make dandelion wine or dandelion marmalade; just be sure to leave enough for the bees!
3. Stop mowing the lawn. Instead plant flowers. Choose old fashioned varieties of flowers that provide nectar and pollen. Asters, cosmos, and zinnias are all favourites of honey bees and look pretty all summer long. Bees will travel a two mile radius in search of food, and the bright blooms will act as a beacon to them.
Bees love herbs and they’re easy to grow, so include a few in your plantings. Add flavour to your meals with sage, thyme, oregano, or chives. Sip iced mint or lemon balm tea on hot summer afternoons, or chamomile tea for a restful sleep. Dry some leaves for winter use and then let the bees enjoy the flowers. Learn to make soothing calendula hand cream or lavender sachets for your closets.
Better still, if you have the time, plant vegetables. The blooms of peas, squash, tomatoes and peppers are all great food sources for bees. The bees will have their fill, and you’ll have fresh veggies. A win-win situation for everyone! Bees love the flowers of broccoli which are one of the last plants to bloom, so don’t be too hasty to pull them during the fall garden clean up, instead leave them as a late source of pollen for the winter hive.
4. Start buying local honey. Instead of eating honey from unknown sources, enjoy the amazing flavour of local honey. If you suffer from hay-fever, it often helps to eat local, unfiltered and unpasteurised honey which contains traces of the same local pollen that is causing your seasonal allergies. By ingesting the pollen, your body may, over time, develop a resistance to the allergen. By supporting neighbouring beekeepers, not only will you be healthier, but you’ll be helping them to continue as beekeepers.
5. Start keeping bees. Instead of thinking it’s too difficult to keep bees, take a course and learn how easy and fascinating it is to keep bees. Keep it small, with just one or two hives and treat is as a rewarding hobby. Of course, this option isn’t for everyone; you’ll need the time as well as a suitable location and equipment, but it’s the ultimate way to help save the bees.
These are five things that anyone can do to help save the bees. If you can’t do them all, just choose one and start today. Your life will be enriched and the bees will thank you for it.