Catch a Buzz…..Save The Bees!
Every morning, a plump, yellow and black visitor descends upon my deck, happily buzzing around a flower-filled planter next to the slider door. This rotund fellow makes his rounds from bloom to bloom, drinks his fill, then zooms off in search of new delicacies.
Not too long ago I would have viewed this large, stinging insect as a pest, and wished him gone. But that's no longer the case. In fact, lately I’ve been having lots of warm, fuzzy thoughts about bees.
Why? Well, did you know that bees pollinate 60 percent of the food that we eat? Yep! Without them, we wouldn’t have melons, squashes, blueberries, apples, nuts, alfalfa, clover, cocoa, vanilla, mango, plums, apricots, broccoli, coffee….the list goes on and on. Suffice it to say that without bees, “life on this planet as we know it would end,” as noted in an excellent article by Tammy Toad Ryan in this summer’s Edible Jersey magazine.
Folks, bees need your help. They’re in trouble. Here in New Jersey, we’re down from 40,000 hives in 1990 to 10,000 now. Not good! You’ve probably heard about the phenomenon referred to as colony collapse disorder, where previously healthy colonies simply die off. This happens when colonies become weakened, and experts believe this is probably due to loss of food sources and the effects of toxic chemicals in the environment.
What can we do? Experts urge farms and lawns to go organic, since bees are killed when they come into contact with insect-control products that are given to plants in food, water, or soil, or when they eat the plants themselves. Says Tim Schuler, currently the New Jersey State bee inspector (how’s that for a job title??!), “the biggest threat to honeybees is the lack of forage because of changes in land use, and pesticides in our environment. The image of the perfect lawn needs to go.” Turns out that the weeds that foil our quest for the perfect lawn—like dandelions and clover—are perfect food for bees. And the pesticides we use to kill these weeds kill not only the weeds, but the bees, too. A double-whammy! Yikes!!
What else can we do? Plant a variety of flowers (wildflowers are great), to provide bees with viable sources of food. I just added three butterfly bushes to my yard—not only do the butterflies love them, the bees do, too! If anyone can recommend deer-resistant perennials and bulbs, please share!