Bees and other pollinators are a monitor for our environmental health. Like the canary birds coal miners used to monitor air quality, bees tell humans about the quality of the earth’s environment. Unfortunately, unlike the miners who could simply leave the mine when conditions became dangerous, there is no where for us to flee. If bees can’t survive in our environment, what lies ahead for humans? The decline in the pollinator population is both alarming and a direct result of human influence. While Pesticides, Genetically Modified Crops and Pollution have all been determined to play a role, we as individuals must take our own action to improve our environment, and make the world more bee and human friendly.
When I think of bees, I think of honey. While I would love to have backyard honey bees, as a busy Mom I just don’t have the time. I was surprised to learn that not all bees make honey, but all are excellent pollinators! My family has been working hard at creating a bee friendly environment right in our own yard! It’s a great family project and easy to do. We recently created a Bee Sanctuary and placed this (affiliate) Mason Bee house in our yard. While I haven’t seen activity in it yet, we’re hopeful that it will soon be the home to friendly, non-honey producing pollinators.
How do we know the bee population is declining? Beekeepers report losing, on average, 30% of their hives yearly. This phenomenon, known as colony collapse disorder, has been determined to be a direct result of home/commercial pesticides, and pesticides built into GMO crops known as neonic pesticides. These pesticides not only kill bees outright, but it makes surviving bees more susceptible to pests, stress and diseases which inadvertently kill them. In addition to opening them up to infections and disease, it impairs their memory, reproduction and navigation abilities. Bees can travel miles from their hive, if they can’t navigate back…you wind up with dead bees and an empty hive. (1)
While many responsible retailers are aiming to remove these toxic pesticides from their shelves, many of these chemicals can be purchased right at your local home store. If exposure to these chemicals impacts bees so severely…these same chemicals have to be horrible for humans! Which is why we have made a choice to do our best to eat organically, locally and to refrain from pesticide and herbicide use in our own home. When you take a moment to look around, at the beautiful blooms that come from many “weeds,” learning to Love the Weeds and Save the Bees is easy! Encourage friends and family to do the same, one easy and money saving way is to skip the lawn spray!!
How do you attract beneficial pollinators to your garden? Planting bee friendly plants, avoiding the use of garden and lawn chemicals and by using (affiliate) Mason Bee houses. Installing this Mason Bee House was easy! I followed the directions packaged right with the house and studied our yard for days. I needed a sturdy spot a few feet off of the ground, that provided some protection and was open to warm sunlight for a few hours. This giant 200+ year old oak tree seemed like the perfect spot. I had it evaluated by an arborist a few years ago and she assured me that it’s in excellent condition…and I read online that a conservatively sized screw wouldn’t damage it. I noticed that there were already some wild flowers growing at the base, and lots of nearby flowers from our garden to help attract bees. Unlike honey bee hives, this Mason Bee house requires little to no care. Instructions include to cleans it once every two years with special soap, done and done!
Mason bees run individual households, as opposed to honey bees that focus on one queen. For that reason, one bee family will take up each hole at a time, and pack their house in with mud. Using mud is how they got their name “mason bees,” but they are also known as orchard bees. These bees are thought to be friendly pollinators, only stinging if squished or stepped on. My kids love participating in our bee projects, and I love teaching them how to care for our environment.