By Elizabeth Joseph, garden and education coordinator at Heifer Farm
Photos courtesty Elizabeth Joseph

Click for some un-bee-lievable facts about honey!
Click for some un-bee-lievable facts about honey!

Did you know that honeybees have been around for 30 million years, that 95 percent of the colony is female and that they dance to communicate? Honeybees are also an incredibly important part of food production worldwide, and they’ve been in the news a lot lately. Read on to learn what’s happening with honeybees and how you can help.

What’s going on with the bees?

The United States has lost up to 50 percent of its managed honeybee colonies over the past 10 years due to colony collapse disorder, a phenomenon where the worker bees abruptly disappear from the colony. There are many theories about the cause of this disorder, including pesticides, disease, parasites and loss of habitat.

Why does it matter?

Honeybees are pollinators, which means they carry pollen from flower to flower, allowing plants to grow fruit and seed. Eighty percent of flowering plants require insect pollination, and honeybees in particular pollinate one-third of the world’s food supply. That’s every third bite of food we eat, including many fruits, berries, nuts, vegetables, oils, and even meat and dairy products from animals raised on alfalfa.

You should plant flowers for pollinators that provide both pollen and nectar.
You should plant flowers for pollinators that provide both pollen and nectar. Some great choices for year-round blooms are phlox, lavender, nasturtium, anise hyssop, echinacea, yarrow, columbine, butterfly bush, rudbeckia, bee balm and sedum.

What can we do?

The good news is that we don’t need to wait to know exactly what’s wrong with the honeybees before we can do something to help. We can all take action right now. Here are some ideas:

  1. Plant a pollinator garden. Feed the bees! It takes nectar from 2 million flowers to produce just one pound of honey … every flower really does count! 
  2. Avoid using pesticides on your lawn and garden. These products are meant to kill insects, and bees could end up being the unintended target. Try other control methods, and if all else fails, spray after dusk when the bees are inside the hive. 
  3. Purchase organic food whenever possible. Buying organic food helps to support agricultural practices that won’t inadvertently harm bees. 
  4. Try beekeeping or support local beekeepers by buying local honey. Backyard beekeeping is a great hobby, but if you aren’t up for suiting up and lighting the smoker, buy local honey to support your local beekeepers. 
  5. Install a birdbath. Bees need to drink, and birdbaths make great watering holes for them. 
  6. Write to your lawmakers. Let your local lawmakers know that you support any efforts to help the bees.

Whatever you do, get going. Honeybees are amazing creatures that play a hugely important role in our food supply. Spread the buzz!