In this blog series, we’ve been discussing how caring for insects that pass through your yard can be part of your lawn care routine. So what can we do to help the honey bee survive in our modern world? There are several things you can do as a casual gardener (is there such a thing? because for me it’s an all encompassing passion!). You can, of course, go to the extreme and become a backyard beekeeper. Most HOA’s don’t mind a hive or two and if your bees expand past that number you can usually find helpful neighbors or local farms who are happy to help with bees. If you are interested in becoming a beekeeper contact your local Cooperative Extension for help.
One really important thing you can do is limit your insecticide use. There are lots of natural ways to get rid of aphids, Japanese beetles etc and it’s a good idea to try this first since in killing the aphids, you might be killing off ladybugs too, which, of course, love to dine on a meal of aphids. A few years ago a major company began producing and selling a new class of insecticide called Neonicotinoids. In the period after that beekeepers, amateur and large scale producers began noticing inexplicable die-off of hives and in most areas of the country die-offs outnumbered new hives. This level of die-off, or colony collapse as it has come t be known, is not sustainable. If bees die faster than they can reproduce they will die out and our food will not be pollinated and we will have very little food to eat ourselves. Action was needed and many countries banned neonics, as the shorthand for this class is called. The FDA in the US finally called for a moratorium on this pesticide and large scale big box garden centers like Lowe’s have stopped using it. Who wants to plant flowers in their garden only to have them kill off the friendly bee that stops to gather pollen? No one! You can do your part by ensuring that no plants you plant in your yard have been treated with neonics at any point in their life. Not putting it on yourself is not enough, you have to make sure the garden center didn’t either.