Bee Friendly

Let me tell you about the birds and the bees. Well, let’s just start with the bees. They’re in trouble. Deep trouble. And if bees are in trouble, humans are in trouble. Bees are vital to our existence and we’re losing them by about 50 percent a year. They need our help.

Bees are part of the natural order. Or as Mustafa would call it, “the Circle of Life.” In nature and in human-driven agriculture, bees are essential, especially for a specific function: they are the most efficient pollinators on the planet.

In order to produce food, most plants need to pollinate. And being non-motile, plants must rely on other forces to get that done. Wind, human and animal activity, and other events can move pollen from one plant to another. Bees are expert at it and estimates are that one-third of the food we eat depends on bees. Though there are many species of bees, the champion pollinator is the common honeybee.

Bee informed. Many people are confused when it comes to identifying bees. A lot of people, even farm folks, mistake wasps, yellow jackets and hornets for honey bees. Of those, only true bees are pollinators. Just do a quick image search and you will easily see the difference. Real honeybees rarely bother humans (except when their hive is threatened or they are swarming) so we have no reason to try to eradicate them. Yellow jackets, on the other hand, are those annoying insects that buzz-bomb your table when you are eating al fresco during the summer months.

Like nearly every species on the planet, bees are threatened by human expansion. As we “civilize” areas of undeveloped land in the name of progress, we displace natural habitat for nearly everything else on earth. Bees are becoming a threatened species that we can’t afford to lose. Human activity, synthetic chemicals and the stress we put on nature is easily reflected by the decimation of the bee population, both domesticated and wild. We use too many chemicals. We destroy too much habitat.

Our war on bees is wrong. The greatest leap in the threat against bees was identified in 2006. Bee colonies were dying off in catastrophic numbers. Entire colonies were disappearing without a trace, as if beamed up by aliens or something. The term used to describe it was “colony collapse disorder.”

Scientists have been baffled in trying to explain or agree on what is causing this horrendous loss of bees. There are many factors considered. A class of pesticides known as neonicotinoids has been identified as a major culprit. Poisons made by chemical giants Aventis (Assail), Bayer (Clothianidin and Imidacloprid), Monsanto (Bt corn and cotton) and Syngenta (Bt corn), — to name a few — have been spread worldwide. The bee crisis is so bad that all the countries of Europe (the European Union) are now banning the use of neonicotinoids and urging the United States to follow suit. It is painfully obvious that the U.S. will not buck the big chemical companies. While beekeepers and many farmers are protesting the use of neonicotinoids, others apply them with reckless abandon.

Bee proactive. There are a lot of causes that may make us feel helpless to change. But our relationship to honeybees is so personal and local that you can really do something about it on a local scale. You’ve probably noticed a decline of honeybees in your yard, garden or parks. There is something you can do about it. Yes, join in “March Against Monsanto” and sign protests against CAFOs and Keystones to help save the environment. But to save the food on your table, you can be a friend to bees.

If you want to jump in full bore, become a beekeeper yourself and keep a hive in your back yard. Being an amateur beekeeper (or “beek”) is rewarding and easier than you might think. The Omaha Bee Club (omahabeeclub.org) is a group that can help you get started. Their next meeting is June 23, so mark your calendar. Keeping bees is legal in Omaha and Douglas County with some minor restrictions. And get this: Even if you are an apartment dweller or don’t have a yard, do not despair. Omaha Bee Club will likely be able to hook you up with a gardener or farmer who would love to have your valuable pollinators on their property.

And if tending a hive is too much to consider, how about some bee-friendly flowers for your garden or patio? Bees, unlike wasps, are not innately aggressive toward humans. So having a couple of them buzzing your blossoms is a good thing. Asters, marigolds, poppies, zinnias are just a few annuals you could plant. Perennials could include geraniums, hollyhocks, cone flower. Even dandelions are good. Flowers are best when grouped close together. Fruit trees and herbs are also food sources for our friendly bees. Remember the water. Fresh water is essential for birds and bees.

Bee well.

Heartland Healing is a New Age polemic describing alternatives to conventional methods of healing the body, mind and planet. It is provided as information and entertainment, certainly not medical advice. It is not an endorsement of any particular therapy, either by the writer or The Reader. Visit HeartlandHealing.com for more information.

posted at 10:13 am
on Friday, May 24th, 2013

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