Wondering how you can lend a hand in bee conservation? Learn how here…
Buzzing between bursts of spring flowers, you might spy one… a flash of quickly moving wings, chubby body suspended with legs laden in pollen. Busily doing what they’ve done for millennia, these industrious little creatures of black and yellow might seem abundant, but in reality their numbers are mysteriously dwindling. With the turn of winter to spring, the bees are back, albeit in much smaller numbers. Responsible for bringing us 1 out of every 3 spoonfuls of food we so happily consume, honeybees and their ilk are too quickly becoming a rare species as their colonies collapse and their numbers dwindle.
Hive collapse and the mass disappearance of bees has been attributed to everything from pesticides to climate change to GMO crops, but while the reasons for their falling numbers may still be a mystery, the dire consequences of the situation are all too clear. While grains like wheat and corn do not require the aid of bees to grow and produce food, almost all of our non-grain fruits and vegetables require the work of bees to pollinate them. A table without the harvest created by bees would be a very drab one indeed, minus the vibrant colors and deep nutrition of fruits and vegetables, lacking the burst of blooms you might otherwise display as your centerpiece. The good news is, regardless of whether the place you call home is the city or country, there are ways in which you can help the bees. Besides switching to chemical-free, all-natural fertilizers for outdoor plants; not pulling up your “weeds” (dandelion and clover are a bee’s best friend); and choosing local, sustainable, and organic foods, planting bee-friendly flowers and flowering herbs is one of the easiest ways to roll out the welcome mat for bees, encouraging them to populate and pollinate your neighborhood. A few bee favorites you might want to consider adding to your garden or window boxes:
Besides planting herbs and flowers, another great way to encourage bee populations in your area is to get involved with a local beekeeping group or apiary. However, if beekeeping isn’t for you, there’s one more way to help the solitary bees that frequent your neighborhood. Called ‘Mason Bees’, you may have encountered these free-roaming bees and their nests before (there are over 300 species of solitary bee across the Northern hemisphere). Known for creating their homes inside hollow reeds or holes created by other wood-boring bugs, mason bees build their shelters using mud instead of cohabitating with other bees in a hive. After emerging from their nests — males emerge first — the female begins gathering pollen inside her tubular home in anticipation of laying eggs. Once enough pollen has been stored, the female bee backs into the tube and lays an egg. She then builds a mud partition and lays another egg — female eggs in the back, male eggs in the front — continuing the process until the tube is filled and it’s time to go in search of a new home for herself (independent woman that she is). While they don’t produce honey like other kinds of bees, mason bees are an integral part of keeping the eco-system running smoothly and building them a welcoming place to lay their eggs is an easy way to lend a hand. Learn how to make a mason bee home (a bee bnb!) below:
Mason Bee A-Frame House
Wood (three 5″x 5″ x 1/4″ inch pieces)
Hollow reeds or tubes (I used bamboo, available at most garden supply stores)
Water-proof glue or small nails
Cut your wood into three pieces of equal length. Trim the reeds or bamboo to the same width as the wood.
Assemble the wood into a triangle or A-frame structure, using the glue or small nails to secure in place.
Place the reeds inside the A-frame to fill the space. You can also create tubes from cardboard to intersperse with the reeds for different-sized vessels.
Add the eye-hook to the center of the top of the structure and loop the rope through. Hang near your garden or flowering trees to welcome pollinating mason bees throughout the summer.
+ How are you helping the bees this season? Be sure to share in the comments!
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