Homeowners Can Help Our Backyard Bees



It’s hard to miss the news that bees are in trouble. 

This isn’t information we can afford to ignore, if for no other reason than honeybee pollinators affect the amount and type of food available in grocery stores. But homeowners can actually do a lot every day to help safeguard these iconic insects.

Bees need a source of pollen and nectar during the growing season, and native plants do a much better job of providing it than hybridized varieties and are also better adapted to surviving in a given climate than non-native plants. It’s also good to have different types of plants in the garden that will bloom spring, summer and fall. While dandelions might not be our favorite yard accessory, bees love them. Dandelions bloom early and often, and produce lots of the good stuff to keep the bees going strong. We may want to look for sections of lawn that isn’t as noticeable from the house or street to grow them. Talk to a nursery or visit ConserveLakeCounty.org and use their native plant finder to help figure out which plants are best for yards and gardens.

Fertilizers, herbicides, pesticides and insecticides all do a lot of damage to bee populations, even in small amounts. If they don’t kill adult bees outright, they often affect the bees’ navigation systems, leaving them lost, disoriented and unable to make it back to the hive. If they do arrive carrying toxic pollen and nectar, those substances are used to feed the queen and larvae, which can impact reproduction and development. Instead, consider using a natural approach to lawn care. The same website has great tips and suggestions on ways to reduce or eliminate the need for chemicals while improving the quality of our yards.

Buying fruits, vegetables and flowers from local farmers also goes a long way toward helping bee populations. The farms that grow most conventional grocery store produce and flowers are vast monocultures that cannot support them. As a result, bees have to be trucked in from all over the country to pollinate their crops. California almonds are a good example. This isn’t a sustainable lifestyle for the bees, which partially accounts for why so many beekeepers are losing them.

Small, local farms, on the other hand, tend to grow many types of crops, and these farms can usually sustain local bee populations that perform all the necessary pollination. Many team up with beekeepers that leave their hives on the farms year-round, resulting in great pollination services without over-stressing the bees. Of course, buying local honey is one of the tastiest ways to support our local honeybee populations.

Every little bit helps, whether it’s buying produce from a farmers’ market, trading out ornamental flowers for natives in the garden or cutting back on the use of chemicals in the yard. Everyone has to make their own decision about what they can reasonably do to support local pollinator populations.

One easy and inexpensive thing we all can do is perhaps the most important: spread the word. People are more likely to get involved if they learn about something from a friend than from a magazine article, because we know we’ve got a sure source of support and encouragement in whatever actions we undertake. If we’re passionate about what we’re doing, our friends may want to become involved too, and who knows—something magical can happen when good ideas spread throughout the community.

 

Visit cmap.illinois.gov/livability/local-food for information about the growing local food movement in Lake County.

 

Leah Holloway is a Heller Nature Center naturalist with the Park District of Highland Park. Contact her at 847-579-4184 or HellerNatureCenter.org

Edit ModuleShow Tags

More from Natural Awakenings

Microloans

Kiva, which means unity in Swahili, is a nonprofit organization founded in 2005 by Matt Flannery and Jessica Jackley after attending a class on theoretical microfinance at the Stanford School of Business.

Equitable Opportunity

Members of the women’s program participate in a multitude of activities, from workshops and classes in native plant identification to woodworking and chainsaw seminars with local arborist associations.

Mystical Owls:

Winter is nesting time for the great horned owl, one of nine species of owls that can be found in the region year-round or part time.

Volunteer Restoration Work

Cold weather is approaching, and for restoration volunteers, that means it’s time to remove non-native plants in the region’s natural areas.

Free, Family-Friendly Nature Activities

This August, visit a local natural area to enjoy free, educational and fun outdoor experiences with youngsters before school starts.

Add your comment:
Edit ModuleShow Tags

See More »This Month

Nirvana Naturopathics Opens New Office with Special Offer

Lana Moshkovich, LAc, ND, MSOM, has opened a new office of Nirvana Naturopathics at 1500 Shermer Road, Suite LL29, Northbrook.

Discover the Big Yes! of Spring at Evanston Workshop and Walk

Receive nature’s help for your new beginnings and your new dreams in the Spring Into Yes! Wonder Walk and Workshop, from 1:30 to 5 p.m., May 16

Chicago Diner Vegan Cheesecake

Our talented vegan bakers have devised a miraculously satisfying cheesecake recipe that’s absolutely perfect in texture. This recipe proves that we can actually have our vegan cheesecake and eat it, too.

Finding the Gems

While helping the environment is a key motivator for many people that shop at retail storefronts that sell used furniture and building materials, the thrill of discovering something unique is just as powerful a draw.

More Women Are Taking Control of Their Finance$

As women’s economic, political and social power increase, they’re also taking a more active role in their finances.

Learn A Natural Approach to Digestive Health in Deerfield

Dr. Richard Bisceglie is offering a free class from 7 to 8 p.m., April 20, at the Center for Holistic Medicine, in Deerfield.