By Larraine Roulston :
Frequently I receive petitions to save the bees. The latest from SumOfUs outlines France’s need to uphold the ban of a class of insecticides known as neonics. Scientists are warning us that bees could become extinct. Organizations worldwide endeavor to save these pollinators by blocking companies from spraying pesticides. When we understand the life of these hard working insects and how they benefit us and the planet, how can humans sit by idly and witness their demise?
Life in a beehive is one of the marvels of nature. In its extraordinary civilization, these amazing insects work as a team and always put the well-being of the hive before themselves. Of
the thousands of bees in a honeybee colony, only the queen lays eggs. During summer she can lay 2000 eggs a day. Those eggs hatch into white, legless young bees. Caring for them is the job of young adult bees. They also build a comb out of wax that they secrete from special glands in their bodies, clean the hive, make honey, feed and clean the queen, guard the hive, and help ventilate it by beating their wings. As bees mature, they leave the hive to collect nectar and pollen from flowers. The nectar is turned into honey which, together with pollen, feeds the colony.
Bees gather nectar and pollen to feed their babies. The pollen that is collected on their legs pollinates flowers when it is inadvertently transferred from flower to flower. Foraging bees return to the hive and perform a special dance to indicate the location where they have discovered more flowers. These bees also share samples of nectar so that other foragers can determine the quality of the source that they have found.
When a colony is large, has lots of stored food, and is becoming crowded, the worker bees will start raising a new queen by feeding a few developing larvae a diet of “royal jelly” that they excrete from special glands in their mouths. When these specially-fed larvae are close to adulthood, the old queen, along with a few thousand workers, will leave the hive for a temporary resting spot. From there, individual scout bees search for a suitable new home. The scout bees each report their discoveries, and other bees check these locations. When a consensus is reached on the best site, the bees move to their chosen location.
Solitary bees, unlike bumblebees and honeybees that live socially, make their own nests for their young. Most species nest in small tunnels in the ground, in hollow plant stems, in piles of sand or behind bark. These bees do not swarm or make honey; they only pollinate and lay eggs but do not pose a stinging risk.
Besides eliminating pesticide use, the following are a few additional actions you can take:
- Leave areas of bare soil and old stems in your garden.
- Place at ground level a shallow dish of water with stones protruding for bees to land on in order to drink.
- Make a backyard bee hotel as a nesting place for solitary bees. They support the health of bees but need to be monitored for spiders and parasites that may affect the survival of the larvae.
- Provide colorful flowers of the same type in clumps to make them easier for bees to locate.
- Ask your local counselors to implement pollinator-friendly practices.
- Buy organic produce whenever possible.
- Think of dandelions as food for the bees.
- Surprise your neighborhood beekeeper with an organic chocolate bar to show your appreciation. You may even be rewarded with a sample of honey.
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Larraine authors the children’s book series Pee Wee at Castle Compost at www.castlecompost.com. Published next month will be ‘Pee Wee Meets the Polllinators’