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Saving the Bees

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? save the bees

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. dead bee

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.
  • Related Links:

Create a bee-friendly garden – David Suzuki Foundation

Help bring bees and butterflies back! – David Suzuki Foundation

It’s time to ban bee-killing pesticides | David Suzuki Foundation

How to make a bee hotel – Friends of the Earth

Pollinators Fact Sheet

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’ 

About Larraine Roulston

A mother of 4 with 6 wonderful grandchildren, Larraine has been active in the environmental movement since the early l970s. When the first blue boxes for recycling were launched in her region, she began writing a local weekly newspaper column to promote the 3Rs. Since that time, she has been a freelance writer for several publications, including BioCycle magazine. As a composting advocate, Larraine authors children's adventure stories that combine composting facts with literature. Currently she is working on the 6th book of her Pee Wee at Castle Compost series, which can be viewed at www.castlecompost.com. As well, Larraine and her husband Pete have built a straw bale home and live in Ontario.

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  1. Thank you Larraine. Whether we love food, gardening, animals, natural medicine, this is the article we all need to read. Thank you for the tips and for your care for our world.

  2. Love this, Larraine!
    I found many parallels to Monarch Butterflies. The shallow dish of water can also be a butterfly “Puddling” dish. By adding some sticks, stones, and a bit of earth, all pollinators can use it for moisture and for the nutrients and minerals necessary for their health.
    And I am reading a book on creating butterfly gardens. I had never thought of it before, but a flower “tube” can run out of nectar. Until the flower releases another round of nectar, the next insect looking for a bit of nourishment may have to look further. That is another reason to have several nectar plants in one area. These nearsighted insects can see a larger set of colors if plants are placed near to each other, and they might be able to find nectar in a nearby flower!
    Things you just never think of!

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