Making D.C. A Home For The Bees
You Can Help Save The Bees, In Four Simple Steps
Written by EcoWomen Board Member Allyson Shaw
With the first days of spring, soon come the baskets of fresh strawberries, bundles of artichokes, brilliant flowers, and piles of bright, leafy greens. But with the spring bounty comes a startling statistic: according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, one of every three bites of food we eat is dependent on pollination from honeybees. And as every beekeeper knows, the bees are in an imminent crisis.
Heidi Wolff, a George Washington University alumna, began keeping bees when she was 17 years old. She says it was the “golden age” of beekeeping.
“You just put them in a box and let them do their thing,” Wolff said.
But just over the past decade, beekeepers have reported an annual loss of 40 to 50 percent of their hives – some have even lost 100 percent. Wolff says she now must feed her bees supplements and constantly check in on them.
While the exact cause of the population collapse is unknown, scientists believe it is a combination of pesticides, disease, poor nutrition, habitat loss, and inbreeding. In particular, more and more studies are now pointing to a certain class of insecticides, neonicotinoids, as a leading cause of bee death. Unlike other pesticides, “neonics” are absorbed into the plant and stay in the plant throughout its life.
Fewer bees means smaller harvests and higher food prices. Last June, Whole Foods partnered with The Xerces Society to show us what the grocery store would look like without honeybees. Our fruits, vegetables, nuts and seeds are in danger! Luckily there are ways you can help:
Plant things bees like!
Coreopsis (Tickseed). This lovely daisy-like flower is drought resistant, hardy and easy to grow. It is a great source of protein-rich pollen for passing pollinators, since it has a long bloom time: from June to frost.
Passiflora (Passion Flower). This beautiful hanging plant grows like crazy in a pot or in the ground. It is the host to several pretty butterflies and is a very interesting nectar source for passing pollinators. It’s Wolff’s favorite flower!
Check out the Center for Food Safety’s handy list of plants for more options!
Use natural pest remedies
Homeowners can sometimes use more pesticide per square foot than farmers, Wolff said, because people “go wild with the Raid.” Neonics are used on common agriculture seeds, like corn, but can also be found in household pest-control products. Please refer to the Center for Food Safety’s list of products that include neonics and avoid those products — instead, you can utilize plants that will help control pests naturally:
Lavender smells lovely and also repels fleas, moths and mosquitos.
Basil is said to repel thrips, flies and mosquitoes.
Catnip can keep away flea beetles, aphids, Japanese beetles, squash bugs, ants, and weevils.
Tea tree oil has been known to repel mosquitoes, lice, ants, and many other insects that bite.
Support local farmers
As if you needed another reason to buy local, organic produce! Small-scale farmers are more likely to use integrated pest management strategies, Wolff said, in lieu of neonics.
Call for action
You can sign the Center for Food Safety’s petition to tell the EPA to immediately suspend all outdoor uses of neonicotinoid pesticides. You can also join their BEE Protective Campaign to make change in your community by encouraging your city, municipality or county to suspend neonics until proven safe.
What will you do to save the bees?