When I was four I stepped in a wasp hive... and was stung a dozen times. It was terrible, involved screaming, mud on my head and dunking my head in the lake. Needless to say, I have a bee/wasp phobia, scrunch up my face, close my eyes and start hyperventilating whenever one is near.
Despite this irrational fear, I can recognize that honey bees are an essential part of our food production. As pollinators these insects are required for our planet's vegetation and plants suffer greatly without their furry legs spreading the love from stamen to stamen. You can thank bees for that apple you ate this morning, the coffee you drank and the tofu in your lunch.
Frighteningly, the European Honey Bee AND our native Canadian bee species are on a sharp decline. According to this study in the Journal of Agricultural Research (2010), Canadian and American beekeepers have lost 30-40% of their bees in recent years and the losses just keep mounting. Colony Collapse Disorder (possibly caused by virus+fungi, and pesticide use) along with the destruction of habitats and use of pesticides have been to blame. Interestingly enough, Canadian bees mostly live in the soil, burrow holes improving water and nutrition circulation thus improving soil quality for other crops on TOP of pollinating!
Organic honey supports local bee populations and provides a much more ethical and environmentally sustainable option as a sweetener than sugar. Top-Bar Hives mimic a fallen over log and allows bees complete freedom within their hive; comb design and shape, brood location and management and honey storage and location. Ask if the bee hives are Top-Bar when purchasing your honey.
(canadian bee- photo credit fotomex via flickr)
Honeybees aren't "IT" though, more than 800 bee species call Canada home and buying local honey won't directly support our native bee population. (although, you could argue that beekeeping associations advocate and lobby for awareness and support of healthy bee practices...).
One fun option this summer is to create a bee-friendly garden!
Here are some tips I found from David Suzuki's "Create a bee-friendly garden":
- Build a bee house: details in the post and it looks like a fun family summer project!
- Provide "bee-food" with a wide variety of plants that flower at different times. Plant native, heirloom flowers in order to attract native bee species (some flowers bred to be pretty are often sterile and not nutritious to bees!).
- Bees like blue, violet, yellow, purple and white flowers best.
- Plant four foot diameter clumps of the same flower to help bees find them.
- Make a bee bath: bees are like "tanks with wings" they need a little island to land and sip some refreshing water. In your bowl or small bee bath, add rocks as landing pads and place bath at ground level. Remember to refresh the bath daily!
Regardless of where your political and ethical views stand, we need our bees in order to have food to eat. Supporting environmentally friendly land management (i.e. buying non-GMO and organic soy for example) and ethical beekeeping is an important part of recognizing our role in helping (instead of hindering) our planet's delicate ecosystem.
We may be late in the summer, but my next goal is to plant some of my non-flourishing indoor violets out in front of our window with a small bee bath- pictures to come!
article copyright of EcoYogini at ecoyogini.blogspot.com