How to help Bees help us
Author: Alana Baker Date Posted:31 December 2018
With all the talk lately of struggling Australian farmers, there is another species that needs our compassion – bees. These little creatures are tremendously critical to the survival of our local produce. The honey bee is the most important process in growing crops, for their pollination is what keeps the produce growing and able to reproduce our favourite foods. Two thirds of the Australian agricultural business is dependant on pollination which tells you exactly how important these little guys are to us. Honey and other hive products (such as bees wax) brings in $100 million a year in Australia alone, with approximately $19 billion a year being the figure our agricultural businesses bring in per year due to the help of the humble bee.
Although bees are an introduced species (to Australia), many of our crops are as well and rely on these little guys in order to produce substantial and profitable produce. Honey bees also provide significant benefits to our native forests and support biodiversity through their pollination.
As the world’s population increases, our demand for food does too, so to ensure the bees survival, there are some important things you can do to help.
- Plant bee friendly flowers and herbs in your garden. Along with the increase in human population, come destruction of animal habitat. By ensuring to include plants such as lilacs, lavender, sage, sunflowers, oregano, poppies, rosemary, mint, honeysuckle, tomatoes and pumpkins, you can help to reverse the effects of habitat annihilation and assist honey bees in their pollination process.
- Don’t use chemicals and pesticides to treat your lawn or garden. Another threat to bees is harmful chemicals that kill them instantly. This is a very big contributor to Colony Collapse Disorder and the declining number of bees around the world. Sometimes you may have to take one for the team and have your garden look a little rustic but what you are doing is helping bees in their quest to help us. Any pesticide that contains propoxur and acephate is highly toxic to bees and should be avoided at all costs. If you are set on a pest-free garden, a natural pesticide which can made at home is:
- Neem Oil
This repels a variety of bugs such as aphids and mites as well as powdery mildew. This oil is powerful and should be diluted properly before spraying on plants. A spray bottle containing no more than 3% oil with 97% water is sufficient.
The acidic nature of white wine vinegar and apple cider vinegar is a very effective weed killer. Fill a watering can or spray bottle and apply directly to the source. By mixing vinegar (3.5 liters) , Epsom salt (1 cup) and castile soap (1 tablespoon), this is a great natural weed killing cocktail that won’t harm bees at all.
- Epsom Salt
A great addition to a bubble bath to treat sore muscles, Epsom Salts can also effectively keep slugs and snails off the garden. Simply sprinkle the salts around the base of the plants and apply a half salt and half water saline spray to the leaves.
This is a natural pest repellent which contains a compound called “pyrethrin” and can be planted around the garden to steer away pests from the other more desirable plants in the area. Chrysanthemum can also be made into a tea and once cooled, spraying on the effected plants leaves will repel bugs – but not bees!
- Pepper, Garlic and Onion
A handful of chili flakes or cut fresh chilli, garlic and onion pulverised and added to a few cups of water, boiled and then cooled and added to a spray bottle will effectively get rid of those little insects that will eat your precious garden. Ensure to wear gloves and protect your eyes when using this mixture!
- Essential oils
Strong oils such as eucalyptus, orange, peppermint and rosemary sprinkled around the area or added to water in a spray bottle are amazingly effective at repelling little bugs and fungus growth.
- Neem Oil
- Help out our little friends by adding a water feature to your garden. Bees are thirsty little creatures and love to be kept hydrated whilst on their long pollinating journeys. Even if it’s a small bowl of water with some stones or a safe place to land, will go a long way.
- Understand that bees are not wanting to hurt you. Bees are vegetarian and very placid little creatures. They do not want to harm and just strive to bring pollen back to their hive. If there is a bee hovering around you, ensure to keep calm and still. Bees can smell the fear and anger pheromones from humans which can trigger them to sting you as they will automatically see you as a threat. Also ensure to not stand directly in front of a hive or opening without protective gear. Bees are very territorial and protective of their home so keeping a safe distance will ensure you are not stung and they are not killed by the sting. In addition to this, learn to differentiate between honey bees and wasps. Bees are relatively harmless and peaceful little bugs, whilst wasps are evil creatures and sting just for fun. Honey bees are plumper, cuter and furrier whilst wasps have a shiny, thinner and smooth surface.
So in addition to helping our awesome farmers, spare a thought for bees who also need our support.