When we hear about the decline of bees, it is important to remember that it’s not just honey bees that are being affected, but all species of Apoidea, of which there are more than 25,000.
These bees, which are often called “wild” because they are not farmed like honey bees, are just as important for pollination as their domesticated cousins. Their disappearance may be less talked about, but it is no less catastrophic.
The decline of these insects threatens not only their biodiversity and that of the plants they pollinate, but also the diversity of other animals, many of which (e.g. birds and amphibians) feed on insects. And, of course, it poses serious dangers to humanity, putting our food supply at risk.
What are the causes of this apocalyptic threat?
They are many, complex, and interrelated, and humans are at the center of the problem (to learn more, visit the Slow Bees pages on our website).
Now, since we, the humans, are the main responsible for this catastrophe, how about we all try to work together to limit its effects?
Here are 10 little things we can do to help bees and pollinators survive!
1. Sign the European Citizens’ Initiative (ECI) #SaveBeesandFarmers
Which asks the Commission to gradually eliminate synthetic pesticides in Europe, restore biodiversity in agricultural areas, and to use CAP subsidies to start EU agriculture on the path of agroecology.
Sign here, it costs nothing and does a lot.
2. Buy honey and beeswax from local beekeepers
Buying organic honey and other products from a beekeeper in your area is an excellent way to support an activity that brings benefits to the local community. In addition, you will give a signal of interest to the organic beekeeper who will be even more enticed to carry out an ethical, bee, and environmentally friendly beekeeping.
Often these insects make a surplus of honey, so they won’t notice if we take some for ourselves. Beeswax is used to coat honeycombs and is cut by the beekeeper to get honey or hollowed by bees in winter – in both cases it is discarded, so it would be a waste not to use it.
3. Purchase local, organic and seasonal food
This advice may seem out of focus from the discussion, but in reality, it is very important. By purchasing organic fruit and vegetables, you will avoid financing industrial agriculture that uses synthetic chemicals and pesticides, damaging the soil and killing pollinating insects. If it is local and in season, then, you will be sure to have helped our bee friends in their search for pollen and nectar to feed themselves. And have supported those who are committed to producing our food with attention and care for the environment.
4. Planting flowers that bees like
One of the biggest threats to bees is the lack of a habitat where they can find nutritious food, especially in cities where green areas are rare. No need to have an entire garden or a vegetable garden, you can plant flowers in pots and planters to leave on the balcony or in the condominium courtyard. Their favorite plants are calendula, tulip, daisy, lavender, sainfoin, phacelia, borage, thyme, buckwheat, sunflowers, mallow, marigold, annual fennel, rosemary, dill, parsnip, coriander, alfalfa, and the list is still long.
Among these, choose the native plants of your area with a preference for flowers with single buds such as marigolds, tulips, and daisies that produce more pollen making it easier for bees to reach it. You should also try to have something that blooms all year round, so prepare a calendar that includes flowers in spring, summer, and autumn.
5. Do not use chemicals in the garden or garden
Synthetic pesticides, fertilizers, herbicides, and especially neonicotinoids (of which traces are still found in European fields despite the ban of 18), are harmful to bees as they affect the central nervous system causing paralysis and death. Please avoid treating your corner of nature with synthetic products. Prefer organic products and natural solutions such as compost. Then use the beneficial insects that keep parasites away, such as ladybugs and praying mantises.
6. Learn to recognize pollinators and their habitats
Helping pollinator insects is not difficult – it only requires learning to recognize these creatures and understand their behaviors. For example, bees of most species are solitary, but some create societies that last throughout the year. It is important to understand different species’ nesting habits, to know where and for what purposes they build their shelters, whether they dig tunnels in the ground, use cracks in walls or hollows in trees, and whether they use materials such as leaves or are capable of burrowing into wood.
7. Build a hotel for bees
There are not only honey bees but also many other solitary bee species that are equally fundamental for pollination. These solitary bees do not live in colonies but nest within small spaces such as hollow stems or holes in the wood. With deforestation and the consequent loss of habitat, these small insects struggle to find spaces to build a “home”. That’s why build one in their place to host them in your garden, vegetable garden, courtyard, or balcony. All you need to do is create a wooden frame and insert pieces of wood inside which you have made holes, alternating with small twigs and / or bamboo canes.
8. Plant trees for bees
Did you know that bees take most of their nectar from trees? When a tree blooms, it supplies hundreds – if not thousands – of flowers to feed on. Trees are not only a great source of food for bees, but also an essential habitat. The leaves of the trees and the resin provide the material for the nesting of the bees, while the natural cavities of the wood are excellent shelters. If you have a little more space, you can fight deforestation and strengthen the bees’ habitats by planting fruit trees that will provide them with both nectar and a place to take refuge.
9. Let the grass grow
Neglect your garden a little! I know, that said, it does not seem like good advice but try to leave some corner of the garden a little disheveled. The variety of flowers and the tall grass will make bees happy.
10. Give the thirsty bees a drink
Well yes, even bees are thirsty. To get them back from their tireless pollination work, fill a shallow bowl with clean water and place pebbles and stones inside so that they break the surface of the water. The bees will land on the stones for a few long and refreshing sips of water. Bees like to share information, so if you keep your water source constant the local pollinators will come to visit you.