Help Save the Honey Bees
Honey bees help to pollinate more than a third of the fruits, vegetables, nuts, trees and plants in our environment. We often take this bounty for granted as we sip our coffee in the morning or drink a glass of orange juice, but these hard-working insects toil their entire lives, which may be as short at three weeks, to provide our daily intake of good foods.
But honey bees are in need of our help, because are disappearing at an alarming rate due to the overuse of chemicals, lack of forage (food), disease, pests and a host of other problems. Much of our food comes from other countries—few people are aware of this and think it just appears magically at their local market. The fact is that many commercial beekeepers around the world cannot afford to replace 30, 40 or even 90 percent of their bees every year. Any farmer with 100 cows could not afford to lose 90 of them each year.
In North Central Florida, the honey bee season usually begins in late January with swarming that can last through June. This is how they survive and spread their genes to new areas. If a swarm stops nearby, just consider how necessary these creatures are. Don’t call an exterminator or someone to try to kill them; call a beekeeper—they will be happy to remove the swarm of bees for free so they can save them.
Many growers have turned to monoculture farming where the blooms that bees pollinate and thrive on bloom only for a month or two all year. A lot of the natural forage where wildflowers and trees used to stand is gone, replaced by acres of blacktop, concrete, housing developments and shopping centers. When they try to find water they find chemical laced polluted runoff water in roadside ditches.
Very few even give this a thought; but when food prices start to soar or we can’t get our favorite foods, it will become extremely important.
There are many ways for homeowners to help save honey bees and other pollinators.
- Plant a variety of flowers, trees and bushes that bloom at different times of the year, so the pollinators will have food to eat all year long.
- Set out a sugar water feeder where the bees can get some nourishment; bees will take over a hummingbird feeder when they get desperate for food.
- Support local beekeepers and buy local honey. Not all honey is created equal.
We are all in this world together and should be willing to do just a small part to help save the planet just one bee at a time. It all adds up.
Chappie McChesney, a bee consultant for the city of Alachua and founder of the Marion County Beekeepers Club, traches at Master the Possibilities School, in Ocala. He has more than 60 years of beekeeping experience. To contact him for speaking engagements, email ChappiesBees@windstream.net.