2017 marked the first year that a continental U.S. species of bumblebee was listed as endangered as a result of pathogens, parasites, and human activity. The subsequent uproar from environmentalists demanded that we safeguard these important pollinators or face the consequences of a dwindling food supply. Countries around the world have since acted to protect bumblebees; the same is not so easily said for the United States.
Earlier this year, the European Union voted to ban the use of clothianidin, imidacloprid, and thiamethoxam – three neonicotinoid insecticides that harm bumblebees. This environmental victory prohibited all outdoor use of the controversial chemicals apart from use within closed permanent greenhouses. In this case, scientific study played a large part in understanding the effects of neonicotinoids on insects, which was released in February 2018 and stated the chemical causes paralysis and death by affecting the central nervous system.
On the other side of the pond, protections for bees are being removed. The Trump Administration has lifted an Obama-era ban on the same bee-harming pesticides that the EU recently banned. The administration’s decision will affect wildlife refuges that permit limited agricultural activity meant to support and improve habitat for wildlife. Instead, the move was deemed necessary to ensure adequate forage for migratory birds favored by sportsmen through biotech crops; however, now pollinators and other sensitive species that rely on toxic-free wildlife refuges for habitat are threatened.
For #NationalHoneyBeeDay, we want you to know that you can support honey bee populations. These five things can help bees:
- Planting a Climate Victory Garden and incorporating bee-friendly flowers can provide nourishment to your local bee populations. Be sure to plant flowers native to your area so that local bees can feed, and avoid hybrid flowers that may be sterile. A shallow water dish, such as a birdbath, can provide water to worker honey bees for digestion and body temperature regulation. Not only are you helping the bees, but you are sequestering carbon to combat climate change.
- Avoiding chemical pesticides and using these natural, homemade alternatives will deter pests without killing non-target species. Several of our certified Green Business Network members offer natural pesticides such as A Plus Natural Enzymes and Insecto.
- Did you know that honey bees get most of their nectar from trees? Not only are they a food source, but also habitat since 30 percent of bees live in trees and 70 percent live underground. By planting trees native to your area or caring for already existing trees, you can provide habitat for solitary and bumblebees.
- Supporting your local farmers market and buying your honey from local beekeepers can boost pollination in your area. Also, supporting local producers will keep food crops available for wild bees to feed.
- We recommend visiting our certified Green Business Network members to make the most out of your garden. Terra Nova Compost, Turtle Tree Biodynamic Seed Initiative, Devine Gardens, and many more can provide the organic seeds and compost to ensure your garden is good for bees. If you’d like to start beekeeping yourself, Natural Apiary offers a wide array of beekeeping supplies that are good for people and the planet. Purchasing other everyday items made from beeswax like candles from Beeswax Candle Works and lip balm from SweBee USA support honeybee production.