There are a many things in cities that make life challenging for pollinators. But if the conditions are right, lots of different bees can thrive in urban spaces.
This was just one of the facts discussed on March 24 during our GreenDrinks happy hour at the Limerick Pub in Wheaton, MD.
Author Alison Gillespie – who also serves at Green Wheaton’s Communications Manager – was on hand to give everyone there some basic tips for helping both native bees and non-native European honey bees in urban areas like Wheaton.
Some who came sampled honey from a MD beekeeper, while looking at a necklace containing the life’s work of a single honey bee: one 1/12 of a teaspoon of honey (pictured at the bottom of the top photo, here).
Bees — Gillespie reminded the crowd who assembled to network, eat yummy appetizers and get a happy buzz going about pollinators — provide about 75% of the foods we eat every day. Many of the most nutritious and delicious things on our plates are provided to us via the work of bees, including many common fruits and vegetables. And beer, too!
Here are some of the tips Gillespie gave for helping the bees:
- Plant a variety of flowers that will bloom throughout the season to provide a variety of forage for the bees.
- Avoid using pesticides in your yard. Even the chemicals commonly used for lawn care can cause harm to bees. Plant organic flowers as much as you can manage, and avoid using “treated” seeds; seeds coated or treated in neonicotinoids (systemic pesticides used to make plants toxic to pests) can also be deadly to lots of beneficial insects including many pollinators. Plants that grow from treated seeds can be toxic for many years after they have sprouted. Trading plants and seeds with friends is one way to do this economically.
- Buy from local farms who practice good land stewardship when you can. When possible, buy produce from organically-certified farms.
- Support bee-friendly policies – including the proposed Pollinator Protection Act. If enacted, this proposed piece of legislation will make MD the first state to restrict neonic use by homeowners, something that many beekeepers say will go a long way to helping the bees.
- Plant native plants as much as possible. Many native bees have co-evolved with the plants which have been found here for centuries, and have special relationships with particular species of flowers. Many nectar-rich natives are also valuable to the generalist bees — who will forage from lots of different flowers. And those same nectar-rich natives provide rich nectar sources for European honey bees that live here, as well.
- Be careful about how you battle mosquitoes. Many of the common sprays used to treat backyards are very detrimental to the beneficial insects, and can kill bees. Montgomery County has produced a very helpful handout on mosquitoes.
- Bee a BEE CHAMPION. Tell others about the importance of bees. Teach children about the role bees play in our landscape and our diets. Don’t own your own yard? Tell your landlord you’d rather have more clover and fewer chemicals around the apartment building. Together, these messages can help promote pollinator success.
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