Did you catch that recent wire story about the continuing disappearance of honeybees?
According to an AP story on May 13, beekeepers have lost 42 percent of their colonies since April 2014, the second highest loss rate in nine years. That's according to an annual survey conducted by a bee partnership that includes the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Here’s the link.
And this follow-up on May 19: According to the AP, a new federal plan aims to reverse America's declining honeybee and monarch butterfly populations by making millions of acres of federal land more bee-friendly, spending millions of dollars more on research and considering the use of fewer pesticides.
While putting different type of landscapes along highways, federal housing projects and elsewhere may not sound like much in terms of action, several bee scientists told The Associated Press that this a huge move. They say it may help pollinators that are starving because so much of the American landscape has been converted to lawns and corn that don't provide foraging areas for bees. Here’s the link.
So, is this enough to save the bees? What more can be done, by us gardeners or the government?
My take — how you can help:
Create a place for fresh water in your yard. This time of year, bees get thirsty and spend precious energy seeking out water sources. Especially in May and June, you’ll notice they tend to swarm fountains and irrigation systems but will disappear when the monsoons hit.
In my midtown yard, at least a half-dozen bees come out every day when I run my drip irrigation in my vegetable patch.
But I wanted to put out a more reliable source of water for them, so last weekend I took an old birdbath/planter and converted it to a “bee bath.” I set it in the center of my veggie garden and added smooth pebbles and glass stones, plus a broken piece of terra cotta to serve as a landing pad. (They rest on the rocks and delicately sip the water.)
Today, as I was filling up the bee bath, several zoomed in looking for a place to land. (And I had a special visitor — check the photo above.)
Worried about mosquitoes? Me too, so I put just enough water in the container to last for a day, and mosquitoes will never have a chance to start hatching. The basin tends to dry out overnight.
The bigger question is, as more people get the message about planting bee-friendly plants, are the flowers going to do more harm than good?
And which flowers should you plant to attract bees? Should you avoid plants treated with neonic pesticides? Should you worry about aggressive Africanized bees?
Stay tuned …