Every spring over a million beehives are trucked to California to pollinate almond trees for a two week almond bloom. Over many years of this practice, bees have be strongly showing protest and problems are arising. A giant almond pollen party in California where bee colonies are being shipped from all over North America is really just a recipe for a giant disease spreading party. Providing the bees with one type of pollen, while spraying the almond trees with pesticides and getting them to use pollen from genetic engineered crops further results in an unhealthy colony. You may have heard of CCD, Colony Collapse Disorder, even though scientist has research and tried to figure out the source of why so many bee populations are just dying off -it is a bit of a mystery. That being said, in a field that used to be wildflowers, blooming with biodiversity, is now fields of wheat and corn providing little sustenance to honeybees, shipping 60% of our North American bee colonies to California to pollinate almond tress while pesticides fall from the sky, mono cultured crops and little to no biodiversity in our farming fields, loss of wildflowers and bee habitat -you start to wonder why there are any bees left.
While bees can fly over a mile from their hive for food, hundreds of square miles of corn, wheat and almond trees in California is too large of a distance. A two week almond bloom is not going to generate enough to sustain them for the rest of the year. Bees need a full Spring, Summer and Fall to put away the honey they need to get them through the Winter. They live off their honey reserves during scarcity of Winter when nothing is in bloom.
*Interesting Fact about Honeybees - The real workers of a hive are all female, called Worker Bees. The male honeybees are called Drones and their only role is to impregnate Queen Bees from other hives. When a hive is approaching the Winter months, the Worker Bees decide that the male Drones are now useless (they don't tend to the larvae, honey, or perform other roles in the hive) and will just eat away their winter stores of food so they get kicked out into the cold to die off until the Spring when the Queen Bee creates more Drones. This is one very effective way to increase their ability to survive the Winter months with limited food reserves. Honeybees have proven time and time again that are resilient insects.
So - What can you do to take care of our bee populations besides taking almonds out of your diet?
The most important thing you can do is make sure that you are creating spaces that are bee-friendly so something in bloom in your garden as close to year round as KW can manage. When you are planting you garden, plant bee attracting flowers, keep in mind that if you were a honeybee, would you make a trip from your home to a dinner party for a few bread crumbs. Bees can't find or justify the energy to find a single coneflower blooming but a square yard of flowers would be worth the trip. This next point might be obvious but try to also limit the spraying of insecticides since bees are insects! Another way to attract bees to your garden is to have a water feature as honeybees drink water too! With CCD decreasing our global honebee population, the art of beekeeping has become more important than ever before so you could also start your own beehive which is what my partner and I did just last Spring - plus for selfish reasons you get to enjoy the beautiful honey they create.
Other BEE-nifits to taking care of our honeybee populations:
- Growing food crops that is bee pollinated, the bees you attract should increase your yields. Your squash plants will thank you! It was incredible how much better our garden looked and yielded by having and attracting more bees to our gardens.
- Bees and their friends also tend to keep undesirable insects at bay, the more beneficial insects you have, the less bad insect you usually have.
- You get to enjoy all the same flowers as bees do.
- It is important to note that more or less, any flower is a good flower for bees however that being said there are some that are more suited for different types of bees – the flower shape or depth can affect a bees ease of access to the pollen.
- Bees are feminist to the core. With a queen bee, and all the worker bees being female, lets support these women in the work they do for our food and environment!
When you are planting/planning your garden - make it a bee friendly garden!