Honey bees play a very important role in our agricultural industry by pollinating the plants on our farms, which in turn provides us with our food. However, the agricultural industry today isn’t very inviting to honey bees and industrial agricultural practices have been attributed to the decline in bee populations.
The major modern agricultural issues that are affecting bees and other wild pollinators today include:
- Expansion of mass-flowering crops – It has been noted that there are negative consequences as a result from land-use intensification, which include a decline in biodiversity and a loss of natural habitat.
- Crop monocultures – Crop monocultures is when only one or two species of plants are planted on a farm. This results in a lack of plant diversity and limits the food supply to bees. It also puts a great deal of stress upon bees as they are shipped in and shipped out of the farms for pollination.
- Extensive use of pesticides – Exposure to the harmful pesticides that are applied to plants can result in negative health consequences or death in bees.
It is obvious that these agricultural practices aren’t sustainable in the longterm. A return to ecological agricultural practices is necessary for human survival and the survival of bees. Yet, you may be thinking that it’s impossible to alter a billion dollar industry. In fact, if we start from the bottom and make small changes in our community and in our own lives, we can get the ball rolling to initiate change on a higher level.
Here’s a few changes that can be made to benefit the bees:
- Start or join a community garden – Community gardens are beneficial because they utilise a previously unused space to make it into something beneficial for the community and for the natural environment. As there is a large variety of flowering plants planted in the garden, the food diversity for bees increases, which then helps to sustain their populations. Community gardens are also known for supporting urban beekeeping. By starting or helping out a community garden, you are not only doing something positive for yourself, but you are also doing something positive for the bees. Visit our friends at Connect To Your Community Garden for more information.
- Support ecological farming and buy organic – Ecological farming favours bee diversity and abundance by resourcefully using the land, conserving biodiversity and stopping the use of harmful pesticides. Organic produce is produced through organic farming, so you know you’ve purchased a bee-friendly product when you buy ecologically and organically made produce. Click here for more information.
Being conscious about where your food comes from, how it is produced and how it affects the environment is essential to the survival of bees. When you think about it, it is quite easy to make small and simple changes to your life that will benefit the community and the natural environment, especially bees.
Take action today by joining your local community garden and supporting ecological farming!
I have a challenge for you. Go out into the suburban and urban areas close to you, and look around. What do you see? Roads? Concrete? High-rises? Not much plant life, I’m guessing. Urbanisation is one of the main threats to bee populations today as natural environments are destroyed to make way for new developments. More often than not, the plant life destroyed is never replaced, which limits the food supply available to bees.
This is where guerrilla gardening comes in. But what on earth is it? Guerrilla gardening is the act of gardening on land that gardeners do not have the legal right to work on, such as abandoned or neglected sites, council owned property and private property. It is usually done in the form of a protest or direct action to provoke change. When I walked around the area I live in, I noticed areas of land, like this planter box at my local train station (see below image), that were neglected and which could easily be re-vamped with different flowering plants that bees love.
It’s not always easy to get your local councils permission to take action, which is why it is sometimes best to take matters into your own hands. So take a stand against the man today! Go out into your neighbourhood and start planting a variety of flowering plants that bees can feed from. This will not only help the bees, but will make bleak urban environments look more colourful and interesting.
A worker bee gathers pollen and nectar from flowers to feed the colony, but while they are collecting their own food, they are also helping plants reproduce by pollinating them. Without flowering plants there would be no bees, and without bees there would be no flowering plants. That is why it is extremely important to take care of the natural environment and plant a variety of plants that bees will enjoy. When you take care of nature, it will take care of you.
It’s easy enough for anyone to add a few plants to their garden space that bees will be attracted to. Whether you have a great, big backyard or a tiny apartment balcony, I’ll show you how you can create a bee haven for all your friendly neighbourhood bees.
In Australia, it is a no-brainer to select one of our native plant species. However, a number of other plant species that thrive in Australian conditions are loved by bees, such as lavender, thyme, forget-me-nots and salvia. Check out this guide for an extensive list of plant species that Australian bees will love and enjoy. Today, i’ll show you how to plant lavender in your garden. Lavender is great for most gardens as it can be planted straight into the ground as a hedge or it can be planted into a pot.
DIY: PLANTING LAVENDER
- Purchase your lavender plant – Lavender can be bought from your local plant nursery or garden centre, such as Bunnings Warehouse. I’ve also seen it sold at Woolworths Supermarket for around $14 AUD.
- Purchase your garden supplies – If you don’t already have any, purchase a few gardening supplies such as gloves, clippers and a watering can. It is also good to purchase a bag of soil and a large pot if you need to.
- Choosing your location – Lavender is best suited to sunny, warm, dry conditions. It can tolerate all soil types, but they must be well-drained. To test if your garden soil is well-drained, dig a hole and fill it with water, then monitor how long the hole takes to drain. Any longer than one hour means the soil is not well-drained enough and your lavender will fail unless you improve your soil. Once you have chosen a suitable location, you can plant your lavender plant.
- Planting your lavender – If planting into the ground, dig a hole big enough for the plants root system to fit into. Gently tap out the plant from the pot it came in and place the root system into the ground. Refill the hole with soil to cover the root system and give your plant a light watering. If planting in a pot plant, place the root system of your plant into the pot, fill it with the soil you purchased and give it a light watering.
- Plant care – Lightly water your lavender plant and never over water it. You should also prune your plants in Summer by cutting off dead flowers and lighting trimming the plant back. Lavender also doesn’t need fertiliser or pesticides added to it, as the essential oils found in the plant act as a natural pesticide.
- Love your lavender – With the proper care and attention, your lavender plant will thrive and act as a food source for bees.