Perhaps, it was 2005 when I first interviewed Charles Vorisek for an article about honeybees. He and his wife had just returned from the State Farm Show in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania one January day, where he and other beekeepers had a bee booth and sold honey ice cream.
Vorisek is president of the Northwestern Pennsylvania Beekeepers Association and has sixty plus hives (maybe more now) at his V Bee Farm in a small Pennsylvania community called Linesville. Since then I have been able to meet other beekeepers from the northwestern Pennsylvania area and have ended up up writing numerous articles, at least once a month, on honeybees ever since.
The honeybees and our native bees have been in a rapid rate of decline. The decline is serious for, not only for the bees and the beekeepers, but for our vegetable gardens, larger agricultural farms, and our native wildlife which depend on wild food crops to survive.
From those journalism and human experiences, here are some of the best, and most simple, green actions to consider to help the declining populations of bees. There isn’t much, at least at this point, which can be done about Varroa mites and Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD), but other important green actions to help can be taken.
Ten green actions to take to help the bees.
Buy local honey and honey products. Beekeepers are hard working and well informed men and women in a specialized and fundamental area of agriculture. A lot of their work and expertise goes unseen and, like all of us, we need a good pat on the back and encouragement. Handshakes, smiles and the extra dollar tip work wonders.
Around the house, in the yard and garden, eliminate chemical sprays and other toxics. They are designed to kill just about everything. Even with organic sprays can be lethal to the bees. In case of a honeybee swarm, call a local beekeeper. Learn about our native bees, they are fascinating insects, leave them be, if possible.
Perennial and annual wildflowers and heirloom plants provide the bees with plenty of nutrients. It is best to plant them so that there are blooms from spring to frost. Use a variety of different plants at different locations, even in hanging baskets and containers.
If possible, plant some cover crops like buckwheat, oats and clover in sections of the vegetable garden or yard. These are all good bee plants and the added benefit is they improve the soil far better than chemicals. The seed is inexpensive and easy to sow and once the seedlings are up, they pretty much take care of themselves.
Herb gardens are also good bee gardens in addition to aiding culinary efforts. Basil, thyme, oregano, parsley, sage are just a few of the more common herbs which provide nourishment for honeybees, native bees and butterflies. These herbs can be successfully grown in containers.
Unused areas of the lawn can be planted with Dutch White Clover or creeping thyme. The flowers are excellent for the pollinators. Besides, those areas do not have to mowed as frequently nor do they require fertilizers or water like bluegrass or Bermuda grass requires.
Hedgerows are valuable and important; they were never seen as weed patches before in history. Hedgerows, usually a narrow strip of land dividing different land use parcels provide an excellent habitat for bees, butterflies, birds and a host of other animals. If your lucky to own one, investigate and research how to improve it.
In northwestern Pennsylvania, as October opens, the important goldenrod/aster honey flow is slowly ending. It is an all important bloom period for the bees and other pollinators. These important “weeds” help to put “fat” on the bees needed for survival during the upcoming winter months. They are common in hedgerows and open fields. Do not mow them down, they are actually very good and attractive plants.
Likewise is the dandelion in the spring. Dandelions provide much needed nourishment for the bees after the long winter. Allow as many as possible to stay in bloom.
Finally, if you have an inkling you might want to raise bees, go for it. Join a local beekeepers association and get involved. It’s more fun than mowing grass all summer.