Since we got the bees, my older daughter has become one of their biggest fans. She's converting her herb garden to a bee-friendly garden. To date, it's planted with comfrey, lavender, lemon balm, anise hyssop, columbine, bee balm, old-fashioned single hollyhocks, bachelor buttons, Echinacea sp., catnip and borage.
My world-view has changed too. Right now, we're in a blooming gap between cherries and apples, and the almost-open raspberries. No horse-chestnuts in the neighborhood, and bees don;t seem to visit lilacs much. Aren't there some old-fashioned single types? I've located two honeysuckle bushes that I might move, and if I can make time, I might plant a patch of buckwheat.
Lately, my eye drifts to flowering shrubs and trees, looking for the clouds of bees that should be surrounding them. All too often they are untended. No hum greets the ear. Where are the bees? Have all the urban bees fallen victim to CCD as well, or do they suffer from insecticidal attacks by paranoid, "all bugs must die" homeowners?
I'm ready to scream to the world, "Wake up! We need bees!" I've only had bees a couple weeks, but it doesn't seem too complicated to just play host to Apis mellifera. If more folks in town had hives, and if everyone in the "country" had hives, we'd be in much better shape. Witness what happens if there are only a few BIG banks, or a handful of auto companies. Let's not put all our hopes for pollination in a few traveling commercial beekeepers. If one out of every three things we eat comes by way of pollination by bees, then our future is much more impotant than letting someone else worry about it.
I see it happening, though. This year, there is a huge jump in the number of people planting gardens. The Slow Food movement is taking off or well established, depending on where you live. Once people make a few connections, there may be honeybee colonies in many more backyards. In the meantime, I wish more people would put a few bee-friendly plants in with their petunias. We need to provide for these brave ladies! If you're listening, here's what I'd have you do:
1. Stop using insecticides, especially anything with imidocloprid. It's been linked to Colony Collapse Disorder.
2. Plant a bee garden, or add pollen and nectar sources to your existing gardens
3. Identify and preserve "weeds" that are important food sources for bees (goldenrod for example; go to Urban Bee Gardens for a West Coast list, and here for a more general list.
4. Start keeping bees, but do some homework first. The biggest cause of CCD may be the way we're keeping bees!
All I need is a digital camera and some photos, and I'll hit the garden club meeting circuit!
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