Unless you’ve gardened beneath a rock these past few years, you’ve probably heard how honeybee populations are being decimated by Colony Collapse Disorder, diseases, mites, and pesticide poisonings. The most recent numbers from the USDA Agricultural Research Institute state that total losses of managed colonies from April 2014 to April 2015 were 42.1%. Though many native and non-native bees pick up some of the pollinating slack, they are also vulnerable to some of what afflicts the honeybees, the largest being habitat destruction.
As a gardener, you know that the best way to help pollinators of all kinds is to bring back that habitat, in part by planting flowers that provide the pollen and nectar these creatures need. Lessons on how to create pollinator havens are all over the web, including the GardenSMART website (All Things Bee), and the Pollinator Partnership (http://share.pollinator.org).
To emphasize the importance of honeybees to our food system, and to increase interest in beekeeping, clever people across the country have come up with ways to get people involved in saving honeybee populations. The ideas here range from necessitating little bee contact, other than savoring the rewards of their sweet labor, to getting an up close and personal look into a hive by living with them 24/7.
Buy a honey share.
In the same way you’d pay a farmer in spring for a share of his or her produce upon harvest, you can do the same with honey. Buying your honey directly from beekeepers helps the local economy, and gives you access to honey that’s fresh, pure, and tastes of the flowers in your area. Your share might even include honeycomb, or products made with beeswax. To find a honey CSA (Community Supported Agriculture), go to localharvest.org and put in your zip code.
Tour some hives.
House and garden tours begat chicken coop tours, which have begotten beehive tours. A fascinating way to learn about bees and beekeeping, participants visit the hives of beekeepers in an area. Where there are beehives there are usually gardens as well, and honey and other products are often on offer. It’s a fun and educational way to spend a lovely spring day. (Honeybees are bred to be non-aggressive, and care is taken so no one gets stung.) Check your local beekeepers association to see whether tours are offered in your area.
Rent a hive.
Are you fascinated by bees, grow fruit trees or other crops that depend on bees for pollination, or want to help increase honeybee populations, yet don’t want to become a beekeeper yourself? In select areas of the U.S., you can contract a beekeeper from Best Bees to install and maintain a hive in your garden, yard, or in urban areas, even on your roof. Learn more about how it works at bestbees.com.
Put a hive on your wall. Indoors.
Sure it sounds odd, but in Victorian times, so did keeping a receptacle full of water and live fish in the living room. A flat, hexagonal hive with a clear front panel hangs on the wall, with an exit to the outdoors created through the wall. More watchable than television, and you get honey. Check out the aptly named Beecosystem: http://interiorecosystems.com/beehive
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