BEE Protective Protecting honey bees and wild pollinators: What can you do?

Solutions to the loss of pollinators –bees, butterflies, birds, bats, and other organisms– are clearly within our reach if we engage our communities, the companies we purchase from, and governmental bodies. A little outrage will help. The shift to organic practices is a necessity that is protective of health and the environment, sustainable and cost effective.

1. Make your yard or a local park a "Pesticide Free Zone" and take steps to encourage pollinators

Bees are in trouble, and policymakers just aren’t acting quickly enough to help them. But backyard gardeners, sideline beekeepers and ordinary people all over the country have been stepping up. There are several steps you can take to attract these beneficial insects to your garden and protect them and their habitat. Like any other living organism, bees need food, water, and shelter in order to thrive. For more information, see Managing Landscapes with Pollinators in Mind.

2. Become a backyard beekeeper

There is also the option of keeping your very own colony ofbees in your backyard. Although not all bees live in hives, certain species, notably honeybees, are easily and safely kept in artificial hives for their shelter. This provides a safe haven for the bees while also allowing you the opportunity to harvest the fresh honey!

Aspiring beekeepers must decide which subspecies of honeybee to acquire and purchase protective equipment. If you are interested in keeping honeybees, the American Beekeeping Federation recommends that you find a local bee club in your area. Most clubs either offer courses in basic beekeeping or can direct you to such courses. These are often given at the beginning of the year, in order to prepare people to start their hives in the spring. Be sure to look for those offering organic beekeeping, so that you can be sure that your bees are not being exposed to any harmful substances.

If a honeybee hive doesn't sound like the right fit for you at the moment, there are really simple ways to encourage native pollinators in your backyard. National Garden Clubs, Inc. (NGC), recognized as the largest volunteer gardening organization in the world, is promoting BeeGAP (Gardeners Adding Pollinators) by encouraging its over 178,000 members to raise mason and bumble bees to supplement the decline of honey bees in partnership with Crown Bees, an education and pollination company located in Washington state.

In addition to raising bees, BeeGAP encourages NGC members to plant for native bees and to provide safe habitats for all pollinators. NGC President Linda Nelson's two year President's Project, Making a World of Difference: Choices Matter, encourages all NGC members to support the NGC pledge to protect and conserve the natural resources of the planet earth and to promote education so we may become caretakers of our air, water, forest, land, and wildlife. With Making a World of Difference: Choices Matter, her intention for this project is to open new doors for in-depth, creative learning, educational opportunities, and positive actions that are centered and focused on better managing the natural resources of our planet earth. BeeGAP (Gardeners Adding Pollinators) is one of these educational opportunities and positive actions.

3. Build Biodiversity

Biodiversity helps bees and other pollinators. Biodiversity of soil organisms promotes healthy plants that grow well without poisons. A diversity of plants produces a supply of nectar throughout the growing season.

4. Go Organic

Choosing organic food is not only good for your health, but it also helps protect honey bees and wild pollinators. In addition to serious health questions linked to actual residues of toxic pesticides on the food we eat, our food buying decisions support or reject hazardous agricultural practices, protection of honey bees and wild pollinators, as well as contributing to healthy working conditions and communities for farmworkers and farm families.

5. Urge EPA to act!

EPA’s decision to deny the petition recognizing that honey bees face “imminent hazard” and requesting the suspension of the pesticide clothianidin, linked to bee die-offs is a blow to beekeepers and over one million citizen petition signatures worldwide. This decision puts beekeepers, rural economies, and our food system at risk. EPA believes the bees are alright, but with hives still averaging losses over 30%, bees are crying out for help. With one in three bites of food reliant on honey bee pollination, it’s imperative that EPA act now! Tell EPA to suspend the use of the bee-killer clothianidin and protect pollinators.

6. Urge Your Representative to act!

Congress has the authority to exercise oversight over federal agencies like EPA. We will continue to pressure EPA to take action on clothianidin, but in the meantime tell your member of Congress to support the Save American's Pollinators Act.

7. Beekeepers: Join our Listserve

This discussion based listserve made in collaboration with Center for Food Safety, Pesticide Action Network and Beyond Pesticides, is designed for information-sharing and coordination on Federal  reform efforts involving neonicotinoid pesticides and their impacts on pollinators, particularly honeybees. Messages are relate to science-based advocacy aimed at Congress, EPA, USDA and other audiences regarding  honey bees, other pollinators and ecosystems, and beekeeper livelihoods. Please contact our Program Associate if you have interest in joining the listserve.