Guardians of biodiversity and ecosystems, 84% of the world’s crop for human consumption depends on bees or other pollinators, according to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO). It is therefore necessary and urgent to seek, find and implement all measures within our reach to protect us, human beings and citizens. The collapse of bee colonies around the world is no mystery. Among the causes are phytosanitary treatments with pesticides such as neonicotinoids. The latter blocks the neural pathways of the bees’ central nervous system, causing them to become disoriented and unable to feed. These “bee killers” have been banned in France since 2018, however they are allowed regularly “temporarily”, notably in beet fields. There is, of course, global warming and drought, new viruses and pathogens, mites (a Varroa destructor), air pollution and habitat destruction due to monocultures with a poor ecology. As a result, without the work of pollinators, a third of flowering plants would not produce seeds while half would experience an 80% reduction in their fertility, according to a study published in Science Advances in 2021.
Make a fuss in your garden!
For feeding, bees need nectar, pollen and water. This is where we can intervene, doing everything we can in favor of a favorable environment by planting flowers to cover their needs. It doesn’t matter if you have a window sill, balcony, terrace or garden. In the spring, bees go in search of food. Provide them with “ready meals” by growing honeydew flowers, ones that produce good amounts of nectar and high-quality pollen. Multiply the varieties, taking care to arrange the flowering periods for the different plantings (remember that the end of winter is the time to sow the seeds of spring-summer plants). Among the nasturtium plants that are very easy to grow and come in many varieties are foxglove, poppy that blooms from the beginning of July until October, clematis, these flowering climbing plants, lavender, crocus, cornflower, borage (flowers from the beginning of May until August), marigolds, chrysanthemums … finally, the traditional geraniums that generally bloom from April to October, or even longer. All of these plants provide the bees with a guaranteed few months of pollen. A word of advice: Growing from seed is the perfect way to create bee-friendly habitats, true mini lawns of wildflowers.
Did you know that rosemary, mint, and alfalfa also attract bees? Fennel is also a good example because it produces both nectar and pollen. That is why, since 2008, the Pernod Ricard France group has been cultivating fennel in Provence to supply it with anise. To understand the benefits of these farms on the local ecosystem, the company has partnered with the Mediterranean Institute for Biodiversity and the Environment. A thesis conducted from 2018 showed the resulting richness in floral insects: 38 families of insects versus 6 on average in a wheat field, including five bees! And this diversity of insects increases the yield of fennel! grass in your garden? Forget the mower, let some of it grow longer to give pollinators shelter and a place to feed
Don’t forget to water them
Bees also need drinking water. It’s a good idea to provide them with a safe water source because they often drown in large bodies of water like swimming pools (which don’t have the healthiest water for bees). Bees love flowing water because they are less likely to drown in it, so why not install a small water fountain with a cute dripper or just a birdbath with some floating object, wood bark or cork, as a landing area.
After housing cover!
Bees have lost much of their natural habitat over the past 50 years. So why not give them one? There are several ways to create a bee hotel. Using plastic bottles, both ends are cut to create a cylinder and the edges are sanded to make it smooth. Then simply fill with hollow twigs and stems. Bees go deep into the stems, so use lengths of at least 10 cm. Attach the hotel securely to a wall or post, in full sun, facing south or southeast, at least 1.50m off the ground. Once fall arrives and before the cold temperatures arrive, it should be moved to protect the bee eggs inside. A garden shed or, failing that, a dry place will do the trick, before removing it in March.
Becoming a godmother or patron of a hive is a good way to act concretely in order to keep bees. Many corporate and individual beekeepers sponsor one or more hives, or even multiple hives. In return, you can benefit from a certain number of honey jars, depending on the importance of hive care. You will also be informed about the health of your hive and its population. Great gift idea! You can also support projects that protect bees.
A beehive in your garden
The amateurs play an important ecological role because they enrich the network of beehives in the territory. If a few years ago setting out on the adventure was complicated, today the information is not available and even a trained beekeeper can train with professionals (see box). It is easy to create a small apiary in your garden, provided that you respect the regulations that require respecting a distance of at least 3 meters with neighboring houses. The hive will not require much time but above all, regular monitoring.
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