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How Homeowners can Help the Bees
August, 2015 - Issue #130
courtesy of Shutterstock
courtesy of Shutterstock

Facebook posts, documentaries and news clips have even the least environmentally
savvy among us saying, "Hey - what's up with all these bees dying?" While there are numerous theories as to why our important pollinators are being lost, there are also simple steps SCV homeowners can take to lend a hand to our vital buzzing buddies.


Provide a Safe Place to take a Drink
The drought affects everyone, including our pollinators. Provide them with a safe place to take a sip by placing a bucket or bowl of water in an unused corner of your yard. Be sure to give them a safe landing spot; bees drown easily. A beautiful bee watering spot can be made from a large glass bowl and glass marbles. Fill the bowl to the brim with the shiny orbs, then cover with water. The bees will land on the marbles and have safe access to the liquid below. A less pricey waterer can be fashioned from a bucket of water with scrap pieces of wood floating atop.
Love bees but wish there weren't a hundred of them buzzing in the bushes by your front door after watering? Providing a bee waterer in a lesser-used location should cut down on the "traffic" to places you more commonly frequent.

Plant Stuff they can Eat
This is easier said than done in a drought, of course. Now's not exactly the time to sow ornamental flowers. Here's a clever way to feed yourself and the bees: plant veggies and fruits. Under current water restrictions, you can still water both of these daily. It's not too late in our zone to plant squash, tomatoes, peppers, herbs and melons. Purchase starters from Green Thumb and you'll have flowering plants in just a few weeks. Bees love veggie flowers and you'll love seeing the bees in your vegetable plants - high pollination equates to high yields. In the late summer, plant greens and root crops, then let some of these flower and go to seed. That will give bees access to food nearly year-round in our temperate winter and early-spring climate.

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Bees do more than make Honey

These tiny creatures work hard to put food on our table. It's estimated that every third bite
that goes into our mouths is produced by pollinators like bees. Foods like almonds, apples,
citrus, melons, avocados, onions, blueberries and more require bees for pollination.

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Don't Kill Them
It seems like a no brainer, but many folks do give into the temptation to rely on a can of wasp spray when they find that bees have made a home within their own. If bees have taken residency in your awning, attic or recess behind your stucco, resist the urge to apply pesticide. You aren't doing your home - or the bees - any favors. If your "guests" have a hive and honey in there, killing the bees that are keeping those things cool by batting their wings during high heat will lead to a melty mess that attracts ants and rodents. It's much better to hire a live bee relocator (Budgetbeeremoval.com is a great local option.) who can access the hive, remove the bees and comb, and "bee-hab" them to a location far away from your house.

Don't Panic when they Swarm
Spring, summer and early fall are when we'll see most bee swarms. It can be disconcerting to witness thousands of bees in the air at one time, but don't panic (Unless you're allergic. Then you still shouldn't panic - swarming bees are hardly ever aggressive. They're much more concerned about finding the perfect new home than stinging you. Still, you probably should observe this miracle of nature from behind a window.). If they happen to land on the side of your house or in one of your trees, it's not the end of the world. There's a very good chance that they'll move on within three days. If they don't, or they're in a high-traffic area and need to be removed immediately, call a bee keeper or live bee relocator. They can provide you advice over the phone on how to discourage habitation yourself - or explain pricing and practices for swarm removal.

Buy Organic
Here's one more reason why purchasing organic fruits and veggies helps you - and the environment. Pesticides aren't selective; they kill the "bad bugs" - and bees. Choose organic in the grocery store and, when possible, at the garden center. There's excellent evidence that the pesticides applied to big-box-store plants harms bees. Ask before you buy.
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