Are Your Flowers Killing Bees?
So, you went out and got a bee house, planted bee loving pollen and nectar plants and have gone completely organic in the garden. But is all your efforts to create a safe haven for our beloved pollinators being sabotaged by the very plants you brought home from the garden centre?
This is hot topic right now and I have people emailing me about it. Since we are all rushing to the retail stores and loading up on our favorite annuals right now, I thought we should take a look at this complex issue and see what we can do about it.
I’m not going to hold back in saying that this has really put a bee in my bonnet. I have gone to great lengths to provide a garden environment that is chemical free and fully organic.
For the most part, I believe that people are more conscience and do care about doing the right thing. But it’s not easy being green (or cheap!) because a lot of products out there just are not as effective as organic options when it comes to pest and weed control.
Making the switch from harsh chemicals to environmentally friendly products is already an obstacle for time pressed home owners, but now we have to worry about introducing chemicals we didn’t even know we were bringing home.
It’s easy to shake a finger at the retailers and Big Box stores but they are just the distributors selling products that were created or grown by someone else. Bottom line, if we don’t buy it, they won’t put it on their shelves.
WE ARE PART OF THE PROBLEM!
Our culture has some pretty outrageous expectations. We want everything
GOOD, FAST AND CHEAP!
That comes at a cost folks. We need to lower our standards and accept that sometimes apples have spots and sometimes plants have damaged leaves. INSTANT perfection is a result of our impatience and manufacturers have responded.
The latest concern in the world of gardening is Neonicotinoids in the plants we are buying at the garden center’s. “Neonic’s” are from a family of systemic insecticides that are used in foliar and seed treatments to kill pests.
But they are not selective in just targeting ‘bad’ bugs… bee’s and other beneficials are insects too so if they come in contact with the poison, it effects their nervous system and they die.
Bee Colony collapse is a complicated thing. It’s not JUST pesticides that are killing them off, but a combination of many things according to the authorities on the subject. This isn’t the first time in history that we’ve seen bee’s die off in alarming numbers. It was first recorded back in 1869 and has gone under many different names.
- Autumn Collapse
- Fall Dwindle Disease
- May Disease
Just to name a few before it’s most recent title of Bee Colony Collapse. Scientists are baffled since it isn’t season specific and there doesn’t seem to be one major red flag that triggers it. Factors such as weather, disease, Varroa mites have and are contributing to the massive death rates. But I can’t help but think that the way we manage bee’s as big business, lacking of respect, is a major cause in their drastic decline.
Not a single bee has ever sent you an invoice. And that is part of the problem-because most of what comes to us from nature is free, because it is not invoiced, because it is not priced, because it is not traded in markets, we tend to ignore it
Paven Sukhdev, UN report on the economics of ecosystem & biodiversity
This is not entirely true… bee’s don’t invoice us for their work, men do and they are making a ton of money off their labor. Apiculture is the raising of bee’s for commercial use. It’s beginnings can be traced back to a fellow named Nephi Miller back in 1907 when he decided that he could up the productivity of his hives in winter by moving them to areas that required pollination at different times of the year.
I’m not saying that this is a horrible practice, I believe it all started with good intentions. Bee’s got access to more pollen and nectar, produced more colonies and thrived. Humans benefited from better crop yields and glorious honey. But unfortunately this has turned into being all about the money, honey.
It’s the way the bee’s are carted around in semi trucks in sealed containers for days that creates disease and mite infestations and only spreads it from one geographical location to another. It’s how they are drowned in a sugar water solution that acts as a substitute for honey (THEIR food source!) once we raid their hives. It’s how we spray the crops with insecticides, how we douse them with antibiotics when the colony gets sick… it’s how we shovel their dead bodies into garbage bags after they die from collapse.
It’s just… sad.
Certainly this is not what Mother Nature intended and we are grossly manipulating the way this is supposed to work.
Watch this trailer for More than Honey:
Make sure you watch the whole movie. It’s both a fascinating look at bee’s and a scary realization that we could be in big trouble.
If the bee disappeared off the face of the earth, man would only have four years left to live
Attributed to Albert Einstein
I’ve pounded the drum on how this whole thing is a mess. So let’s talk about…
5 Things You Can Do To Help The Bee’s
#1. Grow Plants from Untreated Seeds
This is more complicated than it seems. Many seeds have been treated with Neonic’s and from what the experts are saying, it can be persistent in the plants and soil for up to 10 years!
Buy clean seed from organic seed companies that have not treated their seeds. Here are some suppliers that have taken the Safe Seed Pledge:
#2. Grow More Perennials Flowers
Again, this is tricky as you would be buying plants indirectly from a grower that is using or has used Neonic’s in the past. Talk to your garden center or retailer about your concerns. They are just as concerned as you are and are doing their best to source out plants that have not been treated.
Another thing you can do is a plant swap with friends, family and neighbors. This spring I divided my perennials and got several more plants that I could trade with a neighbor that was doing the same thing.
#3. Provide Shelter
Create your own mini Eden and make shelters where beneficials can live. If you are filling your garden with plenty of organic food sources, they won’t have to travel far to get what they need and therefore it minimizes their exposure to plants in the neighborhood that may be on the naughty list.
#4. Use Organic Methods for Pest Control
If your going to host a party in your garden, then you better expect some unwelcomed guests to arrive. I have been walking around with a trowel and a bucket of soapy water on my daily slug and snail patrol. It’s not really all that time consuming as I do this in the early morning and again just before dusk.
I also have some help from the garter snakes which I expect will be showing up soon to help me control these pests… the only reason my slithery friends have made a home in my garden is because I DO NOT USE chemicals. My Eden is a creation of biodiversity and the critters help keep things in check without me having to micro manage them all.
#5. Use the POWER of your Dollar
All this fuss we are putting up about what we are willing to buy get’s the attention of the retailers. They have a business to run and it only makes sense for them to stock what people want.
You have more power than you think!
The bottom line is this… it’s a big mess and it’s going to be hard to completely avoid Neonic’s in your plants. But being aware of the problem is the first step and if you are reading this post, your already on your way because clearly you care or you wouldn’t be here.
Want to grow some flowers from seed? Check out the post I did for planting bee and butterfly loving EDIBLE flowers:
Carry on my eco-warrior friends and remember…
when it comes to plants, think outside the pot!
Listen to me live on my new radio show:
Sow and Dipity on NaturesChannel.FM