Albert Einstein said that the day the bees disappeared, humanity would only survive for another four years.
These small animals are giants and represent the backbone of the animal world, mainly because of their intense work through pollination. Studies say that a third of all food we eat benefits from pollination by bees, yet they are dying.
According to FAO, bees and other pollinating insects are declining at an alarming rate, mainly due to intensive agricultural practices, overuse of agricultural pesticides, and rising temperatures with climate change.
The combination of various pesticides has a much more significant impact on these organisms than the sum of their individual effects. In other words: agriculture has killed many more bees than previously thought, and the consequences could be disastrous.
Table of Contents
- How does Pesticide poison Bees?
- Prevention and Protection of pesticide effects
How does Pesticide poison Bees?
The degree of danger to bees and other pollinators from pesticides is determined by their form and method of application.
In most cases, their poisoning is associated with organizational and economic miscalculations. The leading causes of poisoning are as follows.
- Violation of the rules for using pesticides: carrying out treatments during the day, in good weather, when bees visit honey plants.
- Infestation of areas intended for chemical treatment, flowering weeds, or proximity (3 – 5 km) of the cultivated crop to other flowering plants currently visited by bees.
- The use of drugs known to be dangerous (according to the classification) for bees.
- Dusting and spraying with a wind of more than 5 m / s when the poison is carried to the summer zone of bees, other crops, or the territory of the apiary.
- Carrying out aerial dusting, aerial spraying, and aerosol treatments of fields near settlements and water supply sources.
- Preparation of working solutions on non-tamped and non-concreted areas near fields with entomophilous crops.
- Storage of pesticides and mineral fertilizers in primitive storage facilities or open-air fields.
- Late information from beekeepers about the time, place, and nature of the upcoming application of pesticides.
- Insufficient supply of apiaries with appropriate equipment to isolate the departure of bees from the hive or inoperability with the removal of bee colonies to a safe place.
- Poor awareness of beekeepers about the dangers of these pesticides to bees and the consequences of poisoning in the winter when poisons are introduced into the feed.
Prevention and Protection of pesticide effects
Bees are incredibly essential insects whose pollination services help plants produce some of our most common foods, like squash and blueberries, and keep ecosystems functioning, sustaining, and healthy.
Unfortunately, many species of valuable insects are in real trouble due to the high amount of pesticide use in agriculture, their habitat loss, and quickly occurring climate change.
However, we can contribute something to help bees in our own backyard.
1. Create a pesticide-free environment
Pesticides, herbicides, and fungicides are all hazardous for bees. Pesticides come in many forms and some, like neonicotinoids, are systemic, meaning that they make all plant parts(including nectar and pollen) toxic to bees.
The category of neonicotinoids is the one that has had the most “notoriety,” especially after the measures taken at the European Union level to limit their use.
EU took this action after EFSA (European Food Safety Authority) highlighted the risks to bees and pollinators resulting from pesticide use.
If people initially thought it is often used for the tanning of seeds, they would never contact pollinators; it was then discovered that they are persistent in the environment and that bees can ingest them through contaminated pollen, nectar, and water.
These substances seriously damage bees’ orientation and learning abilities, also hindering their reproduction and social behaviors.
However, considering other types of pesticides, it has been seen that it is not only neonicotinoids that have a severe impact on the life of bees and pollinators in general.
Of course, these substances do not harm bees in this way alone. Combined with intensive farming practices, they also cause an enormous impoverishment of natural habitats, from which bees struggle to obtain precious nourishment for their survival. This decline is also associated with constant and ever-increasing urbanization.
To prevent harming bees in this way, avoid spraying pesticides; or if you need to control more species of pest insects, use organic or biological control agents.
The more shelter you provide for insects in your garden, the more you will welcome other beneficial insects and invertebrates that will control pests.
You should also always make sure that the plants or seeds you buy have been grown organically and without neonicotinoids.
2. Plant trees and grow flowers, food for bees
Plant in your home, in the parks and woods of your city, species of the bee flora; flowers with pollen and nectar provide the bees’ natural food.
The bees need nectar and proteins present in the pollen of flowers to stay alive and give rise to new generations of bees.
They play a crucial role in maintaining ecosystems. Therefore, contributing to the existence of these little beings is to opt for a sustainable attitude.
The bees love aromatic plants and flowers such as daisies, basil, oregano, sunflower, mint, rosemary, dandelion, and thyme. They like guava, jabuticaba, avocado, and lychee from the tree category.
They also need an essential item: water. But, in the latter case, beware of the dengue mosquito, and change the water daily.
Also, be careful with the application of insecticides (even natural ones) and some species of trees harmful to bees, such as the Neem tree, as insecticides and some trees can significantly reduce bee populations.
3. More gardens and fewer lawns
Let’s start by putting that love of the slightly wild into practice in the same garden style.
A well-trimmed, bright green lawn is the idyllic image of a manicured garden, but it is the complete opposite of what bees need, for which all that expanse of homogeneous green is the equivalent of a desert.
If possible, a diverse garden with plants that generate pollen is much more nutritious for bees, which feed on that pollen.
So if for aesthetic or pragmatic reasons you cover large areas of grass, try to have other nearby areas where various plants grow and, if possible, with flowers.
4. Plant species diverse in size, color, and shape
The variety is the taste, also in the plants that populate your garden if you want to favor the survival of insects and bees, which are also diverse in sizes and shapes.
In addition, a garden with a diversity of species is more resistant to threats such as pests or pollution, thus ensuring a greater source of food for its pollinators.
5. Offer them a nesting habitat
Of the roughly 20,000 species in the world, most bees are solitary. It means that instead of living in giant hive-like honey bees do, most nesting bees are hardworking single mothers who provide nectar and pollen for a few eggs at a time.
After providing food for each egg (in the form of a small round or square bar that the bee itself molds with the pollen it collects), the mother seals the nesting chamber. Once it completes its work, it will no longer remain in the nest.
The vast majority of these solitary bees nest on the ground, which means they need a safe place to lay their eggs.
Allowing a corner of your local yard or park to remain a bit cluttered with leaves, taller grass, or compacted soil will provide a place for them to build their nests and hive.
Most varieties of the bees in the world are too small to sting, and, unlike honey bees that have a colony to defend, it is hazardous for a solitary bee to sting.
If a mother bee stings and is crushed and killed after doing so, her young will die without her. It is worth knowing that male bees don’t have a stinger.
6. Shop for local, organic, and seasonal food
This advice may seem out of place when talking about bees, but it is actually imperative.
You are not financing industrial agriculture that uses synthetic chemicals and pesticides, damaging the soil and killing pollinating insects by purchasing organic fruits and vegetables.
By choosing local and seasonal, bees are likely to have a better chance of finding plants to feed themselves. You will also support those who strive to produce our food in an environmentally responsible manner.
7. Reduce how often you mow
Your garden does not have to become a meadow, but if you have grass, give it a little room to grow and become a little wild.
A garden is a much friendlier environment than a homogeneous lawn for bees to inhabit. Still, if you have one, you can always allow it to grow a little more than usual so that the insect colonies can establish and survive.
The end of bees is almost synonymous with the end of terrestrial ecosystems because, without pollination, most birds’ food and many other species of insects and animals would end.
It creates a huge domino effect that reduces ecosystems to almost nothing. Despite this, their presence is an excellent indicator of habitat health, as they are one of the most sensitive insects and least tolerate climate change. So a garden full of them is not a cause for panic but a good sign.