Commentary by Katrina Owens
My family back in Ontario will have a laugh at this week’s commentary, mainly because of my unrealistic-fear of bees and wasps. My phobia reached an all time high last year – I almost made my sister get into an accident because there were a wasp in the car, oh memories. I’m probably the last person in the world who would say help save the bees, but recently I’ve had a change of heart. So take this how you will, but I’m asking you to pause for a second and think about your weekend plans. I’m assuming getting the yard and garden ready for planting. Part of this annual routine may include spraying pesticide on those pesky dandelions, I’m hoping if you read this beforehand, you may have a change of heart too.
If you do choose to douse weed killer on your dandelions (and by all means, your choice is your choice, don’t take this as a personal attack), but, you will be killing an essential nutrient for bees after a long, cold winter.
As much as dandelions are thought as a weed-of-sorts, they are other pollinators are needed now more than ever. By not spraying the dandelions with otherwise poison, you’ll be helping save the some-odd 800 native bee species in Canada, and the European honeybees that currently face extinction. The Canadian bee population is facing problems because of Colony Collapse Disorder, which happens when hives are lost to mites, pesticides and other causes.
I’m going to assume that some of you may be asking: why should we care? Aren’t bees mean and sting people?
Unfortunately it seems a lot of the time bees are painted with the same brush as wasps, which tend to be a bit more temperamental and play a small part in grand scheme of things. Now native bees and honeybees on the other hand, play a huge part in crops, fruit, and flowers – mostly anything we eat actually has some sort of connection to the bee. According to Lori Weidenhammer, a bee expert based out of Vancouver, about one out of every three mouthfuls of food has been pollinated by bees, and the majority of the colourful and healthy foods are bee-pollinated.
To put it into perspective, here are some of the crops that would disappear without bees, apples, almonds, blueberries, watermelon, cherries, peaches, avocados, cucumbers, cranberries, onions, grapefruit, oranges, raspberries, cantaloupe, pumpkins, pears and plums – just to name a few.
As I mentioned before, one of the main reasons for the rapid decline in the Canadian bee population is habitat loss. Referencing Weidenhammer, who says, bees need nesting habitats, lots of rural land and an abundance of just the right flowers. I’m sorry to be the bearer of bad news, but in today’s age finding that combination is slim to none. In additional to that, the land that is available for the bees are usually covered with pesticides, which is a big problem all in itself.
So what can you do to help: plant like your life depended on it! Different wildflowers, lavender, oregano, basil, scarlet runner beans, and kale should do the trick. And keep those little pesky dandelions and tiny daises on your lawn, without the harmful pesticides. I was surprised to hear that you can also build smaller habitats right in your backyard garden. It’s as easy as drilling an array of holes in a log, or leaving a little soil bare for the native bees that nest in the ground. And of course, stop squishing/stomping/swatting the bees. With a little research you’ll be on your way to helping the bees, take it from a former serial bee-killer, they’re all not mean and don’t sting!