Seven easy ways to help the honeybees

Meme Thomas, instructor for the Honeybee Conservancy classes at Rodale Institute and founder of Baltimore Honey, says there are seven simple ways to help both the honeybee and native pollinator populations in your area right now.

1. Include nectar- and pollen-rich plantings in landscapes. Focus on plants that bloom during the important feeding windows of late winter, pre-spring (February - April) and during the high summer when there is usually a dearth of nectar (June - November).

2. Choose bloom colors that will attract honeybees. Honeybees cannot see the color red, so selecting blooms that are white, yellow, violet, orange, blue and ultra violet is a good idea. Also, plant in clumps or cluster patches of same-color blossoms. Single plants/blooms are much less attractive.

3. Ditch the chemicals (even the organic ones). Herbicides, fungicides, insecticides, pesticides and synthetic fertilizers are detrimental to honeybees. Even organic Neem-based products are a no-no.  Instead, implement beneficial companion plantings and other no-spray practices in your yard, garden and farm.

4. Welcome the weeds. White clover and dandelions are honeybees’ early- and late-season food sources for nectar (carbohydrates) and pollen (protein). Nutritional deficit may very well be a contributor in honeybee Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD), so the more natural food sources you can provide, the better.

5. Provide fresh, safe water. Placing layers of large pebbles just above the water line in your birdbaths or even a shallow dish will give honeybees a safe place to rehydrate and rest before returning to their hives. Birdbaths, otherwise, may drown honeybees.

6. Spread the word. Encourage your friends, family and neighbors to follow these simple steps to support foraging honeybees across your local community.

7. Buy local and sustainable. Purchase not just honey, but as much of your groceries as possible from local producers who are using all natural methods and practices. Sustainble honeybee stewards ensure their bees are treated well and local, organic farmers provide the right environment for both native and cultivated pollinators.

Want to do more? Consider becoming a honeybee steward and keeping a hive or two on your property (or ours). Learn more about the Honeybee Conservancy at Rodale Institute or sign up for our next beekeeping course today!

9 Responses to “Seven easy ways to help the honeybees”

  1. John Mola

    What about native bees? Honeybees may be important for agricultural pollination, but their importance is often overestimated, and often at the expense of populations of native bees.

    Native bees, such as bumblebees, mason bees, sweat bees, carpenter bees, and leafcutter bees, all can pollinate crops and contribute to the pollination services we rely on. By constructing a simple nesting block, you can support populations of these bees and other beneficial wasps.

    See here:

    Also, bees can perceive red. For example, Bombus occidentalis, an endangered species native to the western US, commonly “robs” the flowers of Ipomopsis aggregata, a red tubular flower. They just perceive red as a different, though distinct, color. For more information on that, see Waser et al. 1996, “Generalization in Pollination Systems, and Why it matters.”

    Many of the above suggestions apply equally well to native bees (and butterflies), and it’s important to not overlook efforts to conserve all pollinators and not just to honeybee.



  2. Brian pratt

    These are’s some more.plant clovers and such in your yard or part of it, and don’t mow it. Don’t mow when bees are flying and getting neater in the yard(dandelions), which is the time most folks mow.kills millions of bees.honetbees don’t fly in many weather situations..this saves many lives, and dandelions..tremendous source of late season nectar, major honey flow.practice no mow especially weed fields where native flowers may be.these contain many early and late season pollinations and there fore food badly needed.plant native plants or even clovers and other neater sources in areas that aren’t used.old fields,etc.encourage schools,businesses,the same.plant native or if you must even nonnative.plantings for pollinators and don’t mow..schools and municipalities and business mow tremendous areas and can save $by not and help pollinators.most aren’t aware.

  3. whisperingsage

    The alternative to mowing (may not be an option in your neighborhood) is herbivore grazing. If your yard is small, perhaps chickens or domestic bunny grazing.

    • dirtgrrl

      Vicki, a shallow birdbath with pebbles will likely not harbor mosquito larvae long enough for the larvae to mature into adults. Drain and replace the water and let it dry out at least once per week. This will kill any mosquito larvae or pupae, with the side benefit of discouraging algae growth as well. Locating it in a very hot or very cool location can help kill larvae or delay larvae maturation.

      I grow a lot of wetland plants in big plastic horse troughs, and use the B.t. based mosquito dunks as control because replacing the water in all those containers every week is wasteful and a huge time suck. We see bees at the troughs all the time and wonder if the B.t. dunks are harming them. (“They” say no, but we thought that about a lot of things.) Unfortunately using the dunks is the only practical method I have now of mosquito control in our wetland propagation tubs. Suggestions are welcome.

  4. YurisMom

    good suggestions for: ” nectar- and pollen-rich plantings in landscapes. Focus on plants that bloom during the important feeding windows of late winter, pre-spring (February – April) and during the high summer when there is usually a dearth of nectar (June – November).”

  5. Lindsay Harvey

    With respect to one of natures wonders.i would refrain from feeding them white sugar(a wide speed practice amongst commercial apiaries)Constuct natural beehives(eg the Warre hive)
    Cease artificial breeding of Queens etc.
    If bees die out.The human race is in big trouble.

  6. dan bench

    All of your efforts will be ineffective as long as neonicitinoids, that constitute about 90 % of the agricultural insecticides used in the US are on the market. They are registered for use on just about every crop Keep in mind you can buy them in any hardware store and apply them in the city. Application rates in the city are very much higher than for agriculture. You need to tell people about them. How to find out if the pesticides you use have them as active ingredients: Look at the active ingredient statement on the pesticide label. The neonics to avoid are imidacloprid, clothianidin, and thiamethoxam.


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