How to Help the Bees

Yard Neglect And Preventative Measures To Boost Bee Population

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(Yu-Chan Chen, Flickr)

Imagine a world where corn and potatoes are your only form of sustenance.

Honeybees are responsible for the pollination of a great number of plants worldwide, and without bees around to pollinate the plants we eat, “a third of our food would be taken out of [grocery stores],” says John Gibeau, the instructor of Kwantlen Polytechnic University’s Commercial Beekeeping program.

The foods that bees are responsible for pollinating would still remain, just in a much smaller quantity, and most likely would no longer be commercially available. There would be a huge shift in our diets.

“Even beef would be drastically affected,” says Gibeau. “To get beef, the steak on your table, it requires feedlots and feedlots are alfalfa dependant, and alfalfa is a bee pollinated plant.”

One version of a famous quote, thought to be from Einstein, goes “If the bee disappears from the surface of the earth, man would have no more than four years to live.” Gibeau is unsure about the accuracy behind this statement, but did mention that “we’d probably have food riots if we lost the bees.”

The number one problem Canadian bee farmers are facing is the infestation of Varroa mites. Varroa are an eight-legged insect that bite and drink the blood of honeybees, effectively killing them. This infestation can be
controlled through organic and inorganic methods, yet there is still a shortage of honey bees throughout Canada. The problem is exacerbated by pesticides, food deficiency, and hive destruction.

The first, and probably the easiest thing for anyone to do to promote a healthy and thriving bee population, is to neglect your lawn.

“Just let dandelions grow, that’s the first early nectar source that bees need,” says Gibeau. “Leave undeveloped property, allow berry brambles and other things for indigenous bees to use as a habitat.”

Plant your own fruits and veggies, or other bee friendly plants. Berries, such as blueberries, blackberries, raspberries and strawberries, are among some of the simplest fruits to grow. And, they come packed with a ton of antioxidants to help keep your body healthy. They’re also an incredibly tasty treat.

If you’re short on garden or yard space, raspberries and blueberries are particularly easy plants to grow in containers, right on your balcony!

As KPU students in particular, there are a number of ways to join in the fight to “keep the bees.” The Kwantlen Student Association’s sustainability initiative “provides community garden plots on campus to students who want to grow their own vegetables, fruit and flowers,” says Tia Schellenberg the KSA Sustainability Specialist and Garden Coordinator. “[It] even features a bee bath and sunflowers in one plot.” More advanced produce to increase the bee population, that are even available to buy locally, include cranberry, currants, pumpkin, zucchini, and kiwi.

“Students can apply [for their own garden plot] in early April, and are able to plant whatever they’d like throughout the growing season,” says Schellenberg.

If growing plants isn’t something you’re capable of, support local bee farmers by purchasing from beekeepers whenever possible. Farmers markets are a great place to support beekeepers, and find ethically sourced and produced items, such as beeswax candles or honey.

“[Beekeepers] are keeping the bees alive, which is pollinating and creating a food source for urban environments,” explains Gibeau

And for the real go-getters of the world, consider starting your own backyard colony. That’ll produce 100-150lbs of honey per year. The Honeybee Centre in Surrey offers short-term courses in beekeeping for anyone wanting to delve into the art. Farhad Dastur, a KPU psychology instructor, is currently lobbying for KPU to get a bee garden on campus, separate from Sustainable KSA and the Commercial Beekeeping Program.

Let’s avoid a world in which fruits become unattainable for the average consumer, food riots break out, and the fall of man ensues. Find your local Farmer’s Market—KPU has one every Tuesday at the Richmond Campus—leave your dandelions alone, and plant some berries or flowers to help indigenous bees survive and thrive.

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