1. Stop using insecticides – especially for ‘cosmetic’ gardening.
There are better ways of dealing with pests – especially biological controls. Modern pesticides are extremely powerful and many are long-lasting and very toxic to bees and other insects. Removing all unnecessary pesticides from the environment is probably the single most important thing we can do to save the bees.
2. Avoid seeds coated with systemic insecticides.
Beware – many seeds are now coated with Clothianidin and related systemic insecticides, which cause the entire plant to become toxic to bees and all other insects that may feed on it. Check your seed packets carefully -and if in doubt, ask the manufacturer for full information.
3. Read the labels on garden compost – beware hidden killers!
Some garden composts are on sale that contain Imidacloprid – a deadly insecticide manufactured by Bayer. It is often disguised as ‘vine weevil protection’ or similar, but it is highly toxic to all insects and all soil life, including beneficial earthworms. The insecticide is taken up by plants, and if you use this compost in hanging baskets, bees seeking water from the moist compost may be killed.
4. Create natural habitat.
If you have space in your garden, let some of it go wild to create a safe haven for bees and other insects and small mammals. Gardens that are too tidy are not so wildlife-friendly!
5. Plant bee-friendly flowers.
You can buy wildflower seeds from many seed merchants, and they can be sown in any spare patch of ground – even on waste ground that is not being cultivated. Some ‘guerrilla gardeners’ even plant them in public parks!
6. Provide a site for beehives.
If you have some space to spare, you could offer a corner of your garden to a local beekeeper as a place to keep a hive or two. They will need to have regular access, so bear this in mind when considering a site.
7. Make a wild bee house.
Providing a simple box as a place for feral bees to set up home is one step short of taking up beekeeping, but may appeal to those who want to have bees around but don’t want to get involved with looking after them. Ideas for such boxes can be found online.
8. Support your local beekeepers.
Many people believe that local honey can help to reduce the effects of hayfever and similar allergies, which is one good reason to buy honey from a local beekeeper rather than from supermarkets, most of which source honey from thousands of miles away. If you can, find a beekeeper who does not use any chemicals in their hives and ask for comb honey for a real treat.
9. Learn about bees – and tell others.
Bees are fascinating creatures that relatively few people take the trouble to understand. Read a good book about bees and beekeeping, and who knows – you might decide to:
10. Become a beekeeper.
It is easier than you might imagine to become a beekeeper – and you don’t need any of the expensive equipment in the glossy catalogs! Everything you need to keep bees successfully can be made by anyone with a few simple tools: if you can put up a shelf, you can probably build a beehive!