September 5, 2012
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Bees sometimes get a bad rap, but unless you are allergic to bee stings, the benefits of these uniquely special creatures far outweigh the risks as they are one of the most important pollinators in the world. Oftentimes honeybees get mistaken for other types of bees or wasps that aren’t as helpful to the human race. Bee identification is not too difficult – just take a closer look and you’ll be able to tell who is buzzing around your home and garden.
honeybee with pollen
The common European Honeybee is fuzzy and compact, and has muted black and yellow striping. These bees are vegetarian – they are not the ones interested in your picnic, but they might want to investigate your brightly colored shirt. They spend most of their time gathering pollen from flowers and are the world’s most efficient pollinators. Honeybees have only one sting and once they use it they die, so they would rather fly away than sting you, although they will typically try to sting if cornered or threatened.
Yellow jackets are most often confused with honeybees but they are much different and are actually a type of wasp. Their bodies are smooth and shiny and their black and yellow stripes are much brighter than honeybees. They eat other insects and fruit and are attracted to meaty and sugary odors. These guys are the ones buzzing around your picnic. They also sometimes hang around honeybee hives and try to steal honey. Unlike the honeybee, yellow jackets are often aggressive and can sting multiple times.
carpenter bee. photo by Jim Gilbert
CARPENTER BEES AND BUMBLEBEES
Bumblebees and Carpenter bees are much larger than honeybees. The Carpenter bee has a shiny black bottom and the bumblebee has a furry, striped one. Carpenter bees like to nest in dead wood, hence their name. Bumblebees can sting multiple times but are usually even less aggressive than honeybees. Drone (male) carpenter bees don’t even have a stinger, and getting stung by a female is quite unlikely and generally very mild.
WASPS AND HORNETS
While there are several types of wasps, most have smooth, shiny bodies and are more compact than bees. They often have longer legs and tiny waists. Most of them eat other insects or bugs like caterpillars. If you come across a hornet nest in your home or garden don’t try to move it. They will become very aggressive when disturbed and can sting a hundred of times each when threatened.
Bees are crucial for a healthy environment as well as maintaining our food supply. We have all heard that bee populations are dwindling and bees are dying. Here are a few easy things you can do to help the bees!
bees love lavender
photo courtesy aussiegall on flickr
Create a bee-friendly habitat Do not use pesticides in your garden. The chemicals disrupt the sensitive systems of the bees and are said to be a major reason for colony collapse disorder. Plant bee-friendly flowers. Some great easily-found choices that do great in Southern California are lavender, rosemary, nasturtium, poppy, lupin, sunflowers and geranium. Here’s a more extensive list from buzzaboutbees.com. Also, make sure there’s a fresh water source in your garden for the bees to drink – a birdbath is perfect.
Buy Organic By supporting organic farmers, you are helping promote and expand bee-friendly environments and decrease the use of harmful pesticides in our environment.
Get Involved Ask your state and federal lawmakers to look into the epidemic of colony collapse so more attention and resources can be directed at the problem. Urge them to support legislation that demands the EPA to ban Neonicotinoid pesticides which are some of the most toxic pesticides out there – even more more toxic than DDT, which was banned in 1972.
small batch honey is the best
Avoid Mass Produced Honey When buying honey, make sure to buy from a small operation or better yet, a beekeeper you know. This way, you know the bees health (and not mass profit) is the beekeepers main focus. Farmer’s markets are a great source to find this kind of sustainable honey.
Keep Your Own Bees Get set up with a bee box filled with rescued feral bees and become a backyard beekeeper! It’s easy because the bees don’t need much help from us to thrive, and you will be helping to increase the honeybee population.
April 29, 2012
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we need the bees!
We all know bee populations are dwindling. The use of pesticides is a major cause of this serious problem. Please help the bees by signing these petitions that urge the EPA to ban Neonicotinoid pesticides. These pesticides are on average 7,000 times more toxic than DDT, which was banned in 1972.
This petition is sponsored by NYR Organic.
This petition is targeted at Bayer shareholders.