To save the Bees: we must first save the Wildflowers

In 1940, a Protection Act was passed for the Bald and Golden Eagles. These skyward scavengers suffered from DDT exposure which affected their eggs in a very bad way. Although these birds of prey are no longer on the endangered species list, they will be forever protected. I completely agree with this act. Each bird of prey has its place in the circle we call life and even some of their habitats are protected. But we don’t eat eagles or their eggs. They do not provide any direct resource for us as humans. Honey bees do. What will it take to protect the honey bee? I believe we must first secure and protect their foraging grounds; their sources of food, before bees become endangered.

honey bee foraging on coneflower
Honey bee foraging on a species of coneflower. Photo by Jonathan Hargus©

The 3 Things that Must happen to Save the Bees The first thing that must happen to save the honey bees is to list them as a protected species. How serious are we about our food sources? Honey bees play a huge role in securing food for us. Why wait until honey bees are listed on the endangered species list before we start waking up?

The Gopher Tortoise is currently protected under Federal Law by the Endangered Species Act. That means that you cannot kill one for any reason, make one a pet, or probably even relocate it. The Gopher Tortoise is a keystone species, meaning that its existence makes it possible for other species of animals to live and thrive. The holes that they dig become homes and refuge for a number of other critters.

keystone species gopher tortoise
One of our Florida apiaries is full of these little Gophers. This Gopher Tortoise was eating lunch when I disturbed him/her. Photo by Jonathan Hargus©

What’s the honey bee if not a Keystone species? Without honey bees, human beings WILL NOT SURVIVE. Without forage grounds, honey bees will not survive. Yet land clearing is not letting up, it’s becoming more and more prevalent.

Don’t misunderstand, there are definitely people and organizations that are trying to make a difference. The Honey Bee Conservancy is one example of a group trying to encourage native growth areas for bees to forage. There are countless individuals who take it upon themselves to grow Pollinator Gardens to attract pollinators. This is exactly what we need: more people who are willing to contribute to the cause by their own free will. And pollinator gardens are the easiest, first-step options that most people can do.

The Second thing that must happen to save the honey bees is to protect their foraging grounds, i.e. the Wildflowers. When the first European settlers in American started moving out west, they had to figure out how to get rid of the Native American plains Indians already living there. Some of the frontiersman figured out that if they killed the majority of the bison, the staple food supply of the Native Americans, then they would not be able to survive. They were right. So they wiped out the bison which wiped out the plains Indians as a result. A genocide that I personally find more than despicable.

So why are people so surprised and shocked today that honey bees are declining? They need food to eat you know! Honey bees cannot survive on high fructose corn syrup alone. They need minerals, vitamins and nutrients from their food sources known as wildflowers; some people call them weeds.

bumblebee foraging on a flower
Bumblebee foraging on this purple blue flower that I have not figured out the name of yet. Photo by Jonathan Hargus©

There are specific areas that are crucial to the survival of waterfowl. These areas protect feeding grounds, nesting areas, and even mating grounds. Unfortunately, areas like this are only protected after the fact. In other words, when it was almost too late. Birds like herons, egrets, and tern are perfect examples of this.

This type of habitat protection is exactly what must happen for honey bees foraging grounds BEFORE it becomes worse than it already is. I honestly have no idea how to act upon something of this magnitude. Where does one go to appeal to someone to do something legally?

Until I figure it out here’s the best and easiest solution that you and I can do right now. As mentioned earlier, we can plant our very own pollinator gardens. We control what grows, where it grows, how much of it we cultivate, and even how it is managed. And by this I mean a NO-SPRAY area.

jewelweed as forage for honey bees
Jewelweed is not usually noticed by common-folk unless they head off the beaten path. Usually found in shaded areas, they like moist areas of forests.
Photo by Jonathan Hargus

My property in the North Central Georgia mountains is covered in wildflowers most of the year but winter. I have not planted anything at all and it’s already a pollinator sanctuary. But even so, I fully intend on planting a wider variety of native plants. And I hope that you can do the same thing. You may not have acres and acres of land. But do you have a small area where you could grow something in a raised bed? Even window boxes would be something.

If you do, when you do plan your pollinator garden, I have the best place you can order seeds from. Go online and lookup Prairie Moon Nursery. They have over 700 native varieties to choose from. I just got their catalog in the mail last week. I have been staring at the pictures for hours, reading about each plant and what it’s good for. I could go on and on but I must leave it at that for the time being. Check them out here. I’ll be sharing what I plant later this year.

Prairie moon nursery catalog
My new favorite catalog. Prairie Moon Nursery has an amazing array of native plants.
Photo by Jonathan Hargus

The third thing that has to happen to save the honey bees, and certainly not the last, is that we must STOP spraying anything that ends with -cides. That goes for pesticides, herbicides, and fungicides. There’s probably more that I am unaware of.

First, I gotta say, why are toxic sprays even legal? Whose bright idea was that anyway? Well, I guess that’s not something I need to focus on. What I want to focus on is a world that doesn’t feel the need to spray things we eat or wear. I have heard more than once that there are many sprays such as herbicides that are really not that harmful. Really?! Herbicides were made to kill. How is that not harmful?

prairie moon nursery free of neonicotinoids
Here’s a really cool thing in the Prairie Moon catalog. They are free of neonicotinoids.
Photo by Jonathan Hargus

The active ingredient in RoundUp is something called glyphosate. Many illnesses have been attributed to this spray. If you don’t know much about it then I recommend clicking on one of the linked phrases in this paragraph above. In short, it’s no good thing. Even worse, it’s deadly to honey bees.

Sprays are never needed. However, the reason many agricultural outfits use sprays is because their growing strategy is centered around monocultures. Monocultures are large areas planted with only one type of food. As a result, all it takes is for one single pest or parasite to move in and have the feast of its life. Hence the perceived need for sprays. Permaculture has the solution to this and uses natural means to keep pests at manageable levels.

prairie moon catalog spread
Here’s a gorgeous spread from the Prairie Moon Nursery catalog. Photo by Jonathan Hargus©

Essentially, there is great news. Planting our own pollinator gardens means that we decide our own management methods that do not include harmful sprays. You and I are in control of making things way better. That means we don’t have to wait for others to jump on-board. We can act immediately. Even if it’s winter, we can start planning what and where to make our pollinator garden.

You may or may not have noticed that I have linked a few words to literature on Amazon. I want to take a moment here at the end to refer you to a few more. These are books specifically aimed at plants for attracting pollinators. Please check them out and find one that suits you.

The first one is Pollinators of Native Plants. This book “profiles over 65 perennial native plants of the Midwest, Great Lakes region, Northeast and southern Canada.”

The next one isBees: An Identification and Native Plant Forage Guide. This book covers 99 native plants crucial to pollinators and has very high reviews.

Bringing Nature Home: How to sustain wildlife with Native Plants, educates the importance of ecosystems and their need for balance of forage and pollinators; and how you can make this happen where you are.

With this one, Attracting Native Pollinators: The Xerces Society Guide, Protecting North America’s Bees and Butterflies, you learn the focus on protecting the bees and the butterflies. Just another great book to add to your bookshelf, as long as it doesn’t stay there.

My final recommendation today is 100 Plants to Feed the Bees: Provide a Healthy Habitat to Help Pollinators Thrive. Imagine setting aside a small or large area of your property for the enjoyment of strolling through and hearing birds chirping, bees buzzing, and butterflies buttering. Then, sitting down on your nice new park bench, and reveling in the fact that you created a protected wildlife habitat. A place that honey bees and other pollinators can rely on for food.

I hope that you have enjoyed today’s post. Please let me know what you think and if you have or plan on making your own pollinator garden. Where do you live? What did you plant? As for me, I plan on getting some seeds from Prairie Moon Nursery this year. I also want to add some of the aforementioned books to my own collection. One last book that I cannot leave out is one that I have mentioned many times: American Honey Plants by Frank C. Pellett.

Until next time remember,

~Weeds are Wildflowers, let them Bee!~

Jonathan Hargus/Beekeeper Extraordinaire

One thought on “To save the Bees: we must first save the Wildflowers

  1. I am going to be ordering some seed from Prairie Moon Nursery. They have several packets of seed that are specifically for pollinators! It’s really cool because on their website you can click on “Components” and read exactly what varieties they put in each seed mix. Their Pollinator-Palooza for example has 47 different species of seed. I can’t wait!

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