When you live in the city, it is not difficult to let awareness of wildlife slip as we enjoy smaller spaces, more confinement and tons of concrete that surrounds us. Urban wildlife is alive and well though, and there is an abundance of bees and other pollinators living among us, buzzing our flowers, vegetable gardens, and fruit trees if we’re lucky enough to have them.
I had so many bees last year that I asked my friend Barb, the beekeeper, if I should be considering a hive. She laughed good-naturedly, and then told me the bees would starve to death on the resources I alone had to give. Besides, she added, those bees belong to someone local. I would be wiser to help that beekeeper by helping his bees. But how, I asked, can city folks do that?
I found a helpful article on www.gooserockfarm.com, a supplier of bee colonies, which applies to us city slickers. Want to help the honeybee and don’t know how? Is there really anything the average person can do to make a difference? It turns out there is and that we do.
It turns out that spring wildflowers are a critical source of pollen for honeybees. Not just the dandelion, for in itself, it does not provide adequate nutrients. But it is a moderate resource for them. Add to that other wildflowers such as clover and plantains in early spring and numerous other wildflowers throughout summer and fall, and we have provided for a part of the bees’ needs.
There are some helpful options for the average homeowner.
First, I can opt to not treat the wildflowers in the lawn with chemicals. Note that I didn’t call them “weeds.”
Second, I can delay mowing the dandelions until other sources of pollen are available and the bees have moved on. Actually, that option was easy to achieve this year as the cool weather eased us into the summer with little mowing.
Third, I can help either as an individual or as an HOA member by choosing and planting plants and trees that provide good pollen sources for bees.
Fourth, in that same way, I can choose not to plant plants and trees that are not beneficial to bees. (One example given was the Bradford pear, grown commonly in my area.)
Finally, if I garden, I can do so organically. That eliminates the whole issue of chemicals; I can eat local honey (thank you Barb and Rich for providing some to buy); and I can support legislation and environmental measures to protect and assist bees.
As president of our small neighborhood association, I have received repeated pleas from my neighbors to spray the dandelions. While this year I was able to avoid the issue because of the temperatures and rainfall, but next year I’ll make an effort to solicit their assistance.
So the next time you see those pretty yellow flowers covering the back yard, just remember – the bee you save IS your own. It is pollinating the food you eat.