8 Ways to Help Bees Now
Want to help protect honey bees but you are not sure where to start? Here are 8 easy‑to‑do tasks that can make a difference immediately.
1. Plant bee-friendly plants
Gardens, planters and pots
Planting bee-friendly plants is the easiest and most immediate step you take right now to help bees. Flowers can be planted virtually anywhere—in a backyard garden, in a planter on a deck, or in pots on a balcony. Just plant something tasty and watch the bees visit your property all day long! With little effort, you help foraging bees find the food they need easily.
If you are feeling somewhat more adventuresome then guerilla gardening might be right for you. Guerilla gardening involves making “seed bombs” using clay, soil and local wildflower seeds. These “bombs” are distributed throughout the city in areas where flowers may not traditionally grow—for example, in abandoned courtyards, in street medians or roundabouts, along curbs or railroad tracks, in abandoned planters—anywhere really.
If guerilla gardening interests you, check out some of the DIY ideas here:
Gardenista: DIY wildflower seed bombs: gardenista.com/posts/diy-wildflower-seed-bombs/
Instructables: How to make seed bombs: instructables.com/id/How-to-Make-a-Seed-Bomb/
2. Make peace with spring time weeds
Every spring we pluck, pull and mow flowering weeds from our lawns. But plants—like dandelions and white clover—provide bees with much needed sources of pollen and nectar early in the season. Help bees by leaving these weeds in the ground for as long as possible.
3. Make a bee bath
Foraging bees fly many kilometers in a single day in search of pollen and nectar and all that flying makes them thirsty. Help bees by providing them with a bee‑safe source of water. A shallow dish filled with marbles or rocks where bees may land safely and sip will help pollinators stay hydrated.
For ideas on how to make your own bee-safe water source using materials around your house, please visit:
David Suzuki: How to make a bee bath davidsuzuki.org/blogs/queen-of-green/2015/06/how-to-make-a-bee-bath/
4. Make bee condos for solitary bees
A bee condo? Seriously? Yup, just like honeybees, solitary bees need a place to rest their weary wings. These bees make their homes in small nooks and crannies in the local environment. A bee condo in your backyard or on your balcony provides a safe place for lone bees to rest after a hard day’s work. It doesn’t need to be fancy.
Here are some ideas on how to make a bee condo for your yard or balcony:
Makezine.com: Solitary bee condos makezine.com/projects/make-38-cameras-and-av/solitary-bee-condos/
Earth Rangers.com: Build your own Bee condo earthrangers.com/wildwire/my-missions/bee-condo/
5. Rent a hive
Interested in keeping bees but not sure if it is right for you? If you have space on your property, look for a company like Gees Bees Honey Company (an Ottawa‑based company) that will rent hives to you. The company will do the bulk of the beekeeping work, while you enjoy the hum of little buzzies on your property. This is a good opportunity to learn about beekeeping before committing fully to purchasing a hive.
6. Start your own hive
This is a commitment for sure, but totally do-able. Research throughly before you start. Then head down to a local beekeeping supplier to buy essential beekeeping supplies and a nucleus of bees. If you are interested in starting your own hive, we recommend reaching out to suppliers early in the season to source your bees. In Ottawa, ideally you should order your nuc by February or early March since demand can exceed availability. Your supplier will call you and ask you to pick up your bee nuc as soon as the local weather is bee-friendly (in Ottawa, this generally means April or May).
7. Buy beekeeping supplies locally
When you buy beekeeping supplies locally (rather than through a big chain store), you help bees because the act of buying locally ensures that local businesses stay viable and bee experts remain nearby. Local suppliers have a wealth of knowledge and are very active in their communities. If you run into problems with your hives, tapping into their knowledge can make all the difference. By supporting local beekeeping businesses, you help ensure that local knowledge stays in the community which ultimately benefits you and the bees you tend.
8. Get political
No list is complete without mentioning the obvious—get political. Sign petitions, write letters or call your minister(s) or local counsellor, and boycott companies that use colony destroying neonic (short for neonicotinoids) pesticides. Join a local environmental group and use your passion and knowledge to educate others. The Honey Bee Research Centre at the University of Guelph has brochures and other educational materials available for download and/or special order that you can distribute in your hometown.