Have you found that the plants in your veggie patch don’t seem to be growing and pollinating as much as they used to? Ever wondered why your flowers aren’t blooming in random parts of the garden as they once did?
It’s the bees. The bees are in trouble.
Around the world, there are mass bee die-offs in winter, and in summer, even more bees are lost to our enthusiastic use of insecticide and agricultural chemicals. Fatal bee diseases are spreading rapidly across the world. In some countries, bee endangerment has become so dire that insecticides are banned!
It seems strange to ask you to welcome bees into your garden – understandably we’ve all gotten squeamish when bees fly too close and invade our personal space. But in a recent article in The Sydney Morning Herald, bee advocate and bee-keeping enthusiast Doug Purdie is encouraging us to do just that.
Should We Care About Dying Bees?
In his quest to get Aussies to respect the bee – and to go so far as to harvest our own honey from our very own backyard beehive – we have to ask, why is it so important? He elaborates in The Sydney Morning Herald:
“Many people don’t realise the vital role bees and other insects play in pollinating our food and other plants. When bees forage for nectar and pollen they pollinate each flower they visit, increasing the crop yield by as much as 60 per cent. Without bees, many food crops that need pollination by insects could not be grown on a scale large enough to feed us.”
One in every three mouthfuls of food we eat can be directly linked to the work of bees. Yep. One in three. Plus 80 Aussie crops rely on bee pollination for their survival. Imagine the consequences if our bees became extinct, as is happening elsewhere.
The Benefits of Owning a Beehive
Gardeners today are being strongly encouraged to farm their own bees. And why not? The benefits of owning your own beehive are many – and the benefits for the bees, even better! Doug Purdie explains:
“If you get your own hive you will spend a lot of time just watching them on their mission to pollinate and collect pollen and nectar. Sitting beside your hive with a cup of tea watching the girls (as I fondly refer to them) come and go is gratifying; imagining where they are going and trying to identify the trees they have visited from the colour of the pollen sacks on their hind legs…
… Plus, you will be giving them a helping hand in surviving the insect apocalypse that is upon us. At the same time, tell people about what you are doing and why they should rethink that green lawn and plant flowers instead. And put down that insecticide can.”
In an ABC News article, Mr Purdie says that you could harvest about 50 kilos of honey in a typical Aussie hive and in a good season, that figure can even double. Imagine the savings you could make when you no longer have to buy supermarket honey!
Plus locally-harvested, raw honey has huge health benefits you simply can’t get with store-bought honey. For a start, it’s richer in nutrients. And honey from your backyard has more pollen in it. That sounds like a bad thing for hayfever sufferers but in fact, it’s the opposite. More pollen allows your body to build up an intolerance for it and reduces flare ups.
But most importantly of all, having bees in your garden is a sure-fire way to make sure the pollen from your flowers, fruit trees and veggie plants are being spread about, so you can enjoy the pleasure of watching new plants spring up without any effort on your part.
Photo Credit: A Spotlight on Spice
How You Can Respect the Bee
With springtime approaching, it’s a time for renewal. It’s a time sit out on your deck and watch new buds spring up, thanks mostly to the work of our undervalued bees.
Next time you’re outside, rethink before using the insecticide spray! What’s more, there are a few sure fire ways to make the most of the outdoors and be bee-free without intruding on their precious habitat. If you’ve got outdoor blinds, consider lowering them instead of using nasty chemicals to keep the bees away. It’s better for your health as well as theirs.
Clean up food scraps from your outdoor barbecue straight away so you don’t attract busy bees. And try not to wear strong perfumes. Also avoid wearing clothes with bright colours or floral patterns that could look like an enticing flower!
To read the full article about Doug and his bee-keeping ways click here. Oh, and don’t forget to acknowledge the wonderful work of bees this springtime.
Want to know more?
Looking for more inspiring ways to make the most of your backyard? Check out Australian Outdoor Living’s other resources:
- Enjoy our 6 valuable eco-friendly outdoor design tips
- Want to design your garden on a budget? See our list of budget-friendly garden design ideas
- Keep the mozzies away with these handy ideas
- Get more out of your small backyard with this advice from Mitchell Parker
- Want to renovate? Check out our galleries for deck designs and verandah designs