What YOU can do to save the bees
Take simple actions in daily life and make an impact
There are several simple actions you can take to improve the life of bees, even when you live in a city.
The main threats for bee populations nowadays are monoculture in farming, the use of pesticides (1) and diseases and parasites.
Research has also shown that pollinator populations decrease because of habitat loss and a lack of flowers.
These impacts are a lot lower in urban areas, therefore some urban areas can become an unexpected refuge for pollinators. And this means: You can do your part!
So, what exactly can you do to protect bees in urban areas?
1) Plant bee-friendly flowers and trees
Spread some seeds!
Even if you live in a city you can help to create a bee friendly urban environment.
There is surely a green space in your area where you can spread some seeds and plant some flowers that attract honeybees and other pollinators. Whether you have a small garden, a balcony or a little green abandoned space in your area, why don’t you buy some mixed flower seeds, spread them and create a new habitat for bees?
Play with the idea to rethink urban spaces and see new opportunities of planting a flora that offers a variety of options for hungry honeybees, butterflies, bumblebees or tiny solitary bees.
Your environment will not only become more colorful, but it will also give habitat and foraging sources to bees, bumblebees and other pollinators.
You want to take it to the next level?
Then we suggest planting specific plants and trees on your balcony, in your garden or other green areas.
These are bee-friendly plants: the whole allium family, all the mints, all beans except French beans and flowering herbs, daisy-shaped flowers like asters and sunflowers, also tall plants like hollyhocks, larkspur and foxgloves. Moreover, fruit trees like apple, plum, and cherry trees.
Make sure to plant a variety of herbs, bushes and flowers to offer a tasty oasis for urban pollinators.
2) Buy honey from local beekeepers – avoid supermarket honey
Honey that is sold in regular supermarkets is often a blend of honeys produced in non-European countries.
Check the label, in the above case you will find the description “Honey from EU and Non-EU producers”!
Not more, not less.
There is no obligation for honey producers to mention the exact origin of their honey.
Why is this a problem?
- It is very likely that these honey blends contain honey from Latin America or China. These honey producing areas are subject to less or no regulations and more than often bees feed on genetically modified plants that are grown on large scale (Latin America) or honey is produced in questionable ways, even mixing up honey with corn or rice syrup (China). Pollen residues can get into the beehives and therefore it can also be found in the honey.
- Long transport miles have a negative impact on the environment.
- Bee diseases can spread and can be imported to local, healthy bee populations.
- Imported honey destroys the local honey market and puts in trouble local beekeepers as they experience an increased price pressure.
Although being the second biggest producer of honey, the EU imported 200,000 tons of honey in 2015. This demonstrates that honey production in Europe is not self-sufficient and the demand for honey is increasing even further.
In Germany for instance, 80% of the honey consumed in Germany is imported honey from inside and outside the EU countries.
Local honey reflects local flora and therefore provides the best available product for this specific area.
We strongly recommend buying honey from local beekeepers.
Let’s keep food miles down and support the local community and environment.
3) Eat organic and seasonal – use bee friendly foods
This one may be obvious, but still, we want to make sure that everybody is aware of this point. Buying local and seasonal products from regional organic farms has many advantages:
Organic farmers and gardeners avoid the usage of pesticides.
Be fair to local producers and appreciate that they operate in a bee-friendly way.
Therefore, you should be ready to pay a little bit more money for locally produced seasonal fruit and vegetables as well as local honey.
Be careful! Organic honey (including organic honey with BIO-label) from organic shops is not always organic and sustainable. For instance, organic honey may still be blended from non-European countries where organic standards are different from EU countries but there is also no agreed standard within the European Union. Do always check the label!
4) Clean your honey jars thoroughly before disposing them
Bee diseases such as the American Foul Brood are imported and spread also locally.
The endospores that trigger the disease spread through honey remains in honey glasses. This happens for instance when honey is being disposed in trash containers.
In autumn, bees and other pollinators often look for food and too often stumble on honey from the disposed honey glasses. They carry the disease to their hives, which threatens the whole colony.
Clean empty honey glasses properly, before bringing them to the trash and you can avoid that bee diseases spread.
Are you a beekeeper? Do not feed your bees with imported or blended honey! You should use only the honey from your own hive.
5) If you have a chimney…
Does your house have a chimney? Does it get colder and you want to light up the chimney? Check for bee swarms before making the first fire!
Bee colonies use to swarm and when searching for a new home that is shaped like empty trees they often end up in chimneys.
At least, light up the first fire in the morning and NOT in the evening, so the bees have a chance to find a new place to nest during the day and do not end up dying in the cold at night.
However, if you discover a bee colony in your chimney you should always contact a local beekeeper or a beekeeper association to remove the bee swarm safely.
If it happens that you “smoke” a bee hive, the fire might melt the wax on the one hand but also threatens the bees on the other. So, make sure to stay safe.
6) Offer nesting opportunities to wild bees
In Germany, 300 out of 560 local wild bee species are on the List of endangered Species.
You can offer nesting opportunities for wild bee species.
This does not necessarily need to be a large and expensive “pollinator hotel”, but with a couple of small grins you can already support wild bees and other insects in your close environment. Insect hotels act as little shelters for wild bees and other pollinators and cater for different insects.
7) Offer nesting opportunities to honey bees
Some beekeepers, especially in urban areas, are having a tough time to find a safe space for their bee hive. If you have some space, contact your local beekeeping association and they can find a beekeeper in need of a site.
You will be amazed what difference the presence of bees will make! Richer harvest of peas and beans, undeformed fruits of your fruit trees and beautiful flowers will bring joy and life to your garden.
8) Become a bee sponsor and get locally produced honey
Many beekeepers in Europe offer different forms of sponsorship and colony parenthood. Through a donation you can support a local beekeeper. Many beekeepers offer honey or a personal certificate in return.
9) Ask local authorities to use bee friendly plants in public spaces
Are you in contact with local authorities? Are you a mayor or governor? Now it’s your turn!
There are loads of public gardens and open spaces that are managed by local authorities. Ask your authority to improve the area you live in by planting bee-friendly plants and make it happen! Often residents voluntarily maintain the areas if the authority lacks resources to do it. Start an iniziative like this friendly fellow in the video who plants in his free time bee-friendly plants on green spaces in the city of Versmold, Germany
Honeybees are fascinating. They have been around long before humans and are ideally adapted to their original, natural environment. Without honey bees our biodiversity would be dramatically diminished. We are constantly interviewing world’s interesting beekeepers and analyzing the scientific papers and information from researchers worldwide.
This is a space where you can learn the most interesting facts about our buzzing friends. Check out the Learning pages of the website or have a look at our blog posts.
11) Learn to “bee”-have
Last, but not least: be friendly to bees!
Bees only sting when provoked or feeling in danger.
When you eat some food and they come closer, chances are high that they are attracted by something in your food that contains sugar. Close this food or beverage, if possible. Don’t flap your hands or chase the bee. Stay calm. Move slowly away. The bee will soon lose interest.
Don’t kill bees that fly in your room by chance. Help yourself with a jar or a glass and accompany them out of the window.
You got stung anyway? Now the bee is dead, so it can’t threat you anymore. To relieve the pain and minder the swelling effect just heat up a piece of metal (spoon etc.) with a lighter and put it where the bee has stung. Bee venom loses its effect when warmed up to a certain degree.