5 Ways Kids Can “Save Our Bees”

With bees in decline around the world, it’s not just adults who can make a difference. There are simple things kids can do to help bees.

All interactions between kids and bees don’t end up like Macaulay Culkin in My Girl. Allergic reactions to bee stings are actually fairly rare, and getting stung happens less often than many worried parents might think. In fact, children can learn a great deal from bees.

Respect Bee Homes Much like cuddly cartoon bears, children may be tempted to poke around hives or stick things down bee holes. Not only are the dangers obvious, but children need to be reminded that insects can be fragile and vulnerable, and deserve to make their homes in peace.

Bee Alert But Calm The best way to keep your kids, as well as bees, safe is to teach your young ones to pay attention to their environment. Tell them to watch out if they walk barefoot, and explain that bees can be attracted by strong perfumes or sugar. Male bees, which lack stingers, can act aggressively, but are harmless. They have larger eyes than females, won”t be covered in pollen, and lack the prominent abdominal striping in many species.

Ask for Local Honey Kids love honey’s sweet, rich taste. It is better for them than plain sugar because it also contains vitamins (though it still affects the blood sugar in ways similar to sugar). By giving them local honey, you are helping to support local bees. Beware, however, that honey often contains botulinum endospores, which can activate in the digestive tracks of infants under age 12 months, since they lack stomach acids.

Put Out Water Like most living things, bees need water. Shallow, calm sources tend to work best. Add a birdbath, fountain or small pond to your property, and give your child the opportunity to watch wildlife in action at the same time beautifying your landscape. The job of refilling the water can be a simple one that is readily assigned to the youngest member of a household, who will learn responsibility as well as connection to nature.

Build or Buy a Bee Condo (With Help from an Adult) Attract stingless orchard mason bees to your property with bee condos, which are made from reclaimed fir posts by artisans who are paid a fair living wage. If you’d rather, make your own by drilling holes into blocks of wood. The project is simple and can be done with children, who will also have the opportunity to observe the bees through the seasons. Learning about bees is a good way for children to discover the interdependence of living things, something that will last them a lifetime.

Few of us are likely to don netting and surround our homes with hives. But there are many things we can all easily do to help our beleaguered bees:

  • Cut Back (or Out) Lawn Pesticides and Fertilizers Many common lawn and garden chemicals are lethal to bees, while others may weaken their immune systems, allowing parasites, disease or other stresses to finish them off. Instead, switch to a strategy of integrated pest management or opt for natural, organic fertilizers and biological controls.
  • Cultivate Bee-Friendly Plants Just as many plants need bees for pollination, bees need plants for nectar and pollen. Not anything green will do, however. In fact, bees tend to be attracted to blue, purple and yellow flowers. Consult with your local nursery or university extension to select appropriate varieties for your area (and view a suggested list here). Research shows gardens with 10 or more bee-friendly plants support the most visitors.
  • Let There Be Weeds Many common weeds, such as dandelions and clover, are popular with bees. Go ahead and let some flower, then to keep things tidy, pull them up after they”ve gone to seed. Avoid Mulch Madness Many native bees tunnel and live in the soil, but can be blocked by heavy layers of woodchips or plastic liners. Learn to edge your lawn tastefully without completely shutting out bees.
  • Help Your Town Protect Bee Habitat Some of the biggest threats to bees are urban sprawl and intensive land management. But you can reduce this trend by volunteering to plant wildflowers and other native vegetation along roadways and other common areas, and advocating for smart growth and sensible limits to development where you live.

This article is by Brian Clark Howard available at thedailygreen