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Bee populations have been significantly declining in recent years due to pesticide use and colony collapse disorder. Bees are vital to our ecosystem and important for the pollination of food crops and trees that we humans need to survive, along with many other types of animals. You can be a honey bee helper by helping to protect bees and taking small steps to help them thrive.

1. Avoid using pesticides – Pesticides, insecticides, herbicides all can poison and kill bees. Try to keep any pesticide use as minimal as possible and during hours that bees are not out foraging, like at night. Also be wary of large scale mosquito spraying as these pesticides can also be lethal to bees. If you put out plants for bees, be sure the plants haven’t been pre-treated with pesticides.

2. Plant bee-friendly plants – Bees love pollen-rich native flowers and flowering plants. If you don’t have space for a garden, you can use some large planting pots to offer up some bee-friendly options. Another way to benefit the bees is to leave a section of your yard reserved for weed growth. Weeds such as clover and dandelions provide good nourishment for bees, especially in the early spring before other plants start to bloom.

3. Keep them hydrated – Bees fly and forage for pollen up to a few miles away from their hive. They can get mighty thirsty during their travels. Provide a large shallow bowl of fresh clean water. Add some rocks and twigs for bees to land on to make it easier for them to stop by for a sip. Just wash off the stones and twigs to ensure there are no pesticides on them.

4. Protect bee swarms – When bees swarm, they do so because part of the hive has left with a new queen to look for a place to start their own hive. This happens when the colony gets too large. A swarm of bees can look scary and cause many people to be fearful. They congregate as a group of hundreds of bees on the side of a house or in a tree while scouts go looking for a new place for them to build a hive. The best thing to do is to protect the hive from other people and call a local beekeeper. The beekeeper can bring hive boxes and try to capture the swarm to take it safely back to their apiary.

5. Buy only local honey – Support your local beekeepers and buy only local honey. Local honey also has added benefits such as helping with allergies (a teaspoon per day will do). By supporting your local beekeepers, you allow them to keep providing the vital service of caring for and helping honey bees thrive. You can usually find local honey at farmer’s markets and in some local health food stores.

Bees are a vital part of our ecosystems. They help pollinate plants and food crops by collecting and spreading pollen from plant to plant. Recent declines in their populations have scientists concerned about the impact this could have on humans and other animals. You can be a honey bee helper by avoiding pesticides, planting bee-friendly plants, protecting bee swarms, providing water sources and buying local honey.