What is the first thing that pops into your mind when you think of a honey bee? Is it the painful memory of your first bee sting or the delicious taste of dripping honey? Chances are you didn’t think of a warm cup of coffee, a fresh avocado, or some sweet lychee – all of which depend on bees. In fact, 1 in every 3 bites of food we eat relies on pollination by honey bees.
With the North Kohala community goal to produce 50% of the food we consume by 2018, it is important to recognize that honey bees are vital to a local, sustainable food system as the most efficient pollinator. According to the Hawaiʻi Apiary Program, Hawaiʻi’s bee pollinated produce is valued at $212 million dollars statewide annually.
Unfortunately, honey bee populations in our islands and worldwide face pests, parasites, diseases, viruses and exposure to toxic pesticides. In a single colony there can be close to 60,000 bees, and female worker bees will fly up to a 5 mile radius to forage, exposing them to 79 sq. miles of land from their hive.
While varroa mites & small hive beetles can be managed by beekeepers, every year, thousands of pollinators are killed in Hawaiʻi by improper pesticide use. Since 90% of flowering crops rely on animal pollinators such as honey bees, it is crucial for us all to work together to save our bees for our natural environment and agricultural community.
What can you do to help save our pollinators?
Protect bees from pesticides. Go natural. Think twice about spraying along your fence line and weeds. Never spray blooming plants. Choose bee-friendly options instead. Consider posting a “NO SPRAY” sign in your front yard. If you must spray, make sure to follow the label and spray after dusk to reduce exposure to beneficial insects.
Plant a variety of flowers. Bees require diverse, year-round food sources for a healthy and nutrient rich diet. Create pollinator-friendly gardens with cover crops and easy to grow herbs like lavender, rosemary, and basil. Go native - bees love ʻilima and lehua flowers.
Provide a clean, reliable water source. Just like us, bees need water to cool their hive, especially on hot summer days. You can add floating plants to pools and ponds or fill a shallow container of water with rocks and sticks to provide bees access to water without drowning.
Ensure safe shelter. Resist the urge to have a totally manicured lawn and garden. Leave bare ground for ground nesting bees. Leave areas of dead wood and leaf litter for other insects. Never spray a honey bee colony that has moved into an unwanted area. Contact us at Hoʻōla or your local beekeeper to safely perform a live removal instead.
Originally published on September 22, 2017 in The Kohala Mountain News.