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Help save bees in your landscape
Keep Liberty Beautiful
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Sara Swida is director of Keep Liberty Beautiful, a county program.

I wish I was the queen. I am not talking about the one across the pond that has her pocketbook permanently attached to her arm. I would like to be a queen bee.

As I was researching information for the upcoming National Planting Day in September, I was struck by how lucky these royal bees are. In a hive, a queen is surrounded and served by all the other bees.

The other female bees are non-producing and are the worker bees. So just like in human life, it is the ladies that make the world continue to go round by feeding and cleaning and taking care of everybody.

The male bees — called drones — are there for mating, and I won’t go into all the analogies related to humans that I could make here in a family newspaper. But the queen— lucky her! — she’s there to be served and to mate. She produces all the eggs for her hive (and yes, this does sound a little tiring when you consider a hive could have 10,000, but remember, she has all those worker bees for nannies).

Now the reason I am hung up on bees is that they really need our help. Bees are losing habitat worldwide due to many farming practices that are detrimental to bee life and the vast destruction of native landscapes. Another devastating problem is that deep desire in the suburbs for a pristine green grassy lawn.

We are losing more bees every year. This isn’t just a serious problem for homeless bees. It is a human problem, too.

My first selfish thought is ‘what if we run out of honey?’ I love honey and cannot imagine life without it. But we will lose so much more than honey if we do not find a way to provide space for bees and other pollinators, like butterflies, moths and beetles that are significant parts of our ecosystem.

When we lose the bees, we lose flowers and other plants, and foods that depend on pollination by these busy creatures.

The significant decline of these pollinators will affect all of us, not just honey-lovers.

Just in time for National Planting Day Sept. 9, here are some ways you can help save bees. Planting flowers and more native plants in your garden, your yard or even in planters will help provide bees with forage.

As you plan your gardens, consider adding pollinator-friendly trees and plants to provide food and habitat for bees.

Here are some favorites that the "Queen" recommends: asters, milkweed, goldenrod (it does not cause hayfever, ragweed does), lilacs, lavender, sage, verbena, wisteria, mint, cosmos, squash, tomatoes, pumpkins, sunflowers, oregano, rosemary, poppies, black-eyed susans, passion flower vine, honeysuckle, fuschia and bush sunflower. Maple trees are also quite popular with bees. Many other plants and flowers are possibilities.

Check out regional possibilities on the web and our website for pollinators and native plants. Try to have a succession of blooms throughout the spring and fall. The bees will love you for it.

Another thing bees love to have is a little plate or birdbath with pebbles and water that they can climb around on and hang out. It is sort of a swimming pond for bees.

Don’t worry about having that perfect, weedless green lawn. Some weeds, like dandelions and clover, are popular with bees.

Think twice about using chemicals and pest treatments on your lawn and gardens. They can damage honeybee systems. These treatments are especially damaging if applied while flowers are in bloom.

The chemicals will get into the pollen and nectar and be taken back to the bee hive where they also get into the honey — which in turn means they can get into us honey-lovers.

Find a nice local, bee-loving beekeeper who takes cares of his bees and the areas where they pollinate for the healthiest and safest honey you can find.

Although many bee species have been hit by habitat loss and increased uses of chemicals and pesticides over the past few decades, humans can still help rebuild bee communities with simple changes to our landscapes. The "Queen" will thank you for it!

Check out our website: this month for more information on National Planting Day and native plants and pollinator gardens ideas that you can create. Then, contact us at Keep Liberty Beautiful at 880 4888 or to get involved today.

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