Why You Should Care About Bees and What You Can Do to Protect Them

This is a guest post by Christy Erickson of SavingOurBees.org.

Bees aren’t annoying, buzzy pests that sting you at the pool. Bees are actually beautiful, complex creatures that we, as humans, depend on for more than many of us know. Without bees, life would be very different for you and me. It’s vital that we understand exactly how bees play a major role in our ecosystem so that we can be motivated to do everything we can to help protect their population.

Honey bees around a hiveWhy should I care about bees?

If you like to eat, you should care about the bees. It’s that simple. Since we need food to survive, it stands to reason that you should want to protect the things that make it possible for you to have said food.

Bees are one of the most important pollinators in the animal kingdom. Without bees, our pollination system would be greatly diminished. Without natural pollination, fruit and vegetable production is harmed. Without robust fruit and vegetable production, raising livestock becomes more difficult. You can see the trend here.

 “Humans depend on bees to fertilize the plants and make them a food source. Without bees, we would have reduced food sources. In fact, there are several fruits and vegetables which depend on the process of pollination to be fertilized and some of them include apples, watermelons, pears, strawberries, corn, cucumbers, almonds and tomatoes,” says The New Ecologist.

 You also have bees to thank for honey and beeswax, obviously – both of which are vital to the production of many products we all use every day. If you care about living in a world filled with trees, plants, flowers, and food – you must care about the health of our bee colonies around the globe.

How can I help protect the bees?

With bee populations in decline due to climate change, habitat destruction, and the widespread use of pesticides in commercial farming, there’s no time to waste. You can help local bee populations in a big way by making a few small lifestyle changes.

First, you should always buy local and organic when possible. Oftentimes it’s tough and cost-prohibitive, but you should make the effort to shop smarter whenever you can. Even if you can’t buy organic produce all the time, try to limit your honey purchases to smaller, local apiaries. Local beekeepers are more likely to raise their bees in an eco-friendly manner.

If you have green space at your home, you should do whatever you can to make it friendly to bees. Consider planting a fruit and vegetable garden, or even a pollinator garden. Be sure, however, to avoid the use of pesticides and herbicides for your plants and flower gardens. Instead, try natural remedies like herb spray, white vinegar, and bug-repellent crops like lavender and basil. Try to leave at least some of your backyard unkempt, as some bees like to nest in piles of brush, wood, and other natural structures. Leave a small, shallow water bath filled with landing stones for the bees. Taking these few, small steps will ensure that your yard is a place where bees can thrive.

In the end, you may need to use your voice and your wallet in the fight to protect the bees. Getting involved in conservation groups, writing your congresspeople, and signing/starting petitions can help. Buying local and organic, or sponsoring a hive is a good way to put your money where your mouth is. We don’t know what a world with fewer bees would look like exactly, but we do know that it would put a strain on our agricultural practices.

Photo Credit: Arlouk on Pixabay.com

Beth El Temple Center garden

This was “Mitzvah Day” at Beth El Temple Center, where the congregation members did a mitzvah (good deed) in the community. One of the many projects was planting the Community Growing beds on the Temple Grounds.

Do you want to help? Volunteer to help weed and water in some of our gardens, where we grow produce for the Belmont Food Pantry.

Rock Meadow 2016

Our Community Growing project is in full swing. Here are some scenes from the Rock Meadow garden.

We grow produce to donate to the Belmont Food Pantry. If you’d like to help out by weeding and watering for a few days, let us know.

Spring 2016

It’s spring and we’re starting to work on our  Community Growing gardens. The Belmont Food Collaborative grows produce for the Belmont Food Pantry, and some of our volunteers took advantage of the nice weather this week to plant and weed.

This project is in its sixth year. Get more information and volunteer to make another successful season.

Garlic and potatoes

Our Rock Meadow garden: Garlic is starting to grow (left) and we planted potatoes (right)

BHS Garden update: new fence, new plants, new people involved

Here’s a press release from the Belmont High School Belmont High School Garden and Food Justice Club.

Belmont High School — Now at the close of its second summer, the Belmont High School Garden and Food Justice Club held a ribbon cutting ceremony this past Monday, August 17th, to celebrate the garden’s success and recent improvements. In attendance were members of the community that made this project possible, including students, BHS Principal Dan Richards, and community supporters.

Dedication photo

At the ribbon cutting: from left to right: Maddie Carlini (student club member), Patricia Mihelich (Belmont Food Pantry), Suzanne Johannet (Belmont Food Collaborative), Ann Pan (new club leader), Olivia Cronin (former club leader), Principal Dan Richards, Laurie Graham, Carol Oulette (BHS office staff)

The student-led club founded the High School’s first vegetable garden in the spring of 2014.  With support from The Belmont Food Collaborative, the garden is a continuation of the organization’s “Community Growing” project, with the goal of providing organically-raised produce for the local Belmont Food Pantry. Community members care for several other gardens around town. The BHS Garden is cared for by students during the school year and summer and during the non-growing season the club hosts a Winter Food Drive, as well as other projects and trips.

During its first summer, the garden’s four beds hosted tomatoes, eggplant, bush beans, broccoli and beets, with seedling donations from Belmont Acres Farms. Now in its second season, the garden received a grant from The Whole Kids Foundation to finance cedar post fencing and blueberry bushes.

Some of the produce from the BHS garden

Some of the produce from the BHS garden

Many individuals have made this possible: Thanks to Principal Dan Richards and Fred Domenici, Head of Grounds, at BHS; Mike Chase of Belmont Acres Farm for seedling donations; Joan Teebagy of the Belmont Food Collaborative for writing The Whole Kids Grant; Suzanne Johannet of the Belmont Food Collaborative for her guidance and practical support; and Michael LaPierre of ML Fencing for donating the fence-installation labor.

New fence and blueberry plants at the BHS garden

New fence and blueberry plants at the BHS garden

The student founders of the club, Olivia Cronin and Maggie O’Brien, are recent graduates, and leave the garden in the able hands of four new leaders, Ammu Dinesh, Brett Koslowsky, Alena Jaeger, and Ann Pan. The club hopes to continue expanding, increasing the BHS Community’s involvement in the garden and promoting conversation about sustainable growing and food insecurity in Belmont and beyond.

Harvest time at Rock Meadow!

It was harvest time at our Rock Meadow garden today, where our Community Growing project raises produce for the Belmont Food Pantry.

Today’s haul was 29 pounds of potatoes, and they’ll go to the Pantry on Saturday.

Can you help with watering and weeding? We can use a little help at this point in the season. Thanks!

Potatoes for the Food Pantry

29 pounds of potatoes, ready for delivery

Potatoes in the ground

Here’s where they come from — dirt!

Pulling potatoes out of the ground

Harvesting potatoes

Water & weed to support the Belmont Food Pantry

The cause: Growing produce at our gardens to donate to the Belmont Food Pantry.

The job: Water and weed the garden 2-3 times a week for a two-week period at your convenience. It should take about  1.5 – 2 hours in the garden each week, broken up over different days.

Tomatoes growing at the Beth El Temple Center

Tomatoes growing at the Beth El Temple Center

The locations: Our garden beds at Rock Meadow and Beth El Temple Center, both in Belmont.

Sign up: Volunteer at the Rock Meadow garden  or volunteer at the Beth El Temple Center garden. The sign-up date is the start of your two-week slot.

Details: We will provide instructions, tools, and hoses in the garden.

Working together, we can help the Belmont Food Collaborative provide nutritious vegetables for members of our community in need through the Belmont Food Pantry.

Community Growing photos

Our Community Growing project grows produce to donate to the Belmont Food Pantry. And everything is growing nicely. Here are photos from two of the gardens: Beth El Temple Center, and Rock Meadow.

Community Growing - Rock Meadow garden Community Growing - garden Community Growing - cucumber

Today’s harvest, last year’s Pomona purchase

Our Pomona Project helps people get inexpensive plants that bear fruit (or tubers or other edible delights).

Here are some strawberries that a customer planted last year and harvested today. Watch for Pomona sales in the winter for next year’s harvest.

Today's harvest, last year's Pomona Project purchase

Today’s harvest, last year’s Pomona Project purchase

And don’t forget that the Belmont Farmers’ Market opens next week: June 11, 2015.

Rock Meadow garden update: planting time

We’ve added a third garden to our Community Growing program (growing produce for the Belmont Food Pantry). It’s at Rock Meadow, at the Belmont Victory Gardens.

You can help maintain the garden this summer. Info about watering and weeding. We also need help with the beds at Beth El Temple Center in Belmont.

Rock Meadow eggplant seedling   Rock Meadow tomato seedling