5 ways you could help the bees through this drought

5 ways you could help the bees through this drought

bees

South Africa is currently experiencing one of the worst droughts in 20 years and it has certainly taken its toll on all ecosystems. One hears stories of animals that have to be culled in order to prevent a crisis of starvation and overgrazing. Even our little lemon tree at home is looking pretty bleak. A lot of our plants have not bloomed yet, and the ones that have’s blossoms are much smaller than usual and don’t last as long.

This is affecting all pollinators, and while many people are putting out bird feeders and have bird baths in their gardens, we often forget about the silent heroes, the BEES.  It seems that even amongst beekeepers there are some conflicting opinions on what the best practice might be. I have compiled a very short list of five things you could do that might save a whole colony of bees.

Put out some water for them, we here is South Africa can definitely testify of the rising global temperatures. Seeing as we are supposed to be in spring but is already experiencing temperatures in the 30°C region, I am assuming we will have another record breaking scorching summer. Bees generally have to work very hard during the summer months to regulate the temperature in the hives. When fresh, clean water is not easily available they might wonder off to the neighbour’s swimming pool, which might be catastrophic for them. Providing a close, clean and fresh water supply will help them cool off the core of the hive without having to fly too far for it. They also use the water to dilute the honey for the newBEES. It is important to know that once you’ve started to put out water for them you’ll have to keep it up, they are creatures of habit and will quickly start to depend on your source of water.

Planting drought savvy plants, it’s not too late to start. Bees will need to have nectar sources for much longer seeing as the amount of nectar on the flowers are so much less than usual because of the drought. A lot of succulent species will have flowers until late summer, and are great soldiers in a drought. Certain herb types such as lavender, sage, thyme, and rosemary will all be able to withstand the drought, more than others in any case, plus you get the added bonus of the wonderful aromas filling your garden and fresh herbs on demand. Most wildflowers are naturally drought resistant and makes for a beautiful and colourful garden at the same time.

Shade, this might be more relevant to beekeepers than laymen looking out for wild bees. By providing shade for the hive you will help to keep it cooler and they won’t have to work so hard, foragers can focus more of their energy and time on collecting nectar and less on collecting water to cool the hive. On the other hand I would also suggest that you put the water source in shade, thereby decreasing the amount of water that is evaporated by the scorching sun.

Harvest less honey, if you are a beekeeper it would be wise to harvest less honey than usual. It might seem that there is enough, or maybe even more than enough, but seeing as we do not know when the drought will end and how much nectar they will be able to collect before winter comes, it might be a good idea to let them store more of the honey. If you have more than one hive you could also keep a brood box frame, to transfer honey between the hives if  you see that one might not be producing enough.

This last point is somewhat of a controversial one, artificially feeding the bees. Many experts have conflicting opinions on this matter. Personally I have come to realise that in the long run it has more disadvantages than what it’s worth. Having said that, I also feel that in extreme circumstances, where it is a case of the bees literally starving or you feeding them, I would be in favour of it.  It is however, a very delicate thing and there are a number of factors to take into account. Firstly, it is imperative that you only use white refined sugar for your mixture, you can make a mixture of water and sugar, a ratio of 1:1 or 1 sugar: 2 water. Remember to put this mixture in a shallow plate or bowl and to put some pebbles or rocks that will stick out above the mixture, to allow the bees to gather the mixture without getting some of it onto their bodies or wings, which will subsequently lead to drowning. I have also read about people putting out a pollen supplement for the bees.

Just remember that whether you are putting out water or some form of a feeding station you might attract some unwanted predators in the process. Always keep an eye out for any signs that your bees are being robbed or killed, chances are something is luring the predators.

Alternatives to poisonous pesticides and insecticides

Alternatives to poisonous pesticides and insecticides

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So spring has sprung and the fruit trees are in full bloom, but what to do about those pesky insects that ruin just about all the fruit before they are even ripe and ready for you to enjoy?

If you are lucky enough to have at least one fruit tree in your garden you will know about the very real tragedy of watching them grow for several weeks only to find them ruined by fruit flies and/or other insects and birds by the time they are ready to eat. So if you are looking for an environmentally friendly alternative to those poisonous pesticides and insecticides you should keep reading because I’ll be listing a few of my favourites.

Before you decide on your method you should take note that there are good and bad insects, some insects are actually necessary in your garden and their presence is needed for a beautiful flourishing garden. These are insects that pollinate, and/or feast on other pests and insects. Be careful when using any form of insecticide or pesticide as it may also kill or repel the good insects.

Lime sulphur and dormant oil witch can usually be bought at nurseries, it can be sprayed onto the trunks and branches of dormant fruit trees; this suffocates and kills any insect eggs. Make sure that you only spray this on dormant trees as it can kill the tree.

You can also make your own dormant oil to spray onto the trees by mixing 1 cup vegetable oil and 2 table spoons liquid soap (like sunlight) in 4 litres of water. Shake well before and during use. This spray will unfortunately also kill the good insects, so make sure you only spray it on the affected plants and trees, and rather do it early in the morning or just before dark.

Help nature take its course, Praying Mantis fall under the category of good insects mentioned before, they consume most other garden insects and will so doing help you control your insect problem. You can actually buy Praying Mantis eggs from an online catalogue.

Lady bugs, there is a reason people say they bring good luck. They consume aphids, mites, whiteflies, and scale. You can either buy them from a catalogue online or lure them to your garden by planting daisies, tansies, or yarrows.

Birds can also wreak havoc in fruit trees; one option is to literally cover the canopy with fine mesh bird netting. Make sure that it is not tied too tightly, giving the fruit and the trees enough room to grow. Also do daily checks to make sure the fruit is not pressing against the mesh, or that there aren’t any holes in the mesh because the birds will eat through the holes.

This might sound cruel, but placing a rubber snake in a tree can also scare off most curious creatures including birds.

Anything reflective, you can either hang old cd’s in the tree, or long strips of flash tape, or even suspend reflective aluminium items from the branches.

None of these methods will physically hurt the birds and it might save some of those juicy fruit for you to enjoy when the time comes. Remember that birds need to eat, and placing bird feeders around the garden (away from your fruit trees) might actually also be beneficial to both parties, if they are able to get food easily from one place it might lure them away from you fruit trees.

Important to note that a study based on the USDA and FDA testing data, the fruit and vegetables with the highest levels of pesticide residue are:

  • Apples
  • Celery
  • Sweet Bell Peppers
  • Peaches
  • Strawberries
  • Nectarines (Imported)
  • Grapes
  • Spinach
  • Lettuce
  • Cucumbers
  • Blueberries
  • Potatoes