August 17 is National Honeybee Day, a day to celebrate the amazing work of beekeepers, beekeeping clubs, and of course, the honey bees themselves who do the important work of pollination and create the honey we use to sweeten our Ona snacks! According to the USDA, bees are responsible for one in every three bites of food we eat, but bee colonies are continuing to die off at an unprecedented rate due to decreasing crop diversity, poor beekeeping practices, loss of habitat and pesticides which weaken bees’ immune systems and can kill them. Luckily there are things you can do to help no matter where you live! Here are five ways to support local honey bee populations.
- Grow Native & Pollinator-Friendly Plants: Planting a diverse selection of local flowers that bloom at different times is one of the most helpful ways you can provide bees with a rich habitat. Whether it's a window box, an entire garden, or just a corner of your yard or community garden that you leave untouched, native plants give bees a place to forage and nest all year. Many plant tags list whether they're pollinator-friendly, but you can also find region-specific pollinator plants in this guide.
- Support Local Beekeepers: Your local co-op or farmer's market is a great place to connect with a local beekeeper. Buy their honey and beeswax products, learn about their practices, and see how you can help support their work. They'll be happy to share their knowledge and you'll get great honey in exchange!
- Shop a Local Plant Nursery: While large chain stores may carry native plants, they're often grown with pesticides that can still harm bees when you bring them home to plant. When in doubt, check with the nursery to see what kind of practices they have in place to support pollinators!
- Support Farmers Using Bee-Friendly Practices: Similar to the last tip, supporting local organic farmers who use bee-friendly practices is also a great way to holistically support honey bee populations.
- Avoid Using Harmful Chemicals: Synthetic pesticides, fertilizers, and herbicides are so commonplace for killing weeds or bugs around the yard, but they can endanger bees' lives. If you have to treat your garden, opt for organic options and spray at night when pollinators are least active or try introducing beneficial insects such as ladybugs in your garden.