What can humans do to help bees?

Saving bees: anyone can do it

Again and again you read and hear that the bees in this country are doing badly. It's not just about honey bees, the wild bees also need our help. But what can each really do to save bees? Does it have to be its own beehive? And what influence does our daily consumption have?

The “Germany hums!” Initiative has been campaigning against insect death for many years. The engagement started with beehives on prominent roofs in Berlin. They should point out that bees find less and less food in nature and that there are no nesting opportunities. The honey bee - with its general reputation and its delicious souvenir honey - should convey the big topic in such a way that it also points out the problems of wild bees.

And above all: make this known to people in the first place. After all, there are around 560 different species of wild bees in Germany. “Saving bees” has many different levels. In an interview, Corinna Hölzer from “Germany hums!” Explains what everyone can do for wild and honey bees.

Bees save in the media: "Enthusiasm for such a small insect"

Saving bees ”has apparently been a must for some years now by some supermarket chains that set up advertising campaigns, nature conservation initiatives and the media. Why?

Woods: When we started to draw attention to the problems of insects and especially bees about ten years ago, that was the time when a real beekeeping boom started. We practically pulled the beekeepers into the spotlight with our beehives on the celebrity roofs and were actually able to get the media excited about such a small insect. Insects and honey bees have never been in the limelight before. Honey was consumed without really knowing much about the animals. The honey bee then paved the way for people to open their hearts to insects. Now it has become easier to talk about the animals and their threat.

Edition 06/2021

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Much has been reported in the media about the so-called bee deaths and everyone was puzzled whether it is the varroa mite or the pesticides of agriculture or something completely different that harms the bees. But for a long time the whole thing remained primarily a media phenomenon and one that has ensured that the beekeeping scene has changed. Only recently have large companies started to want to do something to “save the bees” themselves. And by now, many have also realized that this is not just about honey bees.

Of course, there is also a lot of green washing involved and you have to look carefully at what is really behind a campaign. The subject is so complex that everyone feels affected - whether for example a food producer or consumer - and everyone can do something. Many are now aware of this.

“Germany hums!” Also started with the intention of using the bees to draw attention to the problems that exist in nature and the environment as a whole. Is the demand for the topic of "saving bees" already falling or is it continuing?

Woods: In our experience, it has changed. Today it is no longer mainly individuals, beekeepers, allotment gardeners or schools who approach us, but rather companies that are planning long-term projects to save bees. For us, it is no longer about setting up beehives in prominent locations and thereby even showing what fundamental problems there are. It's no longer about city honey, which everyone is amazed at. Today it's about more background and a much deeper demand than about a trend.

Not everyone has to be a beekeeper to save bees

What can each individual do to save bees? Does it primarily help to become a beekeeper yourself?

Woods: There are many more beekeepers today than there were a few years ago. The big new beekeeping boom has calmed down again. But it was helpful to bring the issue of bee mortality and the problems that lead to it more into the population. Beekeepers today are usually younger and more enlightened than they were a few years ago. This generation of beekeepers also passes on a lot of enlightened background to the current new beekeepers. This is important. Nevertheless, it has to be said in principle that not everyone has to become a beekeeper if they want to save bees. Especially not if you broaden your gaze from the honey bees to the wild bees.

First and foremost, saving bees is about offering them more and the right food again. That means: planting the right bee pasture. Anyone can do that. Bee pasture is “correct” when it comes to the plants that are native here and do not displace any other plant species. We need diversity because many wild bees depend on very special plants. Unfortunately, it is now considered chic for many companies when they keep handing out bags of seeds that are supposed to benefit the bees. But such freebies are often full of seeds of invasive species - of course, because they have to be cheap - and hardly bring long-term food to most bees. Here it is worthwhile to find out more and then plant the right one.

It is similar with wild bee nesting aids, which are now available very cheaply in many places. Unfortunately, the majority of it is not tailored to the needs of the wild bees and whoever buys and displays them has done more for a clear conscience than for the bees. Around 75 percent of wild bees nest in the ground and like to nest in the sand. Unused areas and those that are not constantly plowed are therefore more important than wooden blocks with holes in them.

Tips for bee-friendly gardening can be found here. >>>

Should non-beekeepers also feed bees - with sugar water, for example - and set up bee waterers in summer? What do you think of such measures?

Woods: Sugar water is nonsense. Bees need bee pasture and not sugar water. Setting up bee waterers, on the other hand, makes sense in summer. Water is life. However, it is important to also put swimming aids - sticks or corks - in the water so that the bees do not drown.

"Buying organic helps the bees"

And how can you save bees, i.e. help them to find food and nesting opportunities, if you have neither a garden nor a balcony and no wild bee nesting aid here eithercan set up?

Woods: Education and knowledge about the bees and their needs are also important here. You can also show and explain to others who have a garden what is important here and thus indirectly save bees. You can give away plants and seeds that are food for bees. You can be politically active and also, for example, encourage the city in which you live that more bee pastures are planted there in public places. As a consumer, you also have an influence on how the insects are doing in this country.

Can you really do something good for the bees when you shop - for example, if you primarily buy organic and regional foods?

Woods: Yes. Organic farming with little use of pesticides, with fallow land and also marginal strips on which it blooms, offers the bees food and nesting opportunities. Those who support them with their purchases save bees. It is similar with regional food, which does not have to be transported long distances. That too helps a healthier environment. Buying regional honey helps the local beekeepers and also the nature that surrounds you when there are many bees here.


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