Summer is here. For most of us it means lazing around and slowing down, but it’s the opposite for the bee population. In order for them to continue pollinating more than a third of all our food crops, and around 90% of wild flowers, they ramp up their efforts and work extra hard because, as it turns out, this task becomes all the more difficult as the mercury rises.
The #PolliNationSA movement – an initiative launched in May 2020 by the free gardening app Candide – encourages South Africans to grow bee-friendly plants and become more aware of bees all year round, regardless of season.
But it’s in summer that they need the most assistance. Researchers at the University of Sussex’ Laboratory of Apiculture and Social Insects (LASI) have discovered that over this period, bees cover areas 22 times greater than in spring, and six times greater than in autumn. They also found that additional challenges during the summer months include fewer suitable flowers and more active insects to compete with for nectar and pollen.
So next time you’re lying in the sun, catching some rays, and a bee lands on your melting ice-lolly, spare a thought for how far the poor fellow has travelled to get there. Consider giving this small creature a moment’s rest, but also consider doing some of the following to aid our busy buzzers this summer:
- Create a vegetable and fruit garden
It needn’t be huge, as long as it is packed with the delicious, fresh fare that bees love.
- Put out a dish of water
Take a shallow plate, load it with pebbles and rocks, and fill it with water. Then put it outside, preferably in the shade and refill as needed.
- Plant a pollinator garden
Give bees what they need by planting a variety of flowers that generally last from early spring to late autumn. Plant them in clumps, so that they are easily found, and consult the Candide app for more info and advice.
- Use bee-friendly pesticides
It’s best to be safe and use natural remedies, like vinegar, Epsom salt and essential oils. But if you decide to use pesticides, then research thoroughly.
- Buy organic
By supporting organic farmers you are supporting farming methods that don’t use pesticides, and the more people that do this, the less demand there is for these toxic chemicals.
- Buy raw honey from local beekeepers
Not only is raw honey more nutritious, but most honey bought in stores is processed, pasteurised and loaded with added sugars. So, by supporting your local beekeepers, you are ensuring that bees are taken care of.
- Provide a home for solitary bees
Solitary bees – of which there are approximately 1 300 species in South Africa – live alone. The Candide Solitary Bee Hotel is a rectangular piece of wood with a number of different sized holes bored into it, which mimics natural breeding nests and attracts solitary bees. They use the holes as a safe breeding place and, once they have laid their eggs, they store food for their youngsters, seal the entrance and leave. The Candide Solitary Bee Hotel retails for R240.00 and is available online at www.candide.co.za
- Let your lawn be wild
Bees don’t like a lawn without flowers, so instead of mowing it all, maybe square off a nice section that can grow wild and free.
- Weeds can be a good thing
Do not weed your garden. Many plants like dandelion, for example, are an excellent source of food for bees. In early spring these “weeds” are often the only source of food for beneficial insects. Lots of those weeds are often excellent food and medicine for us too.
- Learn to love bees
Remember that bees do not want to hurt you. They want to find pollen and nectar from flowers and bring that food back for themselves and their hive (if they’re not a solitary bee of course). If a bee is around you or lands on you, stay still and calm, they’ll often be trying to sniff you out and the smell of fear or anger pheromones may trigger them to sting you. Remember, they’re probably just trying to figure out what you are and whether you have any nectar and will likely fly off pretty fast.
The #PolliNationSA campaign is for anyone and everyone and getting involved is extremely easy. Here is how you can take part:
- If you are not already part of the Candide community, download the free Candide app, available on the Apple App store and Google Play store.
- Snap a pic of a bee-friendly plant, flower or tree that you’re growing in your garden, on your stoep, windowsill or balcony. Examples of bee-friendly plants and flowers include Aloe, Vygies, Clivia, Daisies, Protea, and Rosemary. You might want to consider more than one option to ensure there’s something in bloom for the bees throughout the year, and Candide can help you with loads of information on pollinator-friendly plants.
- Share the pic on the Candide app using the hashtag #PolliNationSA.
- Once posted, you’ll receive a #PolliNationSA icon that will be added to your Candide profile pic. Your pollinator status is confirmed!
For more information on Candide and the #PolliNationSA movement visit www.candide.co.za, email: email@example.com, follow Candide on Instagram @candideappza, and like them on Facebook @candideappza.