Honey bees might not be on the brink of extinction yet, but they need help to remain healthy and productive.
“Honey bees pollinate about one-third of our crops,” said Steve Nelson, a Sandy Springs resident, beekeeper, rescuer and honey seller.
Honey bees are a beneficial insect some residents fear and do not know enough about. Yes they still sting, if they feel threatened, but they can help beautify herb gardens as well.
On top of pollinating crops, they also produce wax and honey, which is very beneficial to consume, said Nelson.
“It improves seasonal allergies, because the pollen from which honey is produce comes from the same trees and plants that give allergies,” he said.
Because of its contents, if honey is consumed on regular basis, it would work like a vaccination, Nelson said.
These are some of the reasons why bee keepers do not like pesticides.
“In some instances they (pesticides) are important, as in agricultural production, as long as the instructions are followed to the label of the law,” said Cindy Hodges, a Dunwoody resident master beekeeper and past president of the Metro Atlanta Beekeepers Association.
One of the big problems that we have is that people go to their Home Depot or Lowe’s, buy a pesticide and think, “If one ounce mixed in a gallon is good, then five ounces in a gallon must be better,” she said.
This can increase toxicity exponentially, said Hodges.
“It can end up in the water sources, damaging birds and insects that help us keep our locale beautiful and well pollinated,” she said.
On the industrial side, big companies sometimes use pesticides without communicating with beekeepers to get the hives prepared, said Nelson, adding there are ways to apply pesticides to prevent bees from being harmed.
Residents need to do their research and be specific about the type of pesticide they want when hiring a company.
“Insecticides are a real concern. People keep using them for mosquitoes with Zika, but there has not been one Zika-infected mosquito detected in Georgia,” said Sandy Springs Mayor Rusty Paul, who is also a beekeeper.
“I am hoping as we bring more attention to this people who are spraying for mosquitoes will be more sensitive about the insecticides they use,” he said.
To help the environment and protect bees and butterflies, residents can use more natural and less invasive products.
“The absolute worst pesticide used in neighborhoods is Sevin Dust or Spray,” said Hodges.
These chemicals should be applied at dusk and not during periods of wind. You want to only treat the specific plant that you think needs it, she said.
“If you think you must use a pesticide, try starting with something that does not persist in the environment. Think IPM, Integrated Pest Management,” Hodges said.
As for residents who wish to help bees thrive, there are several things they can do without having to become beekeepers.
“The challenge we have in Sandy Springs is that we have a great spring for bees, a lot of things blooming,” said Paul.
“The hive at Lost Corners (Preserve) was doing great and giving a big amount of honey in a short period of time,” he said, but by summer blooms died down and bees started eating their surplus in June.
By August, he said, he had to feed them with simple serum and a pollen substitute.
There are many plants and trees residents can plant to help honey bees get enough food between June and October.
These are some that will bloom during the hot season Echinacea, clovers, daisies and cone flowers. These trees can also give a helping hand with lotus, sour and cider wood.
Honey bees will fly three to four miles to get sufficient nectar to turn into honey, to find pollen for their protein source and to find water for their individual and their hives’ hydration.
“Bees have a very short tongue, so flowers need to be smaller for bees to pull nectar out,” said Paul, adding that American Meadows has a honey bee wildflower seed mix that will bloom through the year,” specially for bees.