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Somebody Else Loves Dandelions

Last week my friend, Bobby, reminded me that dandelions provide food for our friends, the bees, especially early in the spring.

The bee; that tiny creature who works so hard and does so much that she’s the symbol of industry and productivity all over the world.

I’ve looked at a lot of bees this week, both photographs and drawings, and I can’t blame the artists who give them smily faces. Close up, they're pretty terrifying, like alien monsters. But form follows function and those big blank eyes, the six legs, the weird mouth and the fuzzy body are a perfect machine for making sweetness.

Thank you, bees, and not just for the honey.

Think of something you love to eat and ask if a bee had anything to do with it. Apples, peaches, coffee, almonds, strawberries….CHOCOLATE. They all come from plants that need pollinators and that would be the bees.

Wouldn't you think we’d take good care of someone so important to our well-being? We haven't. The bees are in trouble. Climate change, loss of habitat, pesticides and a nasty virus are wiping them out.

Sometimes I just want to say, "What next?" How can we not fall into despair?

Remember what Mr. Rogers said?

”When a disaster happens, look for the helpers.”

There are helpers. Beekeepers. It used to be illegal to keep bees in the city because they were thought of as dangerous but in 2010, under Mayor Bloomberg, that ban was lifted.

Thanks, Mr. Mayor, for the Gates and the bees.

Now there are 200 registered beekeepers (and probably many unregistered) including The Cathedral of Saint John the Divine and the United Nations, and there’s a New York City Beekeepers Association.

I'm inspired but raising bees on my small terrace is more that I can take on.Still there's plenty to do.

Here's a list from the New York Bee Sanctuary of things everybody can do.

  1. Join BEE-SAFE and pledge to protect the bees on a piece of land you manage, your garden, the backyard of your company or your rooftop! We have partner towns, schools, corporations, and individuals. Everyone can join!

  2. Do not use any pesticides, fungicides or herbicides on plants or in your garden. Plants get contaminated and the product will likely reach the bees and kill them. Make sure the plants you buy are not pre-treated with neonics pesticides!

  3. Buy local & raw honey from your local beekeepers. Avoid honey sold in bulk or in the supermarket unless you are sure of its provenance and quality. Always best to buy on farmers market so you can meet your beekeeper and check with him his sustainable beekeeping practices.

  4. Plant your garden with native and bee friendly plants. They provide great sources of nectar and pollen (both food for the bees and butterflies). It’s important for bees, as it is for us, to have a diverse and regular food supply.

  5. Avoid planting lawns. Lawns are literally desert for insects and for wild plants because lawns usually never have plants beneficial to bees and are cut too often so plants never get to bloom. Instead, plant prairies!

  6. Do not weed your garden. Many plants like dandelion, for example, are an excellent source of food for bees. In early spring, those “weeds” are often the only source of food for beneficial insects. Lots of those weeds are often excellent food and medicine for us too!

  7. Even if you just have a small balcony you can install a little water basin for the bees to drink during the warm day of summer. Put a few stones and floating cork on the water so bees won’t drown!

  8. Stay connected to the Facebook page of New York Bee Sanctuary and our Instagram account so you can stay informed and sign regular petition to pressure our state and country to pass regulations to help the bees (like the ban of neonicotinoids)

  9. Educate yourself and your children about bees. Bees are not dangerous; they forage on a flower and don’t attack humans. By better understanding them we will learn to better respect them. There are 5 must-see documentaries about bees.

  10. If the buzz gets to you, learn how to become a beekeeper and install a hive in your garden or on your rooftop. It’s a powerful way to give honey bees a home and probably the best local honey you will ever get!

So, the next time you see a dandelion all puffy and full of seeds, take a big breath and blow like it's your birthday. Spread those beautiful seeds on the wind so they can go forth and feed the bees.

April 11, 2019

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