You may have heard of “colony collapse disorder”—it’s the phenomenon in recent years that’s caused million of honey bee death all over the world. Entire honey bee hives suffer from the phenomena, which puts a strain on the environment and agriculture.
The National Resources Defense Council attributes the alarming die-off to the use of harmful synthetic pesticides, loss of habitat, climate change, and disease.
Moreover, loss of habitat results in overly-stressed young bees who are having to travel farther and farther for food. They are less experienced navigators than adult bees and are physically less able to go travel long distances.
The Pesticide Problem
Perhaps the most harmful factor in bee colony collapse is the use of neonicotinoid pesticides. Farmers spray them on seeds before planting and on plants as they grow. They work by attacking the nervous system of any insect that eats the plant, causing paralysis and death. Thier long-term effects on humans are still unknown.
When bees pollinate plants sprayed with these chemicals, they inadvertently take their residue back to the honey bee hive.
The Center for Food Safety did the research into how neonicotinoid pesticides are used and the theory behind why they are so prevalent.
Its conclusion: “Opinions from several independent experts reinforce that neonicotinoids are massively overused in the US, without a corresponding yield benefit, across numerous agricultural contexts. The bottom line is that toxic insecticides are being unnecessarily applied in most cases.”
We may love the taste of honey, eat bee pollen for its exceptional nutrition, and use bee propolis for a sore throat but the importance of bees to all life on the planet can’t be over-emphasized, as it goes far beyond their beneficial by-products. Bees, above all other insects, are responsible for the pollination of flowers. Ninety percent of flowering plants require pollination to reproduce.
If bees didn’t pollinate them, we’d be without many fruits, berries, beans, and vegetables to eat; cotton, linen, and hemp to wear; and new plants to provide oxygen that we breathe. So bees are pretty critical if you look at it from that perspective.
How to Help the Bees
In the face of drastically dwindling bee colonies, every little bit helps.
Having your own honey bee hive isn’t as difficult as it sounds. You can make one yourself in a short time that takes up very little space. In return, you can attract bees who will pollinate your garden and surrounding green spaces. Bees will travel up to seven miles to forage and give you pure honey in return .
DIY Mason Jar Honey Bee Hive
Materials needed:16″ X 20″ rectangle of thick plywood
- Two 2” X 12” X 22” pieces of wood (sides of beehive)
- Two 2″ X 12″ X 18” pieces of wood (front and back of hive)
- Two 1″ X 1″ X 22” pieces of wood (sides of top frame)
- Two 1″ X 1″ X 18” pieces of wood (front and back of top frame)
- Bottom beehive kit (you can order one online from many sources)
- 12 big mouth quart canning jars (for honeycomb)
- 1 box of 1” wood screws
- 1 can of wood stain (optional)
Measure and mark 12 evenly-spaced 3 ½” holes in the 16” X 20” plywood.
Use a hole saw to drill the holes for best results. Try drilling one hole first, then test the opening with one of the mason jars to make sure it fits snugly. You want the bees to enter and exit through the base of the hive so there’s no mess on the top to attract ants. You may have to insert shims to make sure jars will remain solidly in place; they’ll get quite heavy when full of bees, combs, and honey!
Place the plywood piece with the holes on top of the bottom beehive kit. Screw together the front, side, and back panels of the hive around the pre-made kit.
Stain the wood, if desired. (Check with the retailer for the best stain for bees that doesn’t include anything harmful.)
After the stain is completely dry, sanitize the jars, allow to dry, and insert upside down into the holes on top of the hive. You may place starter strips or empty combs into the jar(s) to give the bees a head start.
Place the hive out of direct sunlight and release the bees into the hive.
It’s interesting and amazing to watch the bees work. Watch the video below to see what you can expect from these remarkable creatures once you set up a honey bee hive.