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Things We Can All Do to Help Save The Bees

Photo Courtesy of Michael Milverton - Unsplash

Northern Nevada hosts thousands of native pollinator species including birds, bats, butterflies, flies, moths and wasps. These insects and animals play a vital role in our local ecology but the faunae that does most of the heavy lifting are the bees. We’re all familiar with the European Honeybee, these are the girls that produce the honey that many of us enjoy (yes, the girls do all the work). What many people do not know is that there are over 1,000 native species of ground-nesting, twig-nesting and parasitic bees found throughout the state. These species include Bumble bees, Carpenter bees, Mason bees and Leafcutter bees. With the exception of the Bumble bee, all the others live life as a subsocial or solitary bee. Subsocial is a descriptor for those bees that will occasionally share a nesting site but live the rest of their lives in solitude. The sad truth is that most if not all these bee species are in the fight of their lives right now.

Habitat loss is a big factor but more recently, the use of pesticides has been found to be the greatest threat to bee health. Perhaps the most harmful insecticides are found in the category named neonicotinoids or “neonics”. Neonics are a class of insecticides that attack the central nervous systems of insects, they are known to be particularly effective with sucking and chewing insects such as aphids. As the name implies, the active ingredient is basically an evil cousin of nicotine and they’ve been in use since the mid-1980’s. Today neonics are the most ubiquitous pesticides in the world. Some products can be sprayed on plants directly, others applied to the soil and absorbed through the roots for long-term effectiveness. It’s estimated that as of 2013, virtually all commercial corn in the US is treated with some form of neonic.

In spite of their current EPA approval for use in the United States, many researchers believe that neonicotinoid pesticides are a major factor in colony collapse disorder in honeybees. While bees subjected to neonics don’t immediately die, most academic and governmental organizations agree they’re not good for bees in any way. For example, some research has revealed that neonics effect the bee’s ability to navigate. In other words, they can’t find their way home. Inspired by a 2018 report from the European Food Safety Authority, the outdoor use of neonicotinoids is now banned in all European Union countries. So, what CAN we all do to help save the bees?

  1. Stop using pesticides in your yard and purchase your flowering plants from nurseries that can confirm the organic nature of their plants. This may not include the big box stores. For those of you that practice “organic” pest control methods please keep in mind that you’re still using an insecticide. In the words of a great gardener I once knew, “You don’t have an aphid infestation, you have a wasp, ladybug and lacewing deficiency”. Which is to say, why would the beneficial insects visit your yard if there’s nothing to eat?

Source: High Country Gardens

  1. Provide a nesting habitat for the native bees. This can be as simple as leaving some of last year’s garden waste out through the winter. Particularly plants that leave a hollow tube as they decompose, water lilies and allium are great examples. For those who live in a small yard or with no yard at all consider building or purchasing a nesting box for native bees. Of course it doesn’t hurt to have some native pollinator plants nearby to attract the pollinator’s themselves.

  2. There are opportunities for involvement, and I think I like this first one best. Consider participating in "No Mow May" which is quite possibly the most effortless contribution ever and a great excuse to NOT cut your lawn for an entire month. There are a least a couple of remarkable, local non-profits including the Help Save The Bees Foundation and Biggest Little Bee City. Both do great work in terms of local education and advocacy they do accept private donations via their respective websites. Recent projects include the successful lobbying effort to gain the approval by the Reno City Council to move forward on a proposal to join Bee City USA. On a statewide basis consider supporting legislation such as A.B. 275. Initially introduced in 2019, this bill significantly limits the sale and use of neonicotinoid pesticides and they’re preparing to bring it back to the table in 2023.

So, there are few things we can ALL do to help save the bees, let’s get it done. Thank you for reading….

Written by Dan Rider, backyard beekeeper, pollinator advocate and current board member with the Help Save The Bees Foundation. Send questions and comments to





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