How can you help bees without beekeeping?

How can we help the bees

Nature Conservation Union Austria

Endangerment: Decline and causes of bee deaths

“Are the bees dying?” Worried contemporaries wonder. Indeed, there is a worrying decline in many bee species. 696 species of bees have been recorded in Austria. Since the intensification of agriculture in the 1960s, there has been a massive decline in biodiversity in the area. The species did not become extinct immediately, but they were pushed back into retreat habitats. But what can be found in the fields and corridors is mostly just a pitiful remnant of what used to be. This does not contradict the fact that warmth-loving but otherwise undemanding species immigrate due to global warming.
It is important to differentiate: Since the intensification of agriculture from the 1960s onwards, there has been a massive decline in biodiversity in the area. The species did not become extinct immediately, but they were pushed back into retreat habitats. But what can be found in the fields and corridors is mostly just a pitiful remnant of what used to be.
  • Pesticides kill bees directly
  • Large management units mean that there are fewer and fewer meadows and fringes in which wild bees can nest
  • Weed control leads to flowerless fields
  • The craze for cleanliness removes nesting structures such as dead wood with beetle-feeding tunnels or dry stems
  • Meadows are intensively fertilized and mowed so often that hardly any more plants bloom, especially those that are important for bees.

 

These changes were insidious and their effects went unnoticed by broad circles. A high number of honey bees prevented pollination bottlenecks in agricultural crops. Since the end of the 20th century, however, beekeeping has also declined in the wake of the Varroa mite. And a lack of pollination is increasingly noticeable in intensive crops. You can of course also buy pollination. As in the US for a long time, European fruit growers also pay beekeepers to set up their hives during flowering. Wild bees and bumblebee colonies can also be acquired - at considerable prices - and brought to flowering crops. In intensively used landscapes, pollination free of charge in advance becomes a service to be bought. The question arises as to whether the future consists of using land so intensively that bees can barely survive and the pollination service has to be bought in as required.
Or do we accept that there is an intensification limit if we want to give nature a chance. Pollination is then free, as is clean water and beautiful landscapes.

The bees can be helped!

Bees are threatened because they lack either food or nesting sites. If both are available, a species-rich bee community will emerge over the years. This means that everyone can do something for the welfare of the bees!
You can provide food: It starts with the balcony box and ends with species-rich gardens and meadows. Species abundance is the magic word: the more plants bloom on an area, the more flower visitors there are. Prefer wild plants with unfilled flowers, because double flowers only bring out beauty, but not food.
  • Bellflowers, mint family, vetches, cruciferous vegetables, adder's head, reseda and, for example, all aromatic herbs are particularly valuable for wild bees.
  • Meadows instead of lawns is the motto in gardens. Meadows that are not fertilized and mowed twice a year are rich in flowers. In newly created meadows, not too much over-fertilized meadow humus should be applied. There is a far greater variety of flowers on sand and gravel surfaces
  • In agriculture, all areas that are poorly fertilized and only mowed once or twice a year are particularly valuable and should definitely be preserved.
  • Staggered mowing is also important. At least the crags and roadsides should be mowed later than the meadows. Because at the time of mowing, many bees experience a lack of food. For this reason, all hedges, creeks and roadsides are valuable: They offer a range of flowers when all the meadows are mowed.
  • The second essential part of the habitat that bees need is a nesting place:
    More than half of the bee species nest in the ground, mostly in sparsely vegetated, sunny areas. A pile of sand with vegetation removed every few years can become a valuable nesting site. Sparsely overgrown areas of the ground should be left and not covered with humus.
  • Deadwood dwellers colonize beetle-feeding tunnels in deadwood and also like to drill holes 3 to 9mm in diameter in hardwood. The sunnier the location of the "bee hotels" the better. Cut reed stalks are also very popular. There should be a knot at the rear end.
  • Some species colonize dead plant stems. Dead stems of mullein or raspberries should not be removed over the winter.
Bees are best promoted if they can be offered food and nesting places in the immediate vicinity. Everyone can do that on the balcony or in the front yard. People with larger property have all the more opportunities. But bees can also find important food sources on roadsides and roadsides.
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