Weeds and Bees
Tis impossible to be sure of anything but Death and Taxes”, as the idiom goes, though many gardeners may add another to this list…weeds! Each gardener has a different approach to this seemingly inevitable nuisance, from grudgingly co-habitating to waging intense lifelong battles. It can be easy to reach for powerful chemical when the advance of the weeds appears relentless, but it’s important to pause and consider the impacts of this approach.
“Most of us are aware that pesticides are designed to kill insects and therefore play a role in the decline of many beneficial insects, including bees, but what about herbicides? Remember that blooming plants are a bee’s dinner plate — you wouldn’t eat or drink from dishes that had herbicide on them, so the same approach must be used for bees. Keep the following in mind to avoid contact between herbicides and visiting bees, or other pollinators:
- Never apply herbicides to plants in bloom.
- Apply herbicides early in the morning or late at night, when bees are less likely to be flying.
- Only use herbicides in periods of dry weather, to prevent it from collecting in puddles of rainwater, which the bees may drink. Don’t water after applying herbicides.
- Follow application instructions carefully. Urban residents are notorious for the over application of garden chemicals. This protects not only insects, but our water and health as well.
The safest approach is to avoid herbicide use entirely. There are many non-chemical methods that, with a little extra attention and elbow grease, can be just as effective in controlling weeds. Consider hand-pulling, removing flowers before they wilt, and using a healthy cover crop or mulching. It’s best to start early in spring so it’s easier to tackle and you can always enlist a few kids to help!
In some cases, you can even devour your weedy enemies. The following links have recipes and recommendations for edible weeds. Remember to always be sure to properly ID your weeds and NEVER eat something that has come into contact with herbicides.
It is important to remember that bees are emerging from a long winter with limited sustenance. Early blooming plants are crucial for the survival and reproductive success of these insects. If you are removing early-bloomers like Dandelions, be sure to plant plenty of other spring-bloomers to compensate. Prairie crocus, willow, or golden bean are a few great bee-friendly plants that bloom early in the year.
For more information about Gardening for Bees visit: http://abcbees.ca/learn/gardening/habitat-creation/