The Living Systems Institute and Honeybee Keep are sponsoring a campaign to make suburban environments safe for honeybee populations. Last month, the Kendall-Endicott neighborhood in the Table Mesa Drive area became the second neighborhood in Boulder, Colorado to earn its “Bee Safe” designation.
As of this writing, the campaign has only four neighborhoods on its roster (and half of those in Boulder), but this has not deterred the Institute’s executive director, David Braden.
“I didn’t really have any expectations” he told Boulder’s Daily Camera. “It’s difficult for people. It’s not the normal thing to do, knock on your neighbor’s door and ask them about their habits. I’m actually pleasantly surprised at how well it’s going.”
To join the program, a designated coordinator must obtain 75 pledges from their neighborhood homeowners that they will not use neonicotinoid on their lawns and gardens, a class of pesticides linked to honeybee deaths throughout the country. Starting in 2016, neonicotinoid pesticides will be banned in all federal wildlife refuges.
Janet Kilby is Kendall-Endicott’s Bee Safe Coordinator. Over the past three months, she and others have been knocking on doors in her neighborhood to obtain signatures for the designation. Kilby told the Daily Camera that explaining bees’ importance to the local ecosystem was key in getting residents to sign.
Raising awareness about the chemicals commonly used in the local environment was also an important step. “These new classes of chemicals that come into our homes and gardens are 7,200 times more lethal to honey bees than DDT,” she said. “So imagine barefoot children running across grass and then bringing that into our homes. These chemicals are showing up in our air and water samples. The bees are simply mirroring this for us.”
Bees are an essential part of the nation’s agriculture. As nature’s pollinators, they are partly responsible for healthy crops and flowers. When bees begin to disappear, due to climate change or human encroachment, local farms are adversely affected.
The Bee Safe campaign is off to a slow start, but it has the potential to restore a vital part of the natural ecosystem. When Dr. Laurence Packer, renowned melittologist, spoke to Planet Experts, he noted that when Europe put a two-year ban on general pesticide use, the honeybee population rebounded very well.
The alternative? As Boulder resident Alfred Sawatzky explains, “I’ve seen pictures of places in China where they don’t have pollinators, and they have people climbing in trees, pollinating with Q-tips. I’d rather have the bees do that.”
Sawatzky is currently working towards obtainining Bee Safe status in Boulder’s Martin Acres community.