Plant Bergamot Monarda, Save Bees
Bee Colony Collapse Facts
Disappearing Bees has been a trend that is becoming more alarming every year for the past ten years. Last year alone, almost one third of all bee colonies in twenty-four states have disappeared or died. Experts say that if next year is as bad as this year has been, it could not only affect the amount of available honey, but can also prevent pollination of valuable crops. Bees contributes through pollination are valued at least fifteen billion in the US alone. The book Silent Spring by Rachel Carson may become a reality if something isn't done.
We don't know exactly what is causing the huge bee die off, but we suspect the culprits include pesticides, particularly the newer class called neonicotinoids. This class of pesticide affect bees even when used at very low levels. Other threats include the Varroa mite and lack of nutrition because the millions of acres of commodity crops such as wheat and corn offer little in the way of food for bees. Experts suspect that the problem can't be isolated to one of these factors but probably includes all of them. The bees are dying because we have created a world that is becoming more hostile to their survival.
So what can we do to help make the world less hospitable to bees? We begin internet and letter writing campaigns to demand that the USDA ban the use of neonicotinoids, At least one expert recommends that we help feed the bee by not using herbicides and pesticides in our yards. Another part of the solution that any of us can do is to plant bee friendly flowers. One of these flowers is bee balm.
What is Bee Balm?
Bergamot, a member of the mint family of the genus Monarda, can either be wild (Monarda fistulosa) or garden variety (Monarda didyma. Other names for the plant are Scarlet Beebalm, Scarlet Monarda, Oswego Tea or Crimson Beebalm. The red variety is commonly called Oswego Tea. The colonists turned to It after they threw British tea into the harbor as a protest against high taxes.
Bee balm can be included in herb gardens and add color to flower beds. Plant it near a window so that you can enjoy the visitors to the plants. Bee balm attracts not only bees, but butterflies and hummingbirds as well. Allow wild bergamot to spread in a sunny field or meadow for a blanket of color.
How to plant Bee Balm
In order to have prolific blooms to help support the bee population, be certain that you plant your bee balm in full sun.When planted in the South and Southwest, at least some afternoon shade helps flowers last longer. Plant in rich, well-drained soil.Avoid planting in areas with poor winter drainage. Amend the soil with compost to the soil before planting. Your plants prefer to get adequate moisture, but it will tolerate drought. however, protect it from poor drainage, especially in winter. Water if the leaves wilt during dry weather. Mulch in the spring. Pick flowers to encourage more blooms.
In late Autumn, trim plants back to several inches of the ground. If yo want a bushier plant, pinch stem tips of new growth early in the spring.
Because bee balm is a mint, it spreads but not as aggressively as other members of the mint family. Dig up and divide the plants every 3-4 years. Remove and throw away the old center section and replant the outer roots and shoots. If you are unable to replant all of the bee balm, share extra plants with friends so that they too can help feed the bees.
Additional Uses For Bee Balm
In addition providing food for bees and adding color to your flower or herb garden, bee balm leaves can be used in other herb tincture and salve preparations as a preservative.. Simply add bee balm leaves when defusing the other herbs.
Collect bee balm roots in the spring or fall. Leaves on the other hand should be collected when leaves are fully mature. Both can be dried for later use. Make a tea of both the leaves and roots of any type of bee balm. Drinking this tea promotes perspiration that pulls toxins from the body.
Other Ways To Protect The Bee Population
Of course, planting bee balm by itself is not going to solve the issue of protecting our bee populations. Here are some other ways to protect bee populations:
- Other plants that bees love are sage, salvia, oregano, lavender, ironweed, yarrow, yellow hyssop, alfalfa, honeywort, dragonhead, echinacea, buttercup, goldenrod and English thyme.
- Plant flowering trees.
- Provide habitat for bees.
- Eliminate garden herbicides and pesticides.
- When your vegetables in your garden bolt, let them go to seed.
- Lobby against the use of neonicotinoids in commercial fields.
- Finally, help educate others on the plight of bees. Your life, my life and the lives of everyone on our planet depend on it.
© 2013 Donna Brown
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