photo credit Veronika Szostak

There was once a story of three sons of a King who went to seek adventure. Passing an anthill, a lake with ducks and a bee’s nest, the two older brothers wanted to see the creatures suffer, however the younger brother did not allow it.  One day they came upon a castle and could find no one except a grey old man in one of the rooms. The man beckoned to the oldest to help lift the enchantment that was on the castle, but he failed and was turned to stone. The second brother followed. The ants, ducks, and the Queen Bee remembered the help that the younger brother gave and in turn helped him complete all the tasks, therefore lifting the enchantment on the castle.

"The Queen Bee" was written nearly 200 years ago by the Brother’s Grimm yet it speaks of a timeless theme that advocates for harmony between humans and nature. Pollinators come in all shapes and sizes – birds, flies, beetles, butterflies and more, however in recent years bees have become increasingly endangered because of humans and their careless actions.

In a sense, some of these consequences were inevitable – humans’ expansive curiosity could not have foreseen the damage that has befallen nature all over the world. However, with current advances in technology and knowledge about our past mistakes – we can make a huge difference in our actions, and many people are choosing to do so.

A group of Asters - photo credit Veronika Szostak

RARE, located in Cambridge Ontario is just one example of an organization that is trying their best to protect nature, restore it, and educate others about the environment. On July 10th, Tom Woodcock, the Planning Ecologist at rare hosted an educational event about bees and tips on how to help them. He notes that, “it’s an uphill battle with getting the message across. But I think that progress is being made - you hear more about pollinators… It’s really an issue that affects us all, not just bees.”

Through having a close look at some langstroth hives cared for by Erica Shelley, creator of “Best for Bees,” and through identifying various plants and even planting flowers for bees, the small group and I were able to better understand how to help the little ones out. Here are some tips and facts we learned at the event to help you on your quest to help save bees:


  1. Plan for Continuous Blooming

Not all plants flower at the same time, so it’s best to have a garden that is always flowering. That way, bees will always have somewhere to go. An example of this would be with the flowers Smooth Penstemon, Black Eyed Susans, and Monarda Didyma, which would have a continuous blooming cycle from beginning spring/summer to late august.

Patch of black-eyed susan flowers/ Andrea Church/ Fotolia 

   2. Bee Careful when Raking Leaves

Queen bumblebees may be sleeping in the leaves over the winter season, so rake lightly. You can even use the leaves as a bed for your garden over the winter.

  1. Be a Lazy Gardener

This advice comes from Erica Shelley. Wildflowers and weeds provide food sources for bees and are always better for them than having a flat green lawn. It is also a good idea to leave the dead stems of plants up through winter. It might make sense to cut them before the winter season, however by doing so you will take away a potential spot for a bee to sleep and might even risk killing a bee that is sleeping in the stem. Leave the stems bee - and cut them when you are planting again!

Birdsfoot Trefoil - photo credit Veronika Szostak

  1. Leaf those tables alone!

Have you ever seen those perfectly circular holes in leaves? If yes, you have most likely witnessed the work of a leafcutter bee. These clever little bees use the rolled up leaves to make their nest – and what’s more is that they are very gentle. As tacky as it might seem, leaving old wooden tables or trees alone in your backyard might be the perfect spot for leaf cutter bees. There are thousands of types of bees – not just honey or bumblebees – and each are equally important!

  1. Be careful of where you purchase Queen Bees.

This advice goes to those hoping to start a beehive one day.  Some beginners choose to buy Queens from Australia or California, however these bees are used to a warm climate. If you buy a Queen, make sure that she comes from a climate similar to yours, as the others will most likely not survive the cold winters if used to a warmer climate.

photo credit Veronika Szostak

  1. Go Organic

When you go to a large grocery store, the first thought that comes into your mind is most likely not “Did they use pesticides?” Many farmers using pesticides such as Monsanto’s Roundup are only thinking about what is best for their crops, yet fail to realize the harm they are causing for pollinators such as bees. Erica Shelley conveys that, “If  [people] really want to be protecting bees they need to start thinking about their food choices, because that’s one of the biggest impacts … I don’t think people start [following through on their actions] till they’re paying a fortune for their food, and when it starts to hit the pocket book, that’s when we will actually see the biggest changes.”


The youngest brother from the tale certainly knew how precious nature and its creatures are. There are always opportunities to learn more if you find that you are short on knowledge about how to help the environment, whether that be from books, workshops, or teachers. Just remember - ask around, and save the bees! 



photo credit Veronika Szostak








Veronika Szostak is a student at the University of Waterloo in the Environment and Resource Studies program. She is a volunteer at A/J and aspires to become a journalist, artist, and environmentalist.

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