What’s All The Buzz About?
Could you live without apples or strawberries or blueberries or cherries or squash? What about legumes or nuts? My kids would be more than happy without squash but definitely not the others. All this deliciousness comes to life as a direct result of the work of bees. The population of bees is declining. Without bees, our food sources could dry up! Why are they so important? What is their role in our food cycle? Why do we keep hearing about them dying off? What steps can we take to bring them back?
Man, These Guys and Gals Work!
Bees are responsible for collecting nectar and pollen grains and as they travel from flower to flower, some of the pollen grains are transferred to the flowers. This is the process of pollination. So basically, they make the magic happen so the plant can bear fruit or veggies. Pretty important job if you ask me and heck, they work for free!
Reasons The Population of Bees is Declining
- Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD) – CCD is defined by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) as the phenomenon that occurs when the majority of worker bees in a colony disappear and leave behind a queen, plenty of food and a few nurse bees to care for the remaining immature bees and the queen. So basically, mom hits the road leaving grandma behind to raise the kiddo’s.
- Pesticide use – Piles of dead bees near a beehive entrance is generally indicative of pesticide poisoning but can also be a result of a heavily diseased colony.
- Parasites, viruses, pesticides, bacterial diseases, nutrition, genetics, queen quality and management are all stressors that are contributing to the decline in the world’s bee population. These poor bees just need some spa time!
- Loss of natural habitat which provide both nectar and food as well as nests.
Now, as average citizens, we cannot do much about most of those issues however, there are some things we can do. Like we always say, small changes can have a big impact.
7 Ways You Can Help
One of the best things you can do to help pollinators is to make your yard pollinator friendly all year round. You don’t have to hire someone or spend a lot of money to design a pollinator garden. These few things will make a world of difference:
- Use native plants – plants native to your area will grow better and resist disease and pests more easily than non-native plants. If you live in a drought prone area, don’t choose plants that require constant moisture. If you’re anything like me, you are either too lazy to run the sprinklers in the summer or just don’t want to see that water bill sky rocket.
- Pick a few plants that will bloom successively through the year. This will provide pollinators with year-round food rather than just a season or two. Planting perennials is definitely my thing. Not only does it minimize the amount of work required but why not plant once and enjoy the color for years to come? I do have a few favorite flowers that are annuals so I save those for the planters on my porch.
- Bees are attracted to brightly colored flowers like blue, purple and yellow. They are not attracted to red. Never fear if red is your color, hummingbirds prefer red.
- Bees need water for their colonies. A fresh water source such as a bird bath or a bucket filled with a bit of water is all that’s needed. Anything that pesticides cannot run in to. Afraid of mosquitoes? Change the water every 3 days and you won’t have a problem.
- Who doesn’t love a good mud bath? Bees use mud as a nesting source and pigs wallow in it. Must be great stuff!
- Dead wood! Have a few dead trees around the perimeter of your property? Consider keeping them and drill some holes in them. Bees love to nest in old dead trees.
- There will always be unwanted pests. Rather than a chemical pesticide, consider choosing an organic pesticide. Organic pesticides can still be lethal to bees however, the harm can be minimized. Apply all pesticides between sundown and sunrise as bees are not pollinating during this time.
What’s Growing At My House?
As I get ready to spruce up my garden beds this year, I am going to focus on making them pollinator friendly. Generally, I start the season with a grand plan on what I’m going to put in and then go to my local nursery to find plants. Unfortunately, I usually get side tracked and come home with a bunch of stuff and no plan on where it’s going. This year, with the help of the Pollinator Partnership BeeSmart app, the information I found on the National Pollinator Garden Network and the information I found on my local university extension website, I’m going to have a better idea of what I should plant. Looking out my window now, I see columbine, canna lilies, lavender, lemon balm, evening primrose, phlox, cone flowers, and a few things I can’t identify. I just have a few spots to fill in. My butterfly bush and my rose bush are on the side of my house along with a bunch of weeds. Last night I ordered some seed bombs from Seedles and I plan to put those among the rose and butterfly bushes. Right now I see mostly pink and purple in my garden so I need some bright colors to round things out. I have four containers to fill, my plan with those is to put in annuals that are colorful and attractive to butterflies. I’m definitely not a designer and my garden usually winds up a bit lopsided but I’ll give myself an “A” for effort. Anything is better than boring green shrubs.
You may not be able to do everything but perhaps you could pick a few. Plant a container garden and put it out on your apartment patio or join a community garden.
Most of us are not scientists figuring out how to address viruses, parasites and genetic problems in bees but that doesn’t mean we can’t help out. What’s growing in your garden this year?