Have you hear that the bees are dying? That they are disappearing? That between 2006 and 2013 we lost an estimated 10 million domestic hives just in the US?
Bee’s are the most recognized pollinators on the planet. Their entire lives revolve around nectar and pollen. This is especially true for honey bees. But Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD) along with parasites, disease, loss of ecosystems, and pesticides have been chipping away at bee populations. Scientists are still trying to find the cause of CCD, but it accounts for a terrifying amount of those 10 million hives that were lost. Most of the numbers that we have only account for domestic hives, but the decline wild hives and native bees has been just as severe.
Thankfully, beekeepers and farmers, who’s crops rely on bee pollination, have worked together to raise awareness. Since 2013, a number of pesticides that were particularly harmful to bees were band and the number of bee keepers continue to steadily rise. People are also choosing to plant a variety of pollinator friendly plants to help sustain bee populations.
Yes, a major contributing factor to the success of this campaign is due to BigAg’s dependence on bees pollinating their crops. It got to the point during the late 2000’s where farms were paying for beehives to be placed on their land temporarily, specifically to pollinate said crops. However bees and other pollinators need to pollinate more than just crops. In fact, a variety of flowers and plants are necessary to maintain a healthy honey bee hive.
Unlike the honey bee, bees native to the Americas don’t produce honey. However, they do specialize in pollinating native plants. Blueberries, squash, and tomatoes are a few examples of plants that the honey bee isn’t made to pollinate. But whereas honey bees have keepers that are economically invested in their well being, native bees don’t have that luxury. Between the pesticides and the planting of non-native plants, not to mention CCD, our native bees need our help too.
How can you help? The easiest way is to plant more native flowering plants, maybe let that patch of milkweed behind the garage bloom before you cut it down. Make sure you have flowers blooming year round. Dreadful, I know.
Next time you find an underground bees nest, take the time to find out if they are really yellow jackets before calling an exterminator. If they’re native bees, consider leaving the nest if it isn’t in a high traffic area, or where children or dogs play.
Build bee hotels and bee baths! These structures can help bee’s keep themselves safe and clean. Not to mention hydrated! Get to know your native bees. Is it a honey bee or a carpenter bee? Find out how small most native bees actually are.
If you’re really daring, try bee keeping. Or just buy local honey to support beekeepers and help them keep their hives healthy and happy.