Bees may seem like a nuisance to some individuals in the spring and summer, especially to families with young children who are afraid of being stung while they play outside. However, bees play an essential role in our country’s food production, and unfortunately, they’re dying off at an alarming rate.
Many of the foods we enjoy, such as blueberries, cherries, pumpkins, and apples, are made available to us because of bees. The critical role they play in pollination--in the case of cherries and blueberries, almost 90% of their survival rate depends on bees--cannot be ignored, and it’s difficult to fathom what the world’s crop system would become without them. Even if we could manage to use manpower to cross-pollinate to save our crops--and scientists aren’t sure we could if the bee population were to die out in the next few years--the process would be extremely expensive and would drive up the cost of fruits and vegetables to an unsustainable rate. That’s why it’s imperative that we do everything we can to stop the bee population from dwindling any more than it already has; fortunately, there are several things you can do at home to help out. Here are a few of the best.
Plant a garden
Even if you’ve never considered yourself to be someone with a green thumb, you can start a small garden in your backyard that will be beneficial for a multitude of reasons. If you’re a city dweller, no problem; simply create a small box garden that will fit on your balcony or patio. Some great things to plant that will draw the bees and keep them fed include lilacs, wisteria, sunflowers, lavender, and several herbs such as sage, oregano, and rosemary. If you have the room, consider adding pumpkins, squash, and tomatoes.
Some of the biggest considerations when starting a garden for the bees include making sure you don’t use chemicals on the plants and planting a good amount of the same type of plant together; bees enjoy having several blooms to choose from. For more information on how to start the perfect garden at home, read on here.
Don’t be afraid of those weeds
It can be easy to get caught up in keeping your lawn perfectly manicured, especially if your neighbors are always the first ones to mow every week. Don’t be afraid of those weeds, however; clover and dandelions are wonderful for bees and will give them a great place to forage, especially if your neighborhood doesn’t keep them around.
Neonicotinoid pesticides are the most commonly used insecticide, and yet it is slowly killing the bees. Dissolving in water, it makes its way into waterways via agricultural runoff, meaning flowers that weren’t directly treated, as well as the unsuspecting bee visitors, are at risk. Pesticides are not only lowering bee survival rates, but negatively impacting their natural defense systems, causing widespread disease.
Knowing this, what are your alternatives in order to keep a healthy, thriving garden? Although it sounds simple, the key to a pest-free garden is to prevent them from coming in the first place. Pull out weak plants, minimize insect habitats by consistently clearing debris and weeds, and interplant and rotate crops to avoid reinfestation and spreading. In addition, nature has its own natural defense against harmful insects. The ladybug and praying mantis are just two of the many garden heroes, consuming known garden pests without causing any harm of their own.
Support the beekeepers
A great way to keep the bee population going is to talk to local beekeepers and support their businesses. Go to the farmer’s market on Saturday and find out more about what they do. Buying raw, local honey not only helps keep these hardworking beekeepers in business, it can be beneficial to you as well: eating local honey has been shown to help with allergies.
Adopt a hive
Do a bit of research to see if any local beekeepers offer an “adoption” program. This allows a regular citizen like yourself to sponsor a hive for an annual fee, which supports the owners and gives you the chance to help the cause without having to don a head-to-toe protective suit. Some beekeepers might even throw in some perks for your money, such as jars of honey.
It’s estimated that bees are responsible for one out of every three bites of food we eat in the U.S., making them an integral part of our lives. It’s important to do what we can to help them thrive, and to spread the word about how others might do the same. Talk to your family about how you can support the bee population by planting a garden, advocating against the use of pesticides, or adopting your own hive. Share information with others in your neighborhood and start making a difference.