How & Why You Should Take Steps to Help Local Bees Today
This article was written by Christy Erickson, an amateur beekeeper and backyard gardener. She believes that we overlook how much we rely on bees, as they play an essential role in ensuring we all have fresh fruits and veggies to eat.
The best time to start doing what you can in your own backyard to help your local bee populations was yesterday. The second best time is today. Bees are one of the most vital animals on the planet for human survival, as the role they play in our food production is greater than almost any creature alive. Here’s why you should care about the health of bees and what you can do, today, to help.
Why are bees important to me?
If you like biodiversity – the variety of plant life in your local area and around the world – you can thank the bees. To make it a little more personal, ask yourself this. When’s the last time you had an almond? An avocado? Broccoli? Squash? Apples? Strawberries? A glass of milk? A piece of cheese? A steak? It’s likely that one out of every three bites of food you eat come to your plate through bee pollination.
Bees, like bats, birds, other insects, and even the wind, help to propagate plant life on this planet through pollination. Bees land on flowers, get covered in pollen, and transfer it among different parts of the same flower and across other flowers of the same species. This is how seeds and fruits and “born”. Bees are by far the most prolific and perfect pollinator, accounting for pollination in at least 70 of the top 100 crops we know and love. Not only that, but bees pollinate grazing plants for livestock, meaning at least some of your meat and dairy consumption owes something to bees.
What’s happening to the bees?
Some estimates put the bee decline at around 30% over the past decade or so. We don’t know exactly why, but scientists believe that a combination of widespread pesticide use in large agrobusiness coupled with habitat destruction plays a huge role. Food (nectar) sources are also in decline for bees, which may be attributed to climate change. The point is, man most certainly is to blame for the loss of bee populations around the world. That’s why it’s now up to us to do what we can to remedy the situation. You can do your part in your local community.
How can I help?
One of the best ways you can help today is to create a bee-friendly space in your own back (or front) yard. If you’re a beginning gardener, you can tailor your new garden space to be especially hospitable to local bees. You should try to plant flowers that bees are most attracted to, and these usually have the following characteristics: they are bright and fragrant (blue, yellow, purple, and white, especially); they are not too complex as to be hard for bees to access their nectar/pollen; and they are native to your area (honeybees aren’t picky but other bees prefer native plants). Never use pesticides in your garden, as this can cause more damage than you know to local populations. You don’t have to have a lot of yard space to create a beautiful bee garden (check here for tips on that). For more general tips on what to do and what not to do in a new garden, check here.
Apart from starting a new garden, you can make wise purchasing decisions. Buy organic when possible, and try to always buy local honey from local producers. The survival of bees is of massive importance to everyone on the planet. You may not be able to stop a major agro company from using pesticides (though you should write your congresspeople), but you can do a lot to help local bees in your own backyard. Every little bit helps.