Save the Bees, Save the Planet

Jennifer Vickers

 

Bees are a vital part of both the world’s ecosystem and human commerce. They produce honey and wax, which are used in countless human products, and pollinate hundreds of crop species. Over the last few years, however, the population of bees has been decreasing in many places.   In 2015, the UN released a report stating that 37 percent of bee species are in decline, many of which are facing extinction.  Although it will take years for their numbers to fully recover, there are a number of things that individuals can do at home to help bees bounce back. 

 

Leave Some Weed for the Bees

 

Most gardeners take a number of necessary steps to weed their lawns.  While some weeds are nuisances and disrupt the growth of ornamental species, many are a source of pollen and nectar for bees.  Bees are major pollinators for close to 100 crop species and are therefore necessary for human survival.  Without bees, much of the world’s agricultural systems would collapse, resulting in starvation for many.  However, it can be difficult for bees to find adequate food as a result of modern farming practices.  Many commercial crops do not produce pollen and nectar, which can lead to malnutrition in areas devoid of flowering plants.

 

There is a simple way to help supplement a hungry bee’s diet: allowing weeds to grow.  Thirty-seven different species of bees feast on white clover and dandelions, some of the most common weeds found in North America.  Wildflowers are another popular dining spot for bees, and can be an attractive addition to a garden.  While the best way to help bees and other pollinators flourish is to have a meadow rather than a lawn, those who prefer a tidy yard can still make an impact.  For the meticulous gardener who cannot stand the thought of having weeds, consider allowing a small wild patch to grow in an unused portion of the yard. Supplement that with native plants in the well-manicured section of the garden to create a smorgasbord for the local bee population.

 

 

Homes For Wayward Bees

 

Bees are responsible for pollinating more than just crops for human consumption.  A study by the University of California concluded that honey bees account for one-eighth of all pollination of non-agricultural crops across the globe.  In short, bees make life possible for an incalculable number of ecosystems. 

 

As has been widely reported, bee populations are in decline.  To help regenerate their numbers, those living in rural areas could consider beekeeping.  This has the added benefit of giving local agriculture a dedicated bee population, so that crops may thrive.  In fact, beekeeping is even possible in urban areas -- although neighbors may be less than thrilled in, say, an apartment complex.

 

Beekeeping can be a rather time-consuming hobby, but fortunately, not all bees require such high levels of maintenance.  Many non-honey-producing species of bees burrow underground, so helping them prosper can be as simple as leaving a few bare patches of dirt in sunny parts of the yard. While bare dirt is not ideal for many, these patches will invite different ground-dwelling bees to set up, giving them a safe home.  Those who wish to be a bit more hands-on can build “bee hotels” to draw in a diverse array of bees.  When setting up a bee hotel, it is important to remember that bees can pick up different parasites and infections like any other animal.  Once one colony of bees have cleared out of an existing structure, be sure to take the hotel apart and give it a thorough cleaning before another colony moves in to prevent the spread of disease.

 

 

A Hydrated Bee Is A Busy Bee

 

Whether it’s a full colony relocating or a single bee searching for pollen, bees on the go need water.  Without adequate access to water, bees will become sluggish and unable to pollinate. Adding a small water dish to a garden can give a thirsty bee the energy it needs to continue pollinating.  Due to their small size, however, care should be taken to ensure that the bees can hydrate themselves without drowning. An overturned frisbee works well, but those with aesthetics in mind can use a bird bath with small sticks or moss added as a landing pad. 

 

Bees make human life possible.  Although it would be ideal if everyone could keep a bee colony in their backyard, anyone can make a difference by making a few adjustments in their home gardens.  By simply allowing weeds to grow and leaving out water, gardeners of any skill level can make a difference. With enough people getting involved, bee populations will again thrive, ensuring both their success and ours.

 

Author Bio:

 

Jennifer Vickers is a contributing writer at Highbrow Magazine.

 

For Highbrow Magazine

 

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U.S. Dept. of Agriculture (Creative Commons); Dwight Sipler (Wikipedia Commons); Kyrylko (Pixabay-Creative Commons)
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