GREEN SPACE: The Buzz on Bees Is They Need Our Help

For some of us, bees have a bad reputation. We remember being stung as a child, so we see bees as a threat. But, in fact, we need those yellow and brown fuzzy creatures probably more than most of us realize. 

Published May 4, 2014 3:32 PM
3 min read

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be-thFor some of us, bees have a bad reputation. We remember being stung as a child, so we see bees as a threat. But, in fact, we need those yellow and brown fuzzy creatures probably more than most of us realize. 

 

For some of us, bees have a bad reputation. We remember being stung as a child, so we see bees as a threat. But, in fact, we need those yellow and brown fuzzy creatures probably more than most of us realize.  

According to the Department of Agriculture, nearly one-third of all our food is affected, either directly or indirectly, by bees.  As you may know, bees are one of a variety of other animals, including birds, bats, beetles, and butterflies, that are called pollinators. As such, they transfer pollen and seeds from one flower to another, fertilizing the plant so that it can grow and produce food. The bees’ efforts produce an estimated $15 billion increase in agricultural crop value each year.  For example, almonds are the largest agricultural crop in California and it is estimated that using bees to pollinate the crop increases the yield by 500 percent. In short, bees play a tremendous role in the food supply. Without bees, there will be less produce and higher food prices for all of us at the stores.  

beeI’m sure you’ve heard the buzz: The bee population has been plummeting.  Since 2006, many commercial beekeepers have reported losing nearly a third of their colonies each year, on average. And native bee species have been in decline too. The causes of the decline, known as colony collapse disorder, are still being researched, but scientists do know that a combination of factors have likely contributed to the situation, including parasites, infection and insecticide.

 

Specifically, many well-known garden pesticides and lawn care products contain neonicotinoids, which some scientists suspect are toxic for bees. In addition, the loss of uncultivated land with its broad selection of plants that provide pollen for the bees is a risk factor for bees as well.   

But you can help! There are a number of steps you can take to assist bees in their tremendously important work in our environment. One suggestion is to include plants in your garden that provide an essential habitat for them. When purchasing new plants or seeds, be sure to choose ones that have not been treated with pesticides, which can kill the bees. And, as always, it’s best to plant native plants.  

Here are 10 plants that are beneficial to the bees:

• Lavender    • Rosemary    • Sage     • Coneflower
• Sunflower    • Redbud    • Catnip    • Lamb’s Ear
• Aster    • Black-eyed Susan

Ideally, you should plant a wide variety of native plants to appeal to a diverse set of native bees. Additionally, try to choose plants for a succession of bloom from early spring through the fall, so that you provide continual nectar and pollen for the bees. Even if you don’t have your own yard, you can assist bees if you try seed bombing by throwing a handful of native seeds along a local highway or into an empty lot. The more flowers we have, the more the pollinators will benefit and thrive.  If you’re interested in learning more about the bees’ disappearance, there is a wonderful award-winning documentary film, “The Vanishing of the Bees,” that is well worth watching. Or watch “The Bee Movie,” written by Jerry Seinfeld, with your kids for an entertaining, educational movie about bees. And our very own Rye Nature Center has beehives to visit where you can admire the handiwork of the honeybees firsthand.

Here’s to helping our favorite pollinators!

— Rye Garden Club Conservation Committee

 

 

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