Imagine living in a world without flowers, fruit, almonds, or even chocolate and coffee! Honey bees don't just make honey; they make more than 90% of the tastiest flowering crops we have. Even cattle, which feed on alfalfa, depend on bees.
In fact, about one-third of the human diet comes from insect-pollinated plants, and the honeybee is responsible for 80 percent of that pollination, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Without the work of bees we could be left with a diet of grains and water!
But despite their important role there is a concerning decline in pollinator populations across the world. Honeybee colonies are dying at frightening rates! Since the 1940s, honeybee colonies have decreased from 5 million to 2.5 million. Researchers say there could be many reasons for the decline: everything from parasites and bacteria to malnutrition due to lack of pollen,to the overuse of dangerous pesticides.
What is pollination?
Pollination happens as bees fly from flower to flower collecting pollen on their fuzzy bodies. In the process they end up transferring pollen from one blossom to another of the same floral species, which results in fertilization of plant ovaries and the production of seeds. Most flowering plants depend on bees, butterflies, hummingbirds, and other animals for pollination, as it is an essential part of plant reproduction.
Why do bees need pollen?
Bees visit flowers because they need to eat. They derive all of the protein they need in their diet from floral pollen, and all of the carbohydrates they need from floral nectar. We need good, clean food, and so do our pollinators. If bees do not have enough to eat, we won't have enough to eat!
Get Involved& Save the Bees
Good news! Even if you're not a beekeeper, there are plenty of ways you can get involved in actively saving the bees, which ultimately saves our future stability!
1. Plant flowering plants to attract these important bee visitors.
We recently wrote a blog about the drastic decline of the amazing monarch butterfly due to the same reasons. So even if it's in the form of a window box in your apartment, a container on your porch, or a vacant lot in your community, everyone can plant flowering plants or flowering cover crops, like clover (a favorite treat of the honeybee).
- Need some easy-maintenance, native to our area, flowering plant ideas to attract pollinators? See our recent blog about Texas-tough bloomers.
- Download the BeeSmart app, which will guide you in selecting plants for pollinators specific to your area.
- Check out the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's guide to planting for pollinators
2. Reduce or limit the use of pesticides, because reduced use can help to prevent poisoning the bees.
Due to increased urbanization and the use sprays such as Roundup, which kill all the weeds and wildflowers, there is a shortage of food and habitat for pollinators. Pesticides can even poison bees by drifting onto blooming plants or weeds. Read the label and always think twice about pesticide use. Ask Yourself:
- Is it really necessary for you, or for a landscaper tending your yard, to apply a particular herbicide and insecticide?
- Are there alternatives or times of application that would not harm bees?
3. One of themostsignificant issues appear to be the widespread use of insecticides, especially a new class called neonicotinoids. A recent case study by the Pesticide Research Institute found 54 percent of common garden plants purchased at top retailers contained neonicotinoids. Without knowing it you could be purchasing "bee-friendly" plants that have actually been pretreated with bee killing pesticides!
Thanks to the introduction of the Save America's Pollinators Act(H.R. 2692), we might have the opportunity to ban neonicotinoids from crops visited by pollinators for a couple years while scientists study the true impact of using these chemicals. Currently with 73 cosponsors, this bill calls for a suspension of neonicotinoids until a full review of scientific evidence and a field study indicate safe use. It would also require the U.S. Department of the Interior to work with EPA to conduct reporting on current U.S. bee populations and changes in bee population level.
- With no major action on this bill in Congress since August of 2013, the best that can be said is that the bill is not yet dead. Tell Your Representative: Co-sponsor the Saving America's Pollinators Act (HR 2692).
- Click here to find out who your region's representative is.
- Click here for an example of what to say to your representative.
- Help raise the visibility of this bill by writing to your local paper. Click here for a sample letter to the editor.
4. Donate: The Pollinator Partnership is the world's largest nonprofit organization dedicated solely to helping protect and promote pollinators like bees.
5. If you already have plants available for pollination, you can register your space to be included on the Pollinator Partnership database. The S.H.A.R.E. map collects pollinator habitats from all over the world in an effort to build the community.
6. Be on the lookout for local organically grown fruits, vegetables, and honey that help support beekeepers in your area.
- Grogan's Mill Village has a Farmer's Market open year-round in the Grogan's Mill Center in The Woodlands, which is open every Saturday year-round.
- The Urban Harvest Farmers Markets bring the bounty of the garden to Houstonians several times a week year round, rain or shine.
It's apparent we need bees, and now they need us. So make a commitment to contribute what you can to help save the bees, and in turn reward yourself and the world with healthy food and beautiful flowers.
Living Expression Landscapes can plant pollinator attracting plants for you if you haven't the time. Simply contact us: 281-681-8715.