May 20th is World Bee Day!
World Bee Day is recognized by the United Nations Food and Agricultural Organization for the purpose of promoting the health and welfare of these insect VIPs (very important pollinators), as well as educating about the threats that bees face.
A not insignificant portion of the food we eat depends directly (or indirectly) on the services of pollinators for its production. These pollinators are usually insects – and these insects are often bees.
Unfortunately, bees – like other insects – are in decline due to a multitude of factors that include habitat loss, increased us of agricultural chemicals, and changing temperature and weather patterns due to climate change. Habitat loss may be one of the most significant threats. It is not just that natural areas, like fields and forests, that once provided habitat for bees have been converted to housing developments or agricultural land – they have been (and on a global scale!). It is also because the hedgerows and swathes of grasses and wildflower that once bordered farm fields have largely disappeared.
What can you do to help reverse the decline? May-bee it’s time to make your yard a little more bee-friendly!
Leave some weeds! Rather than doing a broadcast application of herbicide to kill all weeds throughout your yard, bee more selective in weed removal. Weeds provide food for bees (and other insects); the flowers are sources of pollen and nectar, while leaves are food for the young of many species (think caterpillars – so you are helping butterflies – which are not bees, but are still important pollinators!). After all, “weeds” are just wildflowers that are growing someplace we don’t want them.
Use only targeted application of insecticides when needed to deal with pest insects. Insecticides are not selective, and broadcast spraying to kill “unwanted” insects will kill beneficial insects as well.
Plant a bee garden! Select flowers that will provide abundant nectar and pollen for foraging bees and other pollinators.
Create bee habitat! Bees need more than just food to thrive. We tend to think of bees as living in wax hives – like honeybees – but many bee species are solitary and nest in very different ways. Some burrow in the soil. Some carve nest cavities in wood. A little research will provide information about how to make your little patch of nature attractive to these solitary pollinators. There are even commercially available “bee hotels” for wood-nesters.