Happy Pollinator week!
What exactly is a pollinator and what do they do? Pollinators include birds, bees, butterflies, moths, flies, beetles, bats and some other mammals.
Pollinators, such as bees, move pollen from one part of the flower of a plant to another part. This pollen fertilizes the plant. Only fertilized plants can make fruit, so pollinators are pretty important. In the United States the pollinators we rely on the most for pollination are bees.
Both my sister and I grew to love bees throughout our childhood at the nursery. With all the beautiful plants and flowers around us the bees were never far away. Luckily I was never stung. My sister, on the other hand, was stung more times than I can count and now has to carry an epi pen around with her. She hasn’t let that dull her love and appreciation of bees though. We both love learning as much as possible about the wonderful pollinators that keep the nursery and our own gardens bright and beautiful.
“If the bee disappears from the surface of the earth, man would have no more than four years to live” – Einstein
Whether this is true or not, the message is still the same: bees have a huge impact on our ecosystem. Since it is national pollinator week it seems appropriate to talk about honeybees, because, you guessed it; honeybees are one of the biggest pollinators in the world. Most people don’t realize or appreciate the extent to which bees impact our food systems and our diet. Honeybees are responsible for pollinating over 90 crops including apples, mangos, plums, broccoli, raspberries, coffee, and kale (yes, KALE!). They also pollinate all of the beautiful flowers that we love so dearly. They are a social insect and work diligently to keep a clean and well-stocked (with honey, of course) hive for their queen. Bees are always on the move pollinating crops, making honey, and keeping each other warm. There is a reason for the phrase “busy as a bee.”
Bees pollinate our food and give life to amazing flowers such as calla lilies and hydrangeas, but what do they get in return? Sadly, they don’t get much from humans. Although many of us appreciate this fascinating little insect we don’t know how we can contribute to their well being.
Where are all of the bees going?
It is a sad truth that these creatures that bring us so much joy are actually declining in population. Beekeepers in the United States first reported the mass disappearance of bees in 2006, when their seemingly healthy hives were abandoned. Researchers have given this phenomenon the name Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD). The number of hives in the US is the lowest it has been in 50 years. CCD is caused by an accumulation of interwoven factors: global warming, parasites, pesticide use, and habitat loss. I was also told by a local beekeeper that bees are just physically exhausted. They get trucked around the world to pollinate different crops at different times and don’t get a rest in between. The bees are dying young and with a multitude of problems. A study conducted in 2011 (NRDC), predicted that the global economic cost of bee decline could cost us as much as $5.7 billion per year.
What YOU Can Do
There is so much to learn about bees and I have only scratched the surface! It may seem like a lost cause fighting for the well being of the bees but there is always hope. Here are a few things you can do to protect the bees and encourage rich habitats for them.
- Eat produce that is in season (so bees don’t have to travel to pollinate crops that are not meant to be eaten at that time)
- Buy LOCAL food! Especially honey (much more ethical and pure)
- Don’t use harmful pesticides.
- Plant flowers that bees love (And we love too!) List here: http://www.beverlybees.com/planting-bee-garden/
– Madeline Powell*
Or you can watch “The Vanishing of The Bees”. This is an amazing documentary about bees and colony collapse disorder.
*This blog post was written as a collaborative effort by Cali and Madeline Powell.