Honeybees are under a great deal of stress lately. Honeybee populations have dropped 50% in the past 25 years. Colony collapse disorder is wiping out entire hives almost overnight. There are pests and diseases, pesticides and herbicides, genetically modified crops, lack of diversity and habitat loss that contribute to the decline of the honeybee.
We’ve all heard that one in three bites we take is owed to the work of the honeybee. So why aren’t we treating them better?
There are some simple things you can do to help one of our most important pollinators.
This is not for everyone, but if you are interested in it, be sure to check out the myriad beekeeping organizations around Northeast Ohio:
Plant for pollinators!
When you are planning your garden this Spring, be sure to keep bees in mind. All pollinators need food and many of our home landscapes don’t provide any. Think of taking a road trip and having no gas stations or food stops along the way. That is what a bee or other pollinator experiences when they cross most of our lawns that only have grass, shrubs and only a few flowers. Plant flowers that bloom at various times of the year to diversify their food source. This keeps your gardens beautiful Spring thru the Fall. Plants like Beebalm, Sunflower, Blazing Star, Cardinal Flower, Goldenrod, Asters, Lavender, Catnip, are just a few you can incorporate to help our pollinators.
Reducing or eliminating fertilizers and pesticide use in your yard.
Most times you don’t need the chemicals you put on your lawn. Get your soil tested first to see if even need those. The first flower that bees forage on in the Spring is the dandelion. While these have a bad reputation for being a ‘weed’ they are so important in providing food for bees who seeking nourishment after a long winter.
Learn about our native bees!
There are over 4,000 types of native bees in North America. These include many types of bumblebees, mason bees, sweat bees, leafcutter bees, to name a few. Native bees are actually better pollinators than honeybees as they come out earlier and stay out later. They don’t sting but they also don’t produce honey (except the bumblebee who only produces enough for her offspring). Native bees are under similar stress as honeybees so the same advice applies for people who want to help out pollinators.
A great resource is the Pollinator Partnership. This link explains pollinators and has a pollinator friendly planting guide for different regions across the United States.
Cuyahoga SWCD offers several programs on pollinators, particularly native bees.