Recently, I had the opportunity to visit with beekeepers in my area. I learned the specific roles the queen, drone and worker bees play in each colony. I was amazed at the amount of work human caretakers perform to keep their beehives safe and healthy. Who knew so many pests and problems could cause a beehive to collapse. I will never look at a jar of honey the same way and have a new appreciation for this delicious nectar.
Honey is just one amazing product provided by bees. According to the National Honey Board, bees pollinate one-third of the world’s food supply which includes more than 90 different agricultural crops. Pollen sticks to the hair on bee’s bodies and is transported from flower to flower, resulting in the cross-pollination that later yields fruits, vegetables and seeds. We don’t often think of the role pollinators play when we grab produce from the grocery store, but we should. Without bees we wouldn’t have coffee, chocolate, almonds or apples. That’s not a world I want to live in!
Most people are familiar with the honeybee, but there are over 20,000 bee species across the globe. 4000 of those bees are native to the US including bumble bees, sweat bees, mason bees, carpenter bees, mining bees, and leafcutter bees. About 70% of bees don’t exist in hives, but live solitary lives.
Despite the important role bees play, 25% of the bee population is facing extinction. The extensive use of pesticides contributes to the demise of bees along with urbanization. When we clear areas filled with plants and install large expanses of homes and then chemically treat lawns, our bee populations continue to expire.
What can you do?
- Don’t obsess over the weeds in your lawn. Instead, enjoy seeing a bee on a dandelion or on a patch of clover. These ‘weeds’ are important nectar sources.
- Don’t overuse chemicals either, especially insecticides and weed controls.
- Consider reducing the amount of lawn you have and plant a diverse selection of flowering plants that provide blooms across seasons.
- Install an insect habitat or leave stalks standing during garden cleanup to offer another place for mason and leafcutter bees to retreat during the winter.
- Support local beekeepers by buying and using honey. In my mind, besides coffee, it’s the second best ‘nectar of the Gods.’
As you can see there are quite a few ways to make a difference. Select one or all ways to help our bees survive and thrive. Our quality of life (and food) depends on it.