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Background

Bees are having a really hard time right now. For about a decade, they’ve been dying off at an unprecedented rate—up to 30 percent per year, with a total loss of domesticated honeybee hives in the United States worth an estimated $2 billion.

In the last few years scientists have accumulated a compelling pile of evidence pointing to a class of insecticides called neonicotinoids. These chemicals are widely used in commercial agriculture but can have lethal effects on bees. Other pesticides are also adding to the toll. So are invasive parasites and a general decline in the quality of bees’ diets.

The combination of factors poses a pretty serious problem for anyone who likes to eat, since bees; both the domesticated kind and their wild bumblebee cousins, both of which are in decline—are the main pollinators of many major fruit and nut crops. The problem is so severe that this spring President Barack Obama unveiled the first-ever national strategy for improving the health of bees and other key pollinators.

Bees “are in serious and immediate risk from human-caused climate change.”

climate change also adding the toll. According to new research published in the journal Science, dozens of bumblebee species began losing habitat as early as the 1970s—well before neonicotinoids were as widespread as they are today. Since then, largely as a result of global warming, bees have lost nearly 321 km off the southern end of their historic wild range in both the US and in Europe, a trend that is continuing at a rate of about five miles every year.

Bees are amongst the most important creatures to humans on Earth. These insects pollinate over 80% of all flowering plants including 70 of the top 100 human food crops. One in three bites of food that we eat is derived from plants pollinated by bees.

 

But the role bees play in nature is likely part of a greater story. Bees have been producing honey from flowering plants for the last 10 to 20 million years, and have been mentioned in ancient writings, including the Vedic texts and Sumerian and Babylonian cuneiform.

As major contributors to floral growth, bees provide nourishing habitats for animals like birds and insects and beautify the Earth. Many of the floral landscapes that we know and love in nature are made possible because of honey bee pollination.

 

BEES PLAY A MAJOR ROLE IN NATURE

  • Bees pollinate 80% of flowering plants on Earth.
  • One single bee colony can pollinate 300 million flowers each day.
  • Bee pollination helps to provide nourishing habits for animals like birds and other insects.
  • Bees are major contributors the floral landscapes that we know and love in nature.

 

BEES ARE VITAL TO THE HUMAN FOOD SUPPLY

  • Bees pollinate 70 of the top 100 human food crops.
  • 1 in 3 bites of food we eat is derived from plants pollinated by bees.
  • Bees pollinate about 75% of fruits, nuts, and vegetables grown in the US.
  • Almonds are totally dependent on bee pollination. No bees, no almonds.
  • Avocados, apples, and cherries are over 90% dependent on bee pollination.
  • Cucumbers, kiwis, and melon are majorly dependent on bee pollination. tweet this (Source: National Honey Board)

 

MODERN AGRICULTURE IS KNOWN TO BE KILLING THE BEES

  • Scientists believe honey bees are dying from pesticides.
  • 1/3 of the 77 million acres of soybean crop use seeds coated in pesticides linked to killing bees.
  • The chemical industry has spent millions on PR to deny a link between pesticide use and bee deaths.
  • In 1947 there were 6 million honey bee hives in the US. Today there are under 3 million.

 

How can We help?

 

Plant things that bees like

Bees are all about pollen. If you want to support the many different varieties of bees which range through your yard, plant some things which will feed them.

The good news here is that bee-friendly plants are easy to grow. Scatter a variety through your yard, ensuring a good supply of pollen through the warm months. Bees prefer flowers that are blue, purple or yellow.

Recommended: sage, salvia, oregano, lavender, ironweed, yarrow, yellow hyssop, alfalfa, honeywort, dragonhead, echinacea, bee balm, buttercup, goldenrod and English thyme.

Flowering trees are also attractive to bees. Try tulip poplars, tupelos, oranges and sourwoods. Bees also need sources of shallow water. So try to provide water around the area.

 

Provide bee habitat

A secure place to live is crucial to solitary and colony bees. Unlike honeybees, which live in the waxy hives with which we’re all familiar, natural bees make use of many kinds of shelter: abandoned animal burrows, dead trees and branches and in underground nest tunnels.

You can help wood-nesting bees by setting out a few inexpensive bee blocks. These are basically blocks of wood with holes of various sizes. Providing a mound or two of loose earth — particularly if they’re close to a water source — is like opening a rent-free apartment complex for burrowing bees.

Hosting a few bee shelters will give you the opportunity to watch your visitors thrive.

 

Eliminate garden pesticides

Pesticides are bad for humans. They’re worse for bees. Investigate organic and natural means of pest control.

You’ll find plenty of tips at OrganicGardenPests.com. Moving in the direction of organic gardening and natural lawn care is a healthy choice, in any case. Vibrant, chemical-free plants and gardens are a friendly invitation to wild bees.

 

Let your veggies bolt

If at all possible, allow a few leafy vegetables in your home garden to “bolt,” or go to seed, after harvest.

Seeding plants are a bee’s best chance to stock up on food before the colder months. Unlike their wasp and yellowjacket cousins, which die out each winter, real bees slow down and wait for spring. Making sure their larder is stocked will help them snap back once the weather warms.

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