BELMONT, N.Y. — There are over 3,500 species of bees in the United States, and it is important for the environment to keep them healthy. These busy bees pollinate our plants so that they produce the fruits, vegetables, grains, nuts and beans we need to eat. They even help with coffee and chocolate!
All pollinators are vital for our ecosystem because they are essential in plant production and they help produce genetic diversity in plants. The more diverse the plants are, the better they can adapt to changes in the environment.
Pollination experts are unsettled due to the steady decline of the bee population. Even the beloved honey bees that are raised in colonies are declining. Many of these bees are raised by commercial beekeepers. They have noted that historically, a colony would have a loss of about 10 to 15 percent over winter. The average now is up to 30 percent.
By knowing a bit about our garden friends, we can attract and help to save the bee population right in our own backyard. The other pollinators such as butterflies and hummingbirds will follow. They help make a backyard healthy, beautiful, and fascinating.
When planning a garden, it is best to use native plants. All pollinators are adapted to local native plants and will thrive on them. Also, BEE showy with flowers that bloom throughout the growing season. BEE bountiful by planting bigger patches of each species for better foraging. Bees prefer blue, purple, white, orange, and yellow flowers with sweet fragrances.
Provide a habitat for the bees. About 60% to 70% of bees dig burrows in the ground. They often like dry sandy soil on a hillside. The other 30% to 40% will find a cavity to nest in, such as dead stems, logs, and brush piles. So instead of tidying up the whole yard, BEE messy. Leave some of the brush and old logs to make it a bee homey environment.
The bumblebee is a character all its own. Because of its chunky size, they can survive in cooler temperatures and fly at lower levels. So, the bumblebee is a good pollinator for the first flowers of spring. The bumblebee prefers to live in a sheltered shaded space such as a compost pile or under thatch.
Remember that whenever you apply a pesticide or herbicide on your plants, it will kill the pest, but there is a good chance it will also kill the pollinator. It is best to BEE chemical free when possible.
When we keep our BEE population healthy, we are helping to keep our ecosystem in check. Bees are so important that they have the elite name, as a “keystone” species. This name is given to them because other species depend on them to live. We need our bees and all the other pollinators, so that we can begin the process of producing the food we eat.
Biologists fear that several of the bumblebee species have already disappeared from parts of their range. It is believed that the loss of habitat and increased pollution and pesticide poisoning accounts for much of their decline. A garden in your backyard is the perfect place for pollinators to dwell and BEE protected from harm. Even a small space set aside can be an advantage for our bees. Just BEE patient and they will find you.
BEE friendly. If you see a bee, just walk away. Most bees will not sting and use this behavior only in self- defense. Have a BEEutiful summer.
–Joyce Ziembo, Master Gardener, CCE
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