By now you’ve probably heard the bad news: honeybees are in trouble.
Bee colonies around the world have been dying in record numbers in recent years. Places like Iowa, for example, have lost as much as 70% of the local bee population over the past several years. And according to a USDA report, nearly a third of the honeybees owned and managed by commercial beekeepers died just last year.
It’s a scary situation, one that affects every one of us. That’s because the pollination that honeybees provide is responsible for at least of a third of the food we eat. (Some estimates put that number as high as 80%.)
Nobody really thinks that honeybees are in danger of extinction. But if their numbers continue to decline, we’re all going to feel the pinch – both in food prices and in food availability.
Disappearing Honeybee Colonies
There are many factors impacting the health and vigor of the global honeybee population. But the single biggest factor is something called Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD).
When CCD strikes a colony, most of the bees in the hive mysteriously disappear. Usually the queen is left, along with lots of brood (baby bees). And there’s usually plenty of honey left in the hive, too. But most of the adult bees are just – gone.
Scientists have been frantically researching CCD, trying to isolate the cause. And though some strong theories have been formulated, nobody yet is really certain as to the cause of CCD.
But there’s no doubt about the impact of CCD to the beekeeping industry. It’s been absolutely devastating on a historical scale.
Want To Help?
You might be thinking: “Well, this is all very interesting and very frightening. But there’s certainly nothing I can do about it!”
But in truth, there is something you can do to help the bees. You can make your landscape more bee-friendly. That really will make a difference in providing bees with more forage space and greater food availability. And it will also make your landscape a haven for honeybees – an oasis of safety in a world that’s become increasingly hostile to our most important insect.
Here are 7 tips recommended by the Honeybee Conservancy for making your landscape bee-friendly:
- How much of your landscape is composed of blooming plants that provide nectar and pollen for bees? Consider increasing that percentage by replacing some non-blooming plants, like lawn grass, with plants that provide food for bees.
- Do you already have a flower garden? If so, choose flowers with single tops (like daisies and marigolds) over flowers with double tops (like double impatiens). Single-headed flowers provide more forage for bees.
- Avoid highly hybridized plants. These plants have been bred to produce little seed, and therefore also produce little pollen for bees.
- Select a variety of flowering plants so that blooms will be available from spring thru fall. Honeybees need food all year except during the dead of winter, when they survive upon their accumulated honey stores.
- Avoid using insecticides and herbicides in your landscape. These chemicals can be devastatingly damaging to bees, potentially wiping out entire colonies at a time. (Growing evidence indicates that these chemicals aren’t particularly good for people, either.)
- Provide a bee bath. Bees need water, just like all living creatures. You can help by providing a source of clean water. Just make sure that the container you use provides a place for bees to land while they’re taking a drink. (Piled-up pebbles, floating wood chips, etc.). Keep a bee bath in the same place, always filled with fresh, clean water, and local bees will soon be returning every day to get a drink.
- Build a bee garden by sectioning off a portion of your landscape. Grow only bee-friendly plants in your bee garden. It doesn’t have to be a large plot of land to have happy bees returning to forage every day. Even just a window container kept full of bee-friendly plants can help.
If Everybody Would Help…
The problems that honeybees are experiencing have the potential to impact every human being on the planet – and in a big way. But you can help make the world a friendlier place for bees by following the tips above.
You might not think that your efforts would matter much. But every little bit truly does help. And if everyone would pitch-in to help the bees? Then this world would be a much better place for bees. And that would make it a better place for people, too.