We've seen bees buzzing around our plants and flowers all our lives, but the past decade has been really tough on our busy, bee friends. Millions of bees have been dying each year. Nationwide surveys have reported a loss of roughly 40% of hives, and scientists are afraid the species may disappear entirely in the next 20 years if things don't change.
Bees are amazing creatures with incredible intelligence, unique personalities, and an astonishing work ethic. They're very effective pollinators and are a cornerstone of food production for humans, birds, cows, and many other animals. Without bees, our world and dinner plates would look very different; it's estimated that one-third of the food we eat depends on them. Without our little winged friends, we wouldn't have almonds, apples, broccoli, asparagus, cantaloupes, cucumbers, pumpkins, blueberries, watermelons, cranberries, cherries, pears, strawberries, corn, tomatoes, plums, and the list goes on! It’s amazing how our existence is interwoven with nature.
The bee problem is very clear: if they disappear, pollination will stop, plants will disappear, and human (and other animals) survival could be threatened.
Hopefully by now you know that we wouldn't just drop a heavy environmental fact like that on you without posing some solutions. So what can we do?
Here are five things you can do to help save our bees
Plant pollinator-friendly plants in your yard. Plant native plants and flowers that will bring back the natural habitat that the bees and pollinators have lost. Our sprawling lawns have taken away so much of the biodiversity in our environment, so turn at least of portion of your garden into a pollinator garden. You don't need a large space; start small with pots and a corner of your yard. Once you see the plants teaming with life, you'll realize how much the bees needed those flowers, and you might even want to expand the garden the following year.
Don't use chemicals or pesticides in your lawn or garden. You probably just want to kill a certain insect in your yard, but you're harming all of them including bees and pollinators. It's particularly harmful if you spray pesticides when the flowers are blooming because bees take the chemical laden pollen back to the hive where it harms more bees and gets into their honey. If you have to use a pesticide at your home, at least make sure it's organic and spray only at night when the bees are safely resting in their hives.
Support your local beekeepers. Buy your honey at a farmers market or directly from a beekeeper. Find out how they raise their bees and what practices they use. If you need to purchase your honey at the grocery store, look at the label to see if it's from a local supplier. Also make sure it says “pure” or “raw;” you don’t want any added chemicals.
Baths aren't just for birds... put a bird/bee bath in your yard for our thirsty friends. Bees work really hard and they get thirsty too! So put a bird bath or a shallow bowl of water out in your yard. Make sure to put some stones in the dish, so they have a place to land (and don't drown) when they stop for that refreshing drink of water.
Become a beekeeper yourself! Take some classes and join a local beekeeping organization. There are so many opportunities to learn about bees and maybe you too will want to become a beekeeper.
Our bees and pollinators are struggling and there are so many ways we can help them. Just a few simple changes in your gardening habits can help save the bees’ habitat. Don’t forget, our survival depends on these little creatures.