Why Are Honey Bees So Important?
A decrease in the honey bee population means a decrease in the number of plants pollinated, which, according to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), is about 75% of the fruits, vegetables, and nuts in the United States. This means that 70 of the top 100 human food crops would become scarce. Without the work that honey bees do, humans would not only lose many fresh foods but also many meat and dairy products as well. This is because without the crops that honey bees pollinate, livestock would starve. In summation, the entirety of humans’ diet relies upon the wellbeing of honey bees.
In addition to a drastic increase in food scarcity, a decrease in the population of honey bees would also lead to a large reduction in the Earth’s biodiversity and natural beauty. Honey bees are a keystone species to many habitats, such as “tropical forests, savannah woodlands, and temperate deciduous forests”. These habitats attract other insects and small animals, which in turn draw in larger animals, thus creating larger, more complex and beautiful ecosystems. Without these tiny pollinators, these habitats would collapse.
What Can You Do to Help the Honey Bees?
There are many ways to help the honey bees!
- Plant bee-friendly flowers in your lawn or garden. Examples of perennial flowers that are good for bees are: Agastache, Allium, Asters, Bee Balm, Catmint, Cone Flower, Coreopsis, Hardy Hibiscus, Joe Pye Weed, False Sunflower, Lavender, Poppy, Sedum, Tall Phlox, and Turtlehead. Examples of annual flowers include: Ageratum, Clover, Dahlias, Gaillardia, Gladiolus, Nasturtium, Pentas, Petunias, Sweet Alyssum, Salvia, Sunflower, Verbena, and Zinnia. Honey bees are also very fond of fruit, vegetables, and herbs like: Blackberries, Raspberries, Blueberries, Strawberries, Cucumbers, Garlic, Pumpkins, Squashes, Peppers, Dill, Fennel, Parsley, Sage, Thyme, and Rosemary. Flowering bushes such as Honeysuckle, Butterfly Bush, Sweet Pepperbush, and Viburnum. A simple Google search will also help you find bee-friendly plants that suit your lawn or garden!
- Make bee-friendly choices in your lawn or garden. Here are some key tips: Avoid hybrid flowers, which may be sterile and have little or no nectar or pollen, skip the double flowers, which lack pollen, make sure you’ll have blooms for bees year round, plant flowers in patches – bees like to focus on one flower type at a time, and leave an undisturbed plot for ground-nesting bees.
- Avoid using too much fertilizer and pesticides. Research shows that neonicotinoid pesticides linger in the nectar and pollen of flowers, where bees are most likely to come into contact with them. These treatments weaken bee immune systems and make them more susceptible to disease and infestation by pests. If you do decide to use chemicals, follow the instructions carefully on the package. People should apply chemicals early in the morning when bees and other pollinators aren’t around. Also, do not use chemicals while the plants are flowering and don’t spray them in other places where pollinators may land.
- Create a bee bath. A fun activity that can also help save the bees is creating a bee bath. Fill a shallow bird bath or a small dish or bowl with clean water, and arrange pebbles and stones inside so that they poke out of the water. Bees will land on the stones and pebbles to drink the water as they take a break from foraging and pollinating.
- Don’t panic if you see a swarm of honey bees on your property. Swarming is a natural process that occurs when colonies of honey bees have outgrown their hive. If you see a swarm, contact a beekeeper’s association; many bee-conscious groups will collect swarms to keep or relocate them to a safer new home. Honeybees in a swarm are very gentle and present very little danger, but can be made aggressive if disturbed or sprayed with water. Just leave them alone and wait for help to arrive.
- Jorgenson, P. (2015, September 25). Why Are Bees Important? 33 Reasons to Care About Saving the Bees. Retrieved from http://www.lifebasicsorganics.com/blog/why-are-bees-important
- 5 Ways Bees are Important to the Environment. (2018). Retrieved from http://www.pthomeandgarden.com/5-ways-bees-are-important-to-the-environment/
- English Gardens. (2018). Pollinator Friendly Plants. Retrieved from https://www.englishgardens.com/pollinator-friendly-plants
- The Honey Bee Conservancy. (2018). How to save the bees – easy ways to help the bees today. Retrieved from https://thehoneybeeconservancy.org/how-to-save-the-bees/
- Help Honey Bees. (2018). Retrieved from https://www.planetbee.org/save-honeybees/
- Rossman, S. (2017, June 23). Honeybees are in trouble. Here’s how you can help. Retrieved from https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation-now/2017/06/23/honeybees-trouble-heres-how-you-can-help/419062001/