Did you know that one third of food production in the US is dependent upon honey bees and other insect pollinators? How is this you might ask? Well, when a pollinator lands on a flower looking for nectar or pollen, it brushes against the flower’s reproductive parts. By doing this it deposits pollen from a different flower, and the plant then uses this pollen to produce a fruit or vegetable.
Now, lets contemplate that many plants can’t reproduce without having pollen transferred to them by pollinators. So with this in mind, imagine a scenario in which the world’s human population is increasing and the population of pollinators is decreasing! Well, you don’t have to imagine it because it is actually happening today! Could we in fact be living in the dawn of a doomsday-a global food crisis? Scary thought right, but let’s focus on what we can do TODAY!
Here is a list of SOME of the main crops that are dependent upon pollinators:
Alfalfa Almonds Apples Beans
Blackberries Blueberries Cherries Cranberries
Cucumbers Garlic Grapes Kale
Lettuce Onions Peaches Pears
Plums Pumpkins Radishes Raspberries
Strawberries Sunflowers Sweet potatoes Watermelon
If you like your morning crepes or waffles with a delicious Strawberry or Blueberry jelly, keep on reading and see what can be done to help bees and other pollinators! Think of it this way, not only will you be saving your morning jelly, but at same time we’ll be avoiding a future price of 100 dollars for a single jar of strawberry jam!
What is happening?
You may already be aware that the bee population is decreasing. But how fast is it decreasing?
According to the USDA, for the past 50 years the number of managed honey bees have declined. Their records indicate that each winter about 30 percent of the beehives collapse. The reasons for collapse might be disease, parasites, poor quality pollen, and among the most important, exposure to pesticides!
What is being done to save bees?
The Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS) is currently working with agricultural producers to combat future declines by helping them implement conservation practices. Theses practices include improving the quality of food sources for honey bees, planting cover crops, planting wildflowers, improving management of grazing lands, and planting native grasses in non-production areas. Up to date they have enhanced about 35,000 acres of land for honey bees! If you are an agricultural producer and want to help in this effort make sure you contact your local USDA service center for more information.
So what can WE do to help minimize this rapid decline of honey bees?
How about turning our garden into a safe haven for native pollinators! Here are 7 helpful tips on how we can help with the rapid decline of honey bees:
1. Use pollinator friendly plants such as Dogwood, Blueberry, Cherry, Plum, Willow, and Poplar. Most of these trees and shrubs provide much needed pollen or nectar in the early spring when it’s greatly needed by the bees.
2. Choose a mixture of spring, summer and fall plants/herbs such as Allium, Aster, Basil, Bee balm, Blanket Flower, Borage, Cosmos, Geranium, Giant Hyssop, Goldenrod, Helianthus, Hyssop, Lavender, Mint, Rosemary, Sage, Sunflower, Thyme, and Wild Rose.
3. Reduce or eliminate pesticide use by planting plants that attract beneficial insects for pest control such as Dill, Fennel, Marigold “lemon gem”, and Yarrow. These plants will attract Lace wings, Ladybugs, Hoverflies, and Trichogramma wasps; all known to have a predacious activity on garden pests.
4. Give them a break and accept some plant damage; this helps serve as a habitat for butterfly and moth larvae.
5. Provide clean water for pollinators with a shallow dish or bowl with a half submerged stone.
6. Leave small dead tree trunks in your landscape to serve as wood nesting for beetles.
7. Support land conservation by helping maintain community green spaces.
As you can see there are many things we can do to minimize the pollinators population decline. It is up to us to deliver a future in where our kids will be able to enjoy the fruits of nature as we once did.
Source: “U.S. Department of Agriculture.”