Have you ever considered what the world would be like without bees? I have to admit I never gave it much thought until I attended a presentation about native bees at my garden club.
There are 4000 bee species in the U.S. and in the state of California we have 1500 species. We rely on these bees to pollinate our food. The bee population is at risk plain and simple. If you do a search on “Are bees at risk of extinction” you receive conflicting viewpoints. Some people think we don’t have a bee population problem because the honeybee has never ended up the endangered species list. Others are saying we need to change our behavior because if we don’t, it won’t be long before bees become extinct.
There are many things causing the bee populations to suffer. Global warming is a big threat to the bee population, especially for bees who like the cold climate. There are currently only 7 bees listed on an endangered species list. California is attempting to add the CA native bumble bee to the state’s Endangered Species Act. If it happens, it would be the first insect on the list.
California native bees and Honeybees are dying because of what is called Colony Collapse Disorder.
What is causing the collapse?
It is thought to be pest related. There are charts that show with the rise of pesticide use and a corresponding increase of empty honeybee hives.
Other problems bees are facing is that they are trucked around the U.S. for pollination use. Different seasons and crops are forcing us to ship bees around the country to serve as pollinators.
Pollination is needed for approximately 75% of all flowering plants and 1 in 3 foods. The almond industry is one of the largest industries that requires pollination.
What’s causing the Bee population to decline?
Similar to the collapsing colonies, pesticides are one of the leading causes of death to bees. Neonicotinoid pesticides are very deadly to bees.
Neonicotinoid pesticides were made to have long lasting results. Where these types of pesticides have been used, the plant and even water sitting on a leaf are toxic. It takes only a very low dose of exposure to kill a bee.
How can you help?
It is true that most of the pesticide usage is from the industrial farmers and getting them onboard with alternative measures instead of pesticides is an ongoing challenge. You can do your part at home though by not using pesticides that are harmful and plant flowering plants in your yard.
Bees like a cluster of plants to entice them to your yard. Depending on what zone you live in will determine what plants to grown. Always consult your local nursery if you have doubts. If you live in zone 10a, like I do in southern California, the following is a list of plants and trees with attractive pollen for bees:
- Arctostaphylos pungens
- Lupinus species – plant annuals they reseed
- Cersis occidentalis – tree
- Salvia Dara’s Choice – for small bees
- Ceanothus “Dark Star” – Tree
- Frangula Californica
- Bombus – coastal daisy
- Verbena Lilacina
- Phacelia Californica
- Heteromeles Arbutifolia
- Diadasia Species
- Leucophyllum Frutescens
- Grindelia Stricta variety platyphylla – ground color w/ summer blooms
- Malosma Laurina – small flowers bees love
- Vitex Agnus -Castus
- All buckwheats are pretty
Other ways you can help the bees:
- When you purchase plants make sure your source does not use neonicotinoids. You can ask if you are unsure.
- Write to the EPA asking them to ban neonicotinoids. Tell them how you feel about pesticides and that they need to require growers to stop using them.
- Leave wild spaces in your garden. As things grown and decay, it is leaving back nutrients in the soil. My Parsley and Cilantro flowers in my garden are being enjoyed by the bees.
- Leave some water out for bees to enjoy. They need to be able to wade in the water like on a rock in full sun.
- Review what products you are using in your garden. Just because it says organic does not mean it’s not toxic to bees. Any pesticide that mentions it is systemic, lasting a long time is bad for bees. More information on pesticides.
- Spray aphids off with a strong stream of water
- Bring in lady bugs to eat the bad bugs
If we all remove toxins from our life wildlife and mother earth will thank us. We have a voice and buying power. Let them know how you feel by purchasing products not grown with pesticides. Eventually enough people will take a stand and each small act can collectively make an impact.