This week the world celebrates Pollinator Week and we’re loving all things BEE! For every purchase you make in our Bee Collection, Religious Community Services (RCS) will receive 16% to help them reach the final $160,000 needed to complete the BEE Campaign! RCS is our area’s local homeless shelter and food pantry offering a variety of services to help those in need achieve self-sufficiency.
The U.S. Senate unanimous approved the designation of a week in June as “National Pollinator Week” eleven years ago. This marked an important step toward addressing the urgent issue of declining pollinator populations. Pollinator Week has now grown to be an international celebration of the valuable ecosystem services provided by bees, birds, butterflies, bats, and beetles. The growing concern for pollinators is a sign of progress, but it’s vital we continue to maximize our collective effort.
Fewer Bees Means Poor or Non-existent Crops
It’s easy to forget how much the global food system depends on the contributions of bees. Close to 75% of crops that humans grow for food must be pollinated for the plant to produce fruit—and bees are one of the most common pollinators in the world.
When most people think about bees and food, they think of honey. But bees play a role in the production of many food crops—from tomatoes and strawberries to almonds and coffee beans. Plants depend on bees for pollination. This is the stage of growth when the plant’s pollen fertilizes the plant and triggers the plant to produce fruit. Without bees, it’s still possible for a lucky gust of wind to pollinate plants, but the presence and activity of bees greatly increases pollination, leading to greater crop yields. This means that healthy bee populations can increase crop yields in farming systems without increasing farmland. Pollination performed by bees also contributes to the quality of the crop—a misshapen apple or stunted strawberry is the sign of incomplete pollination—and to biodiversity when a bee transfers pollen between different plants.
Increasing threats are mounting against bee populations. According to Val Dolcini, President and CEO of the Pollinator Partnership, threats to pollinators can be summarized in four main areas: “One would certainly be pesticide misuse. Then there are parasites and pathogens. And there’s the pressures of climate change, leading to the mismatch of flower blooms and the emergence of native bees. But I think the biggest threat is the loss of pasture or habitat. We’ve created a lot of monocultures in the United States, in the Midwest in particular, and what was formerly a diverse habitat hosting multiple species is now farmed to just one or two crops. That loss of habitat has had an impact on pollinators of all types.”
How You Can Help Bees
We must do all we can to save bees…and fast! If we don’t act soon, our food supply and environment as we know it will drastically change. The current situation is unsustainable, but we can make a difference.
What you can do for pollinators:
- Reduce or eliminate your pesticide use. If you must use them, use the least toxic and apply at night when most pollinators aren’t active.
- Create a pollinator-friendly garden habitat. Get more information here.
- Design your garden so there is a continuous succession of plants flowering from spring through fall. Check for the species best suited to your area and gradually replace lawn grass with flower beds.
- Plant native to your region using plants that provide nectar for adults plus food for insect larvae, such as milkweed for monarchs. If you do use non-native plants, choose those that don’t spread easily, since these could become invasive.
- Select old-fashioned varieties of flowers whenever possible because breeding has caused some modern blooms to lose their fragrance and/or the nectar/pollen needed to attract and feed pollinators.
- Install “houses” for bats and native bees. For example, use wood blocks with holes or small open patches of mud. As little as 12” across is sufficient for some bees.
- Supply water for all wildlife. A dripping faucet or a suspended milk carton with a pinhole in the bottom is sufficient for some insects. Other wildlife will need a small container of water.
- Provide water for butterflies without letting it become a mosquito breeding area. Refill containers daily or bury a shallow plant saucer to its rim in a sunny area, fill it with coarse pine bark or stones, and fill to overflowing with water.
- Locally, Tryon Palace is celebrating National Pollinator Week June 18-24 with garden walks and lectures throughout the week, including visits from our very own Tryon Palace honey bees! For more information, visit www.tryonpalace.org.
For more information about RCS and how you can help, visit them online at www.rcsnewbern.com.
(Sources: Pollinator Partnership; Beekeeper’s Naturals, Inc.; United States Department of Agriculture; Food Tank; and Crown Bees.)