The Importance of Bees for your Garden

I think the average person knows bees pollinate plants and can deduce from this that they’re good for a garden. However, I know for myself that I wasn’t aware of just how important they are. In fact, they’re quite vital. There are other insects that pollinate, such as butterflies, but bees appear to be by far the most effective. That’s not to say that other pollinators don’t have an important role to play as well. They most certainly do. However, currently the bee population is under threat and it’s never been more important to do what we can to help support their numbers.

There are about 4,000 species of bees in the United States and over 20,000 in the world. Roughly 700 of those species in North American are in decline. Some are even facing possible extinction. The reason for this has been linked back to habitat loss, invasive species, and irresponsible pesticide use. There’s also the phenomena of Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD) which is the strange occurrence of worker bees abandoning the queen bee and essentially disappearing. (They’re not found dead, they’re just gone.) While this isn’t as commonly occurring as it was several years ago, it’s still a problem. There are theories as to what’s causing this, including: immune-suppressing stress (possibly connected to the transporting of bees for the purpose of pollinating multiple locations across the country), poor nutrition, disease, and pesticide poisoning.

You don’t have to be a beekeeper to help support their population. There is some truth to the idea of ‘build it and they will come’. Bees are naturally drawn to flowers. However, there are things you can do to make your garden especially bee-friendly. Avoiding pesticides altogether is helpful, because many of them are toxic to bees. If you’re in a situation where you really need to use them, don’t apply them to open blossoms and try to choose one that is targeted towards whatever your specific problem is. Different types of bees will be attracted to different types of flowers, but flat or shallow blossoms will attract the largest variety. They also have affinity for purple, blue, white, or yellow flowers in particular (they can’t see the color red). It’s also helpful for there to be some sort of windbreak and plenty of sunshine in the vicinity.

“They are critical pollinators: they pollinate 70 of the around 100 crop species that feed 90% of the world. Honey bees are responsible for $30 billion a year in crops.”

From <http://www.bbc.com/future/story/20140502-what-if-bees-went-extinct>

If bees were to go extinct, we could possibly lose the plants that they pollinate. That would also impact other animals that eat the plants that these bees pollinate. There’s just a huge domino effect and I don’t think any of us want to see it in action.

So as there is a mutually beneficial relationship between our gardens and the bees I would encourage you to keep them in mind. For myself, after learning about this, I hope to have a small section dedicated to native flowers that bloom throughout the growing season. Bee gardens are a great way to help support the bee population and to help draw them to your other plants. Plus you’re decorating your property with beautiful flowers. If there’s a downside to this, I’m not seeing it.

Sources:

https://phys.org/news/2015-09-insects-pollinators.html

https://www.gardeners.com/how-to/attracting-beneficial-bees/5024.html

https://www.thespruce.com/bee-plants-1401948

http://www.bbc.com/earth/story/20150615-the-truth-about-bees

https://time.com/4688417/north-american-bee-population-extinction/

https://www.epa.gov/pollinator-protection/colony-collapse-disorder

http://www.bbc.com/future/story/20140502-what-if-bees-went-extinct

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