Today we are hosting an event we call Honeyfest! It's a celebration of local pollinators, bees in particular. For this occasion, Sunflower's owner, Ana Gourlay, has written us a post regarding the danger that our pollinators face and what that means to people!
Here she is...
As many of you already know, there has been a dramatic decline in the honey bee population over the last decade. Colony Collapse Disorder (the loss of entire hives) has dramatically affected commercial honey bee keepers and the crops pollinated by these bees. Our modern agricultural methods (huge plots of land designated to a single crop which generally flower all at one time - think apple trees & blueberries) require a massive number of pollinators to fertilize the flowers in order for the plant to make “fruit.” Many farms rent bee colonies to pollinate their crops.
It is estimated that every third bite of food we take is dependent upon bee pollination. With a shortage of bees comes the growing concern of crop shortages and higher food prices.
Honey bees, though a welcome guest, are not native to America (they’re from Europe). Of the 4,000 species of bees in North America, more than 90 percent lead solitary lives (they do not live in a colony and thus are not easily transported for agricultural purposes). The foraging range of native bees ranges from 500 feet to half-mile (depending on the size of the bee). Creating and preserving a good nesting habitat and providing a variety of sequentially flowering food sources can encourage the growth of our native bee population and other native pollinators (butterflies, moths, beetles, etc).
A few helpful hints to encourage pollinators:
1. Don’t use pesticides on your lawn or garden.
Pollen samples collected by scientists have shown an average of 9 pesticides per sample, the high being 21 pesticides. Chances are if it harms “bugs” it harms bees.
2. Soften your borders
A nice mowed lawn is attractive, but it leaves no flowers for the bees. Can you leave a strip of “weeds” at the edge of your yard? Some common lawn volunteers are actually some of our most nutritious foods and useful medicines. Join us next Saturday (August 24th) here at Sunflower and herbalist Nathan Searles will tell you more about the virtues of dandelions, yarrow, red clover, and burdock.
3. Plant flowers
As any perennial gardener will tell you, one of the greatest challenges is creating a flower garden that is always in bloom. Flowers come and go in very quick succession. By selecting sequentially flowering species and long blooming flowers, you not only ensure the beauty of your garden, you also feed the bees!
Thank you for your expertise, Ana! Those are some helpful and manageable tips for homeowners who would like to help our bee population. We hope our readers enjoyed this post, and we would love to see you all soon. Stop in sometime today to learn more (and sample some delicious honey treats!), or sign up for the free class Ana mentioned by speaking with an employee, calling 524-6334, or emailing your name and number to Julia(at)SunflowerNH(dot)com.
* References: Attracting Native Pollinators - The Xerces Society. Post by Ana Gourlay.