We’ve all heard that the bee population is declining. From invasion of habitat to the use of chemicals, many factor are contributing to this reality. So, what can we do to help protect and grow the population of bees? We’ll get to that, but first, let’s explore why bees are so important.
Why are bees important?
Any avid landscaper, gardener and even farmer would say, sustainability is extremely important. Globally, bees help foster sustainability by being one of the world’s most effective pollinators. Pollination is the process of natural fertilization, which leads to the production of fruits and seeds that create more plants. It has been estimated that one-third of food we consume every day relies on pollination, making pollinators like bats, birds and insects critical to society.
Among the most important bees, honeybees reign supreme. Not only do honeybees contribute up to 80 percent of pollination for some crops, they also help pollinate clover and alfalfa, which are a big part of cattle feed.
Why is the bee population in decline?
The most common reason for the decreasing population of any given species is invasion of environment. This is true for bees as well. Environmental invasion pushes a species out from a place they may have called home for many years to try and repopulate elsewhere. Growth of cities and human population are the main cause of this.
Invasion of species sounds like something from a science fiction movie, but when you look at it in the horticultural world, it’s more common than you think. A lot of native plants and trees are being pushed aside and foreign plants and trees are being moved in. For thousands of years local bees have been feeding off local plants, but when foreign plants are introduced, issues can arise. The non-familiar food sources push bees further and further away, eventually abandoning their queens, nursing bees and colonies in general.
But, planting foreign plants or destroying habitats aren’t the worst things to push bees to the brink of extinction. Pesky bugs and weeds lead to headaches especially with landscapers and gardeners. In order to fight off intrusive bugs, landscapers often use insecticides and herbicides. While these chemicals are effective when treating unwanted pests, they can also harm bees.
What can green industry professionals do?
It was Karl von Frisch who discovered that bees see color as humans do. When the natural colors of local plants can’t be found, the bees move farther way in search of their natural flora. So, to help combat this issue, green industry professionals should focus on planting more native plants in their areas to help bees continue to find food sources.
When it comes to chemicals, bees are often affected because of improper spraying. Avoid spraying insecticides directly to flowering plants or blooming crops, as this can be harmful to bees and the plant itself. Most fungicides, herbicides and insecticides are relatively nontoxic to honeybees, but there are some that can be highly toxic.
The best practice for anyone spraying chemicals to treat landscapes is to read the label. That cannot be stressed enough, especially when used around vegetable gardens and children.
As green industry professionals, caring for our communities’ landscapes includes being mindful of the natural ecosystems that exist within them.